What most excites you about the SPH Strategic Plan for Antiracism?
“I’m really excited by how much each goal and each task is so action-oriented.
It can be really exhausting to feel like people are just talking about the issues and what’s wrong, but not actually doing anything to fix them. I think that’s a great strength of our strategic plan. It’s not just full of loose or nebulous ideas, it includes concrete goals and action steps to hold us accountable to change.”
Using “commit” emphasizes a pledge to prioritize antiracist efforts in making SPH a more welcome, equitable, and just organization.
How are you committing to antiracism?
“The way we talk about race and ethnicity matters and we need to be intentional about the labels we use, if we use labels at all.
As a scholar, this is really important in my research and work. For example, in a study I led over the summer about mental health and wellness as it relates to social media exposure in young women, we wanted to know who we were reaching through our advertisements and if we were reaching diverse individuals. Instead of asking respondents to indicate their race/ethnicity through a list of options, we included an open-ended box for individuals to self describe or not describe at all. We received much richer information than if we would have used the standard U.S. government race/ethnicity categories of white, Black/African American, Asian, etc. For example, taking Minnesota specifically, we have so many diverse Asian communities and individuals that continuing to group them by “Asian” is not representative and it’s not telling us valuable information.”
How have you grappled with labels personally?
“I am white and Hispanic, but I enter most spaces as a white-presenting woman. The name Delaine Anderson sounds white. That’s what shows up on my resume, and for so many things, that’s the first thing people see.
I’ve experienced showing up in white spaces and people noticing, “Well, she’s not completely white, there’s something else there,” or showing up in Mexican or Hispanic spaces and people saying, “She’s not quite fully Mexican, there’s something else there.” In those situations, I don’t feel like I’m fully part of either, but they are both my identities.
When people recognize and see me as both a white and Hispanic woman, or if I’m out somewhere and someone speaks to me in Spanish, it’s akin to being seen for the first time and my total identity being valued and honored.”
We are “challenged” to accept that racism exists and to “challenge” it when we see it.
What are some ideas you have about how to stand up to racism?
“The biggest thing I see is getting involved. We can’t continue to complain about systems if we don’t take action.
Part of it is doing the work, showing up, having ideas, and trying things — even if those things fail. I think a lot of us are uncomfortable with failure, especially public failure, but when it comes to racism and systems of oppression, we have to be OK with trying and failing because that is essential to becoming who we want to be.
As a society, we need to be in community and do things with people, groups, organizations, and our neighbors. If you’re part of a formal group and you look around and realize that the group does not reflect the community, it’s having hard conversations about why that is and what we can do to make it better.
I think of the African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’ We must bring people together to talk about the issues and work collaboratively.”
What challenges do you face in prioritizing antiracist efforts?
“Burnout. Feeling hopeless or not feeling heard. As a student and a young person, when I take a stand and put myself out there in a vulnerable way to say, ‘Hey, we need to do better,’ it feels very defeating when those who are in power recognize that the issue I’m bringing up is important but choose not to do anything about it. It feels like my actions are just pushed aside. Those are the times when I have to check myself and my energy and determine if my effort is causing me more pain than it is benefitting other people.
There are so many students at the University who care about this work so deeply, but who are afraid to put themselves out there, or don’t know where to direct their energy, so they don’t direct it anywhere and they end up feeling bad. The SPH Strategic Plan for Antiracism makes it easy to direct that energy in positive ways by outlining who is responsible for what and who we can go see and talk to about issues.
We have to be willing to “change” and shift our beliefs, attitudes, and actions toward equity and justice.
What is your vision for an antiracist school of public health?
It’s a school without barriers — barriers to participation, finances, identity, culture, etc. It’s a school where there is no tolerance for racism in our policies, our language, our shared understandings, and our curriculum. We don’t have that right now, and that’s ok, but we need to continuously move towards it.
What impact do you think the school can have on racism?
“It’s a bit like dropping a rock in a pond. We’re going to create ripples, and those ripples matter.
You train us students to become more aware about how to talk about race and racism and how we should consider applying those methodologies in our work as public health professionals equitably and with responsibility, respect, and humility. That will then affect each workplace where we land and the individuals we connect with in those places.
Employers and communities will start to recognize SPH as a leader in this work and how SPH graduates are really well prepared for our growing diversity and are ready to work with folks from different communities.
Setting that culture as a school is then going to change the types of people we are attracting to our school — people who are excited and want to be part of this — and that’s going to affect so many things around us.”
I’m so proud to be a student here. Even with all of the mistakes and the failures and the goofs we have made, I feel so lucky to be here during this time. Because I know the growing pains we’re going through are pains most of us will experience in organizations for the rest of our lives, and it’s so necessary. I’m grateful to be part of this model, because it’s something I can reflect on and use in other spaces.
“Building Equity, Driving Justice: Commit | Challenge | Change” — ties all communications related to the SPH Strategic Plan for Antiracism together under one look and feel. The theme showcases our guiding principles, and it motivates and inspires. "Agents for Change" profiles support this theme and all interview questions are related to the action words, Commit, Challenge, Change, as described above.
Submit an idea for this profile series — either your own story, or one that inspires you from another SPH individual or group.