Black racial justice webinar kicks off DIA series

September 16, 2020, 7:02AMANS News

The Diversity and Inclusion in the American Nuclear Society (DIA) Committee opened its new series of webinars on September 2 with a panel discussion, “Black Racial Justice in the Nuclear Community.”

During the webinar, which was viewed by more than 200 people, five panelists discussed racial justice issues and their own experiences throughout their lives. Included on the panel were Warren “Pete” Miller, former Department of Energy assistant secretary for nuclear energy; Michelle Scott, DOE senior advisor; Charlyne Smith, PhD candidate at the University of Florida; Ira Strong, legacy engineer at the Palo Verde plant in Arizona and a student at the University of New Mexico; and Sola Talabi, senior consultant at Pittsburgh Technical.

The roundtable was co-moderated by Lane Carasik, DIA chair and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Lisa Marshall, past ANS board member and DIA co-vice chair.

“ANS members really need to hear from our community members who are heavily impacted by racism and bigotry that occurs within the nuclear community,” Carasik said. “For a lot of ANS members, this webinar was likely their first time hearing the difficulties that Black people of color encounter in our field at different career stages and in varying sectors. It shows we are just getting started in addressing systemic issues within our own ‘house’.”

The webinar opened with addresses from ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy.

“It’s very important given recent events that ANS recognizes the issues that come with racial injustice because it is relevant in all communities, including the nuclear community,” Dunzik-Gougar said in her opening statement. “This webinar is a first step in helping us learn more about how to do better.”

Piercy began his comments listing some of the African-American victims of recent high-profile violent incidents—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake.

“We know these names by heart now,” Piercy said. “They symbolize the persistent and insidious threat of racism that still exists throughout our society today. As a charitable organization founded for the public good, the Society has an affirmative responsibility to combat racism, promote diversity, and practice inclusion in our community.”

The DIA was already planning activities to address racial injustice prior to this summer, according to Marshall, when Floyd’s killing sparked a series of protests across the country.

“This incident and subsequent ones heightened our call to action,” said Marshall, director of outreach, retention & engagement at North Carolina State University. “At the same time, Pete Miller wanted to have a roundtable. Craig Piercy and others brought us together and we started to plan for this event.”

Marshall said the objective for the webinar and other events still in the planning stage is to hear first-person accounts from fellow members on this topic. But hearing them isn’t enough.

“Ultimately, we want ANS and its members to take meaningful action,” Marshall said.

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