Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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[Online] Workshop on Mathematics and Racial Justice June 09, 2021 - June 18, 2021
Registration Deadline: June 18, 2021 2 months from now
Parent Program: --
Location: MSRI: Online/Virtual
Organizers Caleb Ashley (Boston College), Ron Buckmire (Occidental College), Duane Cooper (Morehouse College), Monica Jackson (American University), LEAD Omayra Ortega (Sonoma State University), LEAD Robin Wilson (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
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The overarching goal of the Workshop on Mathematics and Racial Justice is to explore the role that mathematics plays in today’s movement for racial justice. For the purposes of this workshop, racial justice is the result of intentional, active and sustained anti-racist practices that identify and dismantle racist structures and policies that operate to oppress, disenfranchise, harm, and devalue Black people. This workshop will bring together mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists, and STEM educators as well as members of the general public interested in using the tools of these disciplines to critically examine and eradicate racial disparities in society. Researchers with expertise or interest in problems at the intersection of mathematics, statistics and racial justice are encouraged to participate. This workshop will take place over two weeks and will include sessions on Bias in Algorithms and Technology; Fair Division, Allocation, and Representation; Public Health Disparities; and Racial Inequities in Mathematics Education. Mathematics is often viewed as one of the main tools responsible for scientific progress, and developments in mathematics are behind some of society’s most significant technological advancements. While mathematics has been used to push society forward, there are also well documented instances of mathematics being used as a tool of racial oppression. With increasing frequency, the inequities faced by the Black community are becoming more difficult to ignore, and mathematicians have increasingly been answering the call to engage with issues of social justice within their research, their teaching, within their institutions, and in the broader mathematical sciences community. This workshop is a part of that movement and makes the distinct contribution of centering issues of mathematics and racial justice. Further, we intend to approach the topic of social justice from the lens of justice for the Black community. Dates: June 9, 10, 11 & June 16, 17, 18 (Exact schedule TBD) 2021 Workshop Sponsors The 2021 Workshop on Mathematics and Racial Justice is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the Center for Minorities in the Mathematical Sciences (CMMS), and the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM). Thematic Descriptions Bias in Algorithms and Technology--June 10, 2021 Algorithms undergird and dominate many aspects of modern society. Although central, the presence of algorithms in our daily lives is far from innocuous. Part of this danger is inherent, it is bound up in the fact that the operating parameters and the explicit roles of algorithms are suppressed or hidden. Bias in design or implementation further compound the potential threat of algorithms to be harmful social forces. Determining if an algorithm acts as a mechanism by which structural inequalities are perpetuated in society is fundamentally important on moral, ethical, and legal grounds. The existence of types of “automated social bias” has been established in a variety of algorithms, from those governing housing and lending practices, to those employed in policing and the criminal justice system. We will explore many facets in the creation/lives of algorithms which adversely affect social justice during this session. Our emphasis will primarily center on bias in algorithms which threaten racial justice. We ask how mathematics can be wielded to detect, even dismantle, such bias in algorithms. Disparities in Public Health--June 11, 2021  Everyone deserves the right to good health, yet unnecessary and unjust inequities persist in our healthcare system. These inequities are the result of policies and practices that create an unequal distribution of money, power and resources among communities based on race, class, gender, place and other factors. Healthy People 2020 states that, “Racism has been linked to low birth weight, high blood pressure, and poor health status. Further, the 2015 National Healthcare Disparities Report indicated that white patients receive better quality of care than 36.7% of Hispanic patients, 41.1% of black patients, 32.4% of American Indian/Alaska Native patients, and 20.3% of Asian and Pacific Islander patients.” A racial justice approach to health equity requires that we address how issues of racism, disproportionate distribution of wealth opportunities, and privilege within society produce negative outcomes for the Black community. In this session we will discuss the racial disparities that exist within healthcare, how mathematics has been used to perpetuate these problems, and how mathematics can be used to identify and mitigate these disparities. Racial Inequities in Mathematics Education--June 16, 2021 There are many different ways in which mathematics education and racial justice intersect. Mathematics as a gatekeeper and a catalyst to academic success has long been a feature of higher education in the United States. In the classroom these experiences play out at the individual level from teacher-to-student and student-to-student. At the systemic level, there are multiple overlapping and interconnected inequities based on race that affect students of color in general and Black students in particular. Some examples are a focus on standardized testing over rich problem-solving opportunities and equitable teaching practices, funding formulas for public education that are directly connected to long-lasting racially segregated housing patterns, a deficit view of Black children in mathematics education research, overlooking Black students for advanced coursework, and the dehumanized, impersonal view that mathematics identities do not intersect with racial identities. In this session of the workshop, we will explore the barriers towards dismantling racial inequities in mathematics education that still persist despite numerous, longstanding movements to eradicate or at least ameliorate them. Further, we intend to use this space to envision what racial justice in mathematics education can look like for Black students. Fair Division, Allocation, and Representation--June 17, 2021 The question of how finite resources can be shared is an important and interesting problem with mathematical underpinnings, historical significance, and increasing relevance to modern life. The principle of fairness has particular resonance to questions of racial justice in response to historically unfair systems and treatment. Mathematics can (and should) be involved in any discussion, analysis, or decision-making process about fair division, allocation, and representation. In this session, presenters will address some aspects of the mathematics of fairness, both in theory and application. Theoretical considerations include presentation of definitions, axioms, and theorems. Applications include algorithms for fair division of entities among multiple parties and fair allocation of goods that are not divisible. Fair representation has applications that include the apportionment to states of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the contemporary disputes about how the states and other regions are divided into districts for election of representatives.