Continuing the Conversation: A Follow Up from our Open Dialogue on Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

“It’s not enough to just be non-racist, we must actively work towards antiracism.”

On Friday June 12, the ACS Division of Professional Relations (PROF) hosted an Open Dialogue on Diversity, Inclusion, & Respect. This dialogue was in line with our mission to create inclusive communities that extend outside the laboratory, classroom, and office. We recognize that being a professional doesn’t stop when you leave the lab. It doesn’t take a coffee break when you leave your office. Inclusivity and respect for others is a fundamental way of life and when we don’t value the lives of our colleagues within repressed and discriminated communities, we are purposefully disrespecting what it is to be a human, let alone a chemist.

During this forum, Divisional and Society leaders answered questions, provided and received feedback on how ACS can provide tangible support, and most importantly, enabled repressed and marginalized voices to be heard. The goal of this session was to find ways to reach out to those that feel unheard and defend their repressed opinions and contributions to our profession in a positive way. The conversation was intended to serve as a starting point, and we recognize that impactful actions inside of ACS and our own individual lives must follow.  

In the discussion, many resources were shared both by the panelists and moderator, as well as via attendees in the chat. In this blog post, we’ll summarize many of these resources, and we would welcome your suggestions to add to the list. 


While linking to Amazon might certainly be convenient, we’d also like to suggest that you consider purchasing any of the books listed here from a black-owned business. A great list may be found here:


Important points from the discussion include: 

  • It’s not enough to just be non-racist, we must actively work towards antiracism.
  • Manifestations of microaggressions include verbal, nonverbal, environmental, visual cues, etc. Remember, they can be conscious and unconscious!
    • micro insults = subtle communications/behaviors that perpetuates stereotypes, rudeness, and insensitivities that demean their identity based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc…
    • microinvalidations = communications that negate, deny, disregard the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and realities based on marginalized identities
  • We must work towards lasting change, not just symbolic change.
    • Symbolic vs Lasting Change: Both the Gordon Research Conference on Physical Organic Chemistry and the Reaction Mechanisms Conference include full sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their meeting schedules, with nearly full participation. Are other meetings doing this? Is this a model other groups can employ?


Suggestions for ACS to implement: 

  • We should consider anti-racism training for ACS leadership across all levels.
    • Include focus on intersectionality, especially for those ACS members who are Black, Brown, LGTBQi, and/or disabled.
  • Term limits for Councilors and Shorter ones for Board Members; more turnover on Committees to engage new diverse people.
  • Members need to submit diverse nominations for ACS elected positions and awards
    • Expand awards for underrepresented groups such as the Overcoming Challenges Award.
  • ACS should be more vocal about social issues – from publications, to events, to anything that impacts our members (who are humans, first and foremost)
  • ACS should have honest, open, truthful and transparent conversations; listening intently, not with an agenda or assumption, but setting those aside and be willing to learn, be willing to make adjustments in prior thoughts and attitudes. This should follow with concrete follow up, asking questions from the experts that are in that space everyday, inclusive of those who live it everyday; not for any exploitation or just to hear a story, but be human and humane. 
  • ACS should support the creation of diverse online student affiliates organization.  
  • ACS should consider funds for students that can’t access reliable internet, don’t have computers, etc. in this era of virtual learning. This pandemic has hit communities of color very hard. 


ACS Resources: 


Websites, Movies, Podcasts, and other Resources: 



  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibran Kendi
  • Me and the White Supremacy by Layla Saad
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  • Racism in Medicine: Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts
  • Books by:
  • Microaggressions in Everyday Life by Derald Wing Sue
  • African American Women Chemists in the Modern Era by Jeannette E. Brown
  • African American Women Chemists by Jeannette E. Brown


So, where do we go from here? The Diversity, Inclusion and Respect Advisory Board, in collaboration with the ACS Department of Diversity Programs is working with ACS Webinars to host a series of webinars focused on inclusivity. Following each webinar, the Division of Professional Relations will organize a listening session where we can reflect, discuss and continue learning from each other.  


Webinar 1: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 2-3pm ET

Speaker: La’Wana Harris, La’Wana Harris, Inc.

Moderator: Paula Christopher, American Chemical Society


What You Will Learn:

  • How to equip yourself to become a more thoughtful and effective ally for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion 
  • How to enable yourself to create a strategy for leveraging your power and privilege to foster greater access, opportunity, and accountability
  • How to empower yourself to start leading and living inclusively by demystifying the “how” of everyday behaviors at the individual, structural, and systemic levels


Listen to the recording:


Following this session, ACS PROF will be hosting an “ACS Division of Professional Relations Listening Session: Leading & Living Inclusively” based off of the ACS webinar to allow members to provide their thoughts, ideas, and suggested action items. This will be hosted by Ben Fiore-Walker, Manager of the ACS Diversity Programs Office, who has been holding similar sessions internally for ACS Staff, so he will be leveraging his learnings and experience to provide a similar session for Members. This session will be held on Monday, August 24th from 3-4pm EDT and you can register for this event at the following link:

It is not required for attendees of the Listening Session to attend the ACS Webinar, but it is highly encouraged and the video recording can be viewed on-demand following the live broadcast (free ACS Member benefit).

These paired events are the first in a series of ACS Webinars and PROF Listening Sessions that will help us to continue to listen to our Members and provide them a conduit to share their thoughts, feelings, and suggested actions for us to help enable as their elected officers. The next ACS Webinar in this series will feature Desiree S. Coleman (Diversity and Inclusion Consultant) and is scheduled for Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 from 2-3pm EDT. We will host an ACS PROF listening session following that event (TBD).

And, let’s keep the conversation going. Let us know how we can support you, our members, by emailing

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