NATIONAL SOCIETY OF BLACK ENGINEERS
A Call for Justice: We Shall Not Be Moved
Our community has experienced too many injustices that have been promoted by systemic racism and institutionalized oppression.
The unnecessary and premature deaths of countless unarmed Black people at the hands of those meant to protect and serve, vividly illuminate a pattern of white supremacy and perpetual racism built over more than 400 years of subjugation by individuals, institutions and systems. It’s what author Jim Willis called, “America’s Original Sin.”
As Black engineers our job stretches beyond being an advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM. Our duty lies with the advancement of all things Black, including the fight for justice for those we have seen perish due to racism.
The next step in our planned series of events is the NSBE National Town Hall, “What It Means to Be Culturally Responsible in This Moment,” which will bring new perspectives from a panel of experts on topics including:
NSBE Corporate Town Hall
Friday, August 7, 2020
Straight Talk: Crucial Conversations
From Inside Corporate America
Transparent and forthright, this conversation hosted a cross-section of NSBE’s partners to discuss corporate culture,
responsibility and brand alignment amid and our country’s civil unrest.
THE PANELISTS WERE
Ford Motor Company
NSBE’s Corporate Town Hall was hosted by Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN)
NSBE National Town Hall
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
What It Means to Be Culturally
Responsible in This Moment?
THE PANELISTS WERE
Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D.,
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of New Haven and Director of the Center for Advanced Policing
Brooke Coley, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Engineering, Director, The Shifting Perceptions, Attitudes and Cultures in Engineering Lab, Arizona State University
Aigner Fells, MS, NCC,
Mental Health Therapist, Beyond Infinity LLC, Counseling & Consulting
National Professionals Chair
Question and Answer Responses from Town Hall Meeting
We agree, systemic racism runs deep into the historic and cultural foundation of America, as the Race and Social Justice Initiative (https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/RSJI/Defining-racism.pdf) has defined. NSBE is exploring a partnership with a firm that will enable us to address institutional racism in industry and other sectors by offering a framework that addresses not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence. One important component of this is to advocate for powerful lobbying entities to incorporate issues of race in their policy agendas. In the meantime, the Public Policy SIG is planning advocacy training for NSBE members.
We know that racism is a global issue that requires global systematic solutions. NSBE has a plan to bolster its international members and chapters by working to fund national Affiliates that could better serve international chapters while providing a stronger link to the National Executive Board and World Headquarters. For more information about our international efforts, contact International Chair, Darren Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NSBE Strategic Plan, called “Game Change 2025” will provide specific strategies to increase and engage membership. One strategy is to build more explicit ties with NSBE Jr. and Community College chapters in and around the college community.
NSBE is exploring a partnership with a firm that will enable us to address institutional racism in industry and other sectors by offering a framework that addresses not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence. One important component of this is create and publish Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) dashboards so members know which companies are the most inclusive, and for companies to increase their DEI transparency and accountability.
The major demand is that companies, schools, and agencies work with us to fulfill our mission AT SCALE, “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers” who are best positioned to “positively impact the community.” We are demanding that the thousands of companies that have pledged to eradicate racism social injustice create workplaces that are equitable and inclusive for their Black employees, and to work toward removing systemic inequity in the communities in which they operate and that they influence.
To the degree to which there are objective measures to assess and rate anti-racist and non-discriminatory workplace cultures, NSBE is currently not in a position to cut ties with sponsors. Moreover, most sponsors partner with NSBE because they want to recruit diverse engineers and computer scientists, which is the first step toward creating inclusive workplaces. Still, NSBE is exploring partnerships that will enable us to address institutional racism in industry and other sectors to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence. One important component of this is to create Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) dashboards so members know which companies are the most inclusive, and for companies to increase their DEI transparency and accountability. More to come.
This is a great and important question. There are a few things Black engineers can do. 1) If not already a member, join and become active in your local NSBE Professionals chapter. 2) Form, join and become active in your company’s African American Employee Resource Affinity Group. Advocate for its funding and ensure that it has executive sponsorship. 3) Ensure that the company is conducting the equivalent of regular climate surveys and publishing the results. 4) Ensure that the company is documenting Black employee statistics relative to other employees and working to close the equity gaps. 5) Assist your company with recruiting more Black engineers, especially at HBCUs and NSBE conferences.
There are no active plans to work with K-12 students to broker internships. However, our strategy is to expand NSBE Jr. chapters and memberships as a critical pipeline toward our goal of graduating 10,000 Black engineers annually by 2025, this includes 3-5th graders, who are newly eligible within our NSBE Jr. chapters. In addition, our Integrated Pipeline Programs provide NSBE collegiate members with opportunities to secure scholarships, internships, mentorships and professional development through strategic corporate partnerships.
We need to recruit allies and partners across the STEM spectrum to join the fight. One way is to provide allies and other industry partners with a framework to get engaged. For example, NSBE recommends a framework that not only addresses diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence.
Great question, and an important one. If white supervisors are open to it, I’d recommend you hand them a copy of “White Fragility” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, and “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. With new awareness, I would consider Dr. Ibram Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist” another informative resource. Dr. Kendi argues that being an assimilationist and “not being a racist” is in fact racist if you’re not actively working to be an “anti-racist.” (There are books available on the NSBE’s Social Justice site at socialjustice.nsbe.org. Another strategy: Hosting uncomfortable conversations with black colleagues about their experiences seem to have a profound effect while the world is listening, with the CEO or division head hosting the conversation. Meaningful interactions like these reduce our biases (implicit and explicit), increase awareness and produce a more inclusive culture.
One way is to become an advisor to the local NSBE chapter. Another is speaking at one of our faculty forums during our convention. Please reach out to us at email@example.com. We will explore ways you can actively become an ally.
Generally, most universities and databases follow the racial and ethnic categorizations defined by the US Census Bureau guidelines, which changed in 2010. Latinx is considered an ethnicity, so a Latino can be categorized as Black or White, for example. Go to https://www.census.gov/topics/population/race/about.html for more information about the racial categories used by the US Census Bureau.
Proactively investing in the mental health of employees will go a long way toward fostering good will and a safe/productive work environment. Employers should check with their employees and acknowledge recent/current events. This can be done via an open forum or even devoting time during staff meetings to open the floor for a “check in.” Encourage self-care, implement mental health days, and offer concessions for employees to temporarily take on a lighter workload as needed. Further, offering free behavioral health to employees and/or having a therapist on staff to specifically cater to your employees can go a long way.
There appears to be a major shift in the culture and finding a minority mental health professional is becoming a lot easier than it used to be. If you are going utilize insurance, you can go through your insurance company’s website, and then do a filter search for minority mental professionals that fit your needs. You can also filter by gender and specialty. Another option is to go through mental health search engines. Some popular ones are psychology today, therapy for black girls, brown girl therapy and BEAM (Black Virtual Therapist Network).
Each mental health toolkit should be developed for the specific needs of the individual. However, Sara E. Williams, PHD recommends utilizing the following 4 elements in your tool kit.
- Distracting tool – Doing distracting or fun activities focuses your attention in a helpful way — it gives you something else to think about instead of what is bothering you. Try playing a game, listening to music, spending time with a pet, talking to family/friends, or doing a craft.
- Relaxation Tool – Slowing your body down calms your brain and relaxes your body. Try taking five slow deep breaths, tightening and releasing your muscles, or imagining being somewhere peaceful, like the beach or walking in the woods.
- Thinking Tool – Noticing the realistic and positive parts of a situation increases optimistic thinking, which can help you change how you feel. Try asking yourself, “What are the good things that could happen?” or “These thoughts aren’t helping me — how can I see this differently?”
- Action Tool – Keeping a good schedule and doing your everyday activities helps you stay on track and be healthy in your body and your mind. Try sleeping on a regular schedule, drinking plenty of fluids, eating nutritious meals, and exercising daily.
An affirmation offered by Presenter, Aigner Fells
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us ~ Marianne Williamson.
NSBE is developing a strategy to help companies and other partners translate their pledges into action. The framework will address not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence. This includes their networks of suppliers and contractors, ensuring that they are representative and diverse. One important component of this effort is to create Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) dashboards so members know which companies are the most inclusive, and for companies to increase their DEI transparency and accountability. More to come.
The emerging NSBE Strategic Plan, “Game Change 2025” proposes a strategy to increase Board participation by NSBE members.
Nearly 250 participated in the Town Hall. Great idea about a Twitter conversation. We will incorporate it into and after future Town Halls.
NSBE is developing a strategy to help companies and other partners translate their pledges into action. The framework will address not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence. In addition, the Entrepreneurship SIG is working to help members startup new companies. This is an ongoing activity. For more information, go to https://nsbe.org/Professionals/Programs/Special-Interest-Groups-(SIGs).aspx#.XyX1gyhKglA. or on Instagram, @nsbentrepreneur
Agreed. Let’s get to work!
We agree, systemic racism runs deep into the historic and cultural foundations of America, as the Race and Social Justice Initiative at https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/RSJI/Defining-racism.pdf has defined. We have to hold associations and other entities accountable to follow through with their statements and commitments.
Great distinction. We don’t need just a seat at the table (input), we need to influence the agenda of those around the table (impact).
NSBE is developing a strategy to help companies and other partners translate their pledges into action. The framework will address not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the Black community. One important component of this is to advocate for powerful lobbying entities to incorporate issues of race in their policy agendas.
Become active in your local NSBE chapter, partner with other organizations, and advocate for change with the Dean of Engineering. Providing them with specific things to change is the best approach.
NSBE is developing a strategy to help companies and other partners translate their pledges into action. The framework will address not just diversity, but ways to foster black equity and inclusion in the workplace and the local Black communities in which the organizations operate and influence.
Letter from Executive Director
From Pledge to Practice:
Turning Promises into Lasting Change to Increase
Black Equity in the Workplace
Overview: A National Reckoning
Producing inclusive workplaces and communities requires a methodical and sustained effort to disentangle years of policies, practices, and behaviors that have privileged some and subjugated others. As management expert Dr. Edwards Deming notes, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks by police and neighborhood vigilantes have led to an unprecedented reckoning in the United States about its sordid history and racist practices that touch every sector of our society. In the wake of global protests for racial justice, billions have been pledged, and thousands of companies, institutions, and associations have made commitments to dismantle systemic racism and work toward social justice. Not surprisingly, even as countless organizations have publicly made statements in solidarity with these efforts, what is lacking is a concerted approach to bring about structural change—to turn pledges into lasting change.
Therefore, to change the results, we must work to change the systems that produce them.
Fortunately, engineers are trained to solve complex problems systematically. Whether building infrastructure, electrifying the nation, or sending astronauts into space (and returning them safely), engineers have been called upon to solve the most challenging problems to improve the quality of life for Earth’s inhabitants. Although the tools might be different when called upon to dismantle racism and increase equity, our systematic approach—design, build, test, improve, and deploy—does not change.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is answering the call to increase Black equity in the workplace and our communities. For more than 40 years, our sustained commitment to producing a diverse, technical workforce has positioned us to be a trusted diversity partner. We are now offering a framework to move employers from focusing predominantly on diversity to creating more inclusive workplaces.
The following framework and action plan will help organizations operationalize their commitments to racial equity.
What Can Organizations Do?
Companies, agencies, and philanthropic foundations should consider focusing their efforts in five areas:
- Diversity: Work to achieve representative numbers of Blacks at all levels of the organization, including the board of directors.
- Equity: Document patterns and work to achieve parity on key employee statistics, including recruitment, offers, hiring, compensation, tenure, key assignments, promotions, bonuses, EOC complaints, departures, and terminations, and audit policies and procedures that reinforce inequities.
- Inclusion: Foster an anti-racist institutional culture that mitigates microaggressions and implicit and explicit biases through mandatory training and regular conversations about race hosted by senior officials.
- Ecosystems: Ensure that hiring of suppliers and subcontractors; sponsorships; philanthropy; diversity partnerships; and policy agenda are equitable and publicly available.
- Data Dashboard: Create and publish a dashboard built on a structured data model that captures and presents institutional DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) metrics against industry averages to increase transparency and accountability.
Now Is the Time
NSBE chooses to seize this moment to effect systemic change across all dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These are complex problems built on interwoven systems that began on these shores centuries ago but remain, in different forms, today. Fortunately, complexity does not shake us as engineers. Our training, achievement, and lived experiences enable us to find solutions that are not just useful for designing bridges and tunnels and building spacecraft; we are working to apply these skills to dismantle and reconstruct our workplaces, schools, and communities. There is no greater cause and no better time. We invite you to join us in creating better futures for Black engineers.
Dear NSBE Family,
The recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and now George Floyd are heartbreaking tragedies that further show the injustice and systemic racism the Black community faces every day. It’s been hard to find the right words for this message because I keep imagining the images and videos capturing these horrific acts and the Black community struggling to be heard when crying out for justice and peace. My heart goes out to the families, friends, and those directly or indirectly impacted.
Blatant acts of racism, hatred, and police brutality should not be normalized again. Unfortunately, we have been here before. Many of us remember the recent names… Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, and now Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, all victims of a shameful legacy of hate. We must continue to say the names of those lost to senseless acts of violence and racism.
“I can’t breathe” were some of the last words from Mr. Floyd before his life was taken right before our eyes. They were also the last words of Eric Garner in 2014. It is suffocating to exist in a space where Black lives are considered disposable with little hope for real systematic change. I pose this question: “what are we going to do to advocate for equity for our communities and nation?”
As a Society within this society, we want to see justice. We want it in the cases dominating the news but also for the 99.9% of cases most of us will never hear about. We expect justice to be dispatched swiftly and equitably, according to the law, and not influenced by income, race, or connections. However, we would also like to see that equality extended to our educational institutions – at every level and to companies and industries solving our countries’ most complex problems. We should not be marginalized; as descendants of those who helped build this nation, we seek full participation in all aspects of society with a fair chance to help make America a more perfect union.
Of course, we recognize that radical change requires allies; Black people do not have the numbers or resources to bring about systemic change alone. So, we call on those who believe everyone deserves a chance to fulfill their potential to provide opportunities, to open doorways and create pathways for those who did not have access to the resources that produce advantages. Finally, we ask those who believe in the mission of the National Society of Black Engineers to invest in this cause so our members can thrive and continue to be agents of positive change.
Now is the time for the conversation. Now is the time for understanding. This is the perfect time in history for our country to embrace national ideals for all of its citizens. We implore righteous people to honor and protect our inalienable rights to liberty, opportunity, and equality.
We cannot remain silent at a time like this. We must call for political action to invoke social change, to end police brutality, and dismantle systemic racism. We are not powerless. Nelson Mandela put it best when he said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We encourage all NSBE members and allies to take action and let your voices be heard… mentor, vote, make calls, write, participate, post, march… be the example.
NSBE is compiling a list of health, grief, and wellness support resources to assist our members in coping with all of these troubling events; that information will be provided in another official communication. Moreover, we are developing a team of leaders to create ways for our organization to use its platform to speak out on social justice issues. Above all, I ask you to hold on to hope, to seek refuge in faith, and the knowledge that we will get to the other side of this bleak moment. Together, we will overcome this adversity, as we have in the past, and continue our march toward a more just society.
Continue to encourage one another, support one another, listen to one another, and love one another. In closing, NSBE loves you, and your life matters!
With NSBE Luv,
2019-2021 National Chair
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) relies on the generosity of individual supporters to meet the needs of our membership, reach our goals and accomplish our critical mission.
Government support and corporate sponsorships are vital to our cause but have never been enough to cover all of our expenses, including those for professional support services for our student leadership, implementation of new programs for aspiring engineers, and investment in our capacity to enhance the academic and professional careers of our nearly 25,000 members in the United States, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean region and elsewhere.
Make your donation today at:
Racism is often thought of as individual acts of bias.
While discrimination is still very much a reality, focusing on individual acts of racism can obscure the realities that create and maintain racial inequity more broadly. Below are the definitions of three types of racial inequity. To fully address the impacts of racism it is important to address all aspects of racial inequity. To date much of the emphasis of racial equity work has focused on individuals, the Race and Social Justice Initiative is an effort to shift that focus to institutional and structural forms of racism.
Structural – The interplay of policies, practices and programs of differing institutions which leads to adverse outcomes and conditions for communities of color compared to white communities that occurs within the context of racialized historical and cultural conditions.
Institutional – Policies, practice, and procedures that work to the benefit of white people and the detriment of people of color, usually unintentionally or inadvertently.
Individual /Interpersonal – Pre-judgment, bias, stereotypes or generalizations about an individual or group based on race. The impacts of racism on individuals – white people and people of color (internalized privilege and oppression). Individual racism can result in illegal discrimination.
Learn more at
Petitions and Fundraisers
for the Recent Victims
Memorial Fund for
A call for mayors, city councils, and police oversight bodies to address police use of force policies. The Obama Foundation.
A national effort to institute 10 police policy reform recommendations from communities, research organizations and the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to protect and preserve life.
“From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America.” Elizabeth Hinton
Most black (83%), Asian (73%) and Hispanic (65%) Americans say they’ve experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly by police because of their race or ethnicity, either regularly or from time to time. Pew Research Center
Social and Criminal
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Black Lives Matter
Equal Justice Institute
The Color of Change
Justice in Policing Act
The Justice in Policing Act is the first-ever bold, comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities. This sweeping legislation will take numerous key steps to achieve transformative, structural change to combat the pattern of police brutality and racial injustice, including banning chokeholds, ending racial profiling, establishing a National Police Misconduct Registry, and demilitarizing the police.
The 1619 Project
The New York Times Magazine
How to Be an Anti-Racist
by Dr. Ibram Kendi (High School/Adult)
Stamped from the Beginning
by Dr. Ibram Kendi (High School/Adult)
Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
How to Be Black
by Baratunde Thurston (Middle School/High School/Adult)
by Bryan Stevenson (High School/Adult)
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Harvard Business Journal
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
Tiffany Bowden, Ph.D.
Link below for anti-racism resources