Adding Action to Aspiration: Anti-racism and Learning in the EDI Movement

10/12   in the series AIChE Observes Black History Month

In observance of Black History Month 2022, ChEnected will present posts that reflect on the progress of Black engineers — within and beyond the AIChE community. 

In organizations everywhere, people have taken up the cause of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) as essential to the well-being of their enterprises, their communities, and society at large. 

AIChE has recently demonstrated its commitment to addressing this need through the efforts of its Societal Impact Operating Council, as well as in its slate of major-meeting sessions, workshops, and courses that inform constituents about the value of building a fully diverse and inclusive workforce, and encourage their personal involvement in change. 

Yet, in the amidst of this advocacy for a culture where everyone is valued, respected, and welcome, something regressive has emerged.  

The suppression of racial discussion

Reading the U.S. news, one can see that a segment of the population — perhaps comparatively small in number, but increasingly vocal and with a renewed sense of agency — is advocating that certain discussions be forbidden from classrooms and that certain books be suppressed, in order to hide history, and to prevent people from learning and thinking about how actions, attitudes, and beliefs related to race have done, and continue to do, incalculable harm. 

If our communities and institutions are serious about halting such regression and eliminating injustice, then the aspirations contained in our equity, diversity, and inclusion statements need to be transformed through action that is composed of a direct confrontation of racism, and supported by more discussion and more learning.

AIChE adopts Cato Laurencin’s IDEAL Path

A more fair and just society must address systemic racism in our workforce and institutions. This idea is key to the IDEAL Path concept adopted by AIChE, which in 2020 refined its statement on equity, diversity, and inclusion to add a practicable component. 

The IDEAL Path concept was introduced by Cato Laurencin during his recent tenure as an AIChE director. 

IDEAL — which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism, and Learning —  builds upon the aspirational foundation of EDI, while emphasizing the actionable components of anti-racism and learning.

In describing his vision for the IDEAL Path, Laurencin, who is University Professor and the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut, stated the following:

“While we have had some gains in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion, we have not sufficiently addressed issues of racism. Part of the impetus for the IDEAL Path is my belief that to truly have an inclusive society we must address racism, and be open to creating an environment of learning for all.” 

AIChE’s statement on inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism, and learning articulates the Institute’s belief that all who wish to be a part of the chemical engineering community should have equal opportunity to pursue and achieve success. AIChE’s many entities — including local sections, committees, technical divisions, and operating councils — have been assisting the Institute in communicating the IDEAL concept to constituent communities. 

The full statement on equity, diversity, and inclusion incorporating the IDEAL Path, along with an outreach toolkit, can be found at

Martin Luther King, Jr., paves the way in the fight for justice

In 1963, when he was jailed for demonstrating non-violently against racism and racial segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr., famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His words remind us that it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up and stand up when we witness something that is wrong. 

It will require actions like those recommended by the IDEAL Path to ensure that King’s words are never erased from the public’s memory, and that they will continue to ring out.