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Sheldon Logan: Confronting racism and creating change

Sheldon Logan (Ph.D. ‘13, computer engineering) confronted America’s race issues head on in his powerful Diverse Voices 2021 talk. In the final talk of the season, Logan shed light on the topic of anti-Black racism and how we can erase implicit bias. 

As violence and discrimination towards Black Americans and other minority groups persist, Logan argued we have a responsibility to step up and take actions to work towards a more just, respectful, and inclusive society.

Logan, a Baskin School of Engineering alumnus and senior software engineer at Google, uses personal narrative to share the constant injustices and struggles people of color face in America.

From majority to minority

Coming from Jamaica, a primarily Black population, to the United States, a country with a history of deeply rooted anti-Black racism and discrimination, Logan said he “got a rude awakening of what it meant to be Black in America.”

Logan lived in Jamaica for the first 18 years of his life. As a member of the majority, his success was never questioned. It wasn’t until he moved to the U.S. to pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering at Harvey Mudd College, a school whose population was only 3% Black at the time, that he first experienced being judged based solely on his skin color.

“It was strange that people who have never met me before had assumed that I was not good enough to be there and got in only because of my skin color, not merit,” said Logan.

But Logan came to learn that bias against Black Americans and other minority groups was far too common in the U.S. “As a person of color, you are treated differently,” said Logan. 

He grew increasingly frustrated by the discrimination he and other members of the Black community experienced, and quickly came to the sobering realization that a lot of work needs to be done to bridge the racial disparity gap in this country and end systemic racism. 

Creating a future that embraces and empowers diversity 

Logan urged we take collective action to help shape a future that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.

He argued that we must make sure people of color know that they belong. One of the most important steps we can take to embrace diversity, Logan explained, is to “normalize people of color being in certain situations.” Increasing representation in various professions, from teaching to tech, will inspire and encourage other underrepresented groups and the next generation of students of color to pursue fields they are passionate about.

Logan also recommended that companies adopt programs that teach employees how to overcome unconscious biases.

He also encouraged audience members to take part in mentorship opportunities. His own experience as part of Google’s summer mentoring program, where he has had the opportunity to mentor numerous student interns, has shown him the power of mentorship. Being someone’s support system as they navigate academic, professional, and personal life has a direct positive impact on confidence, overall success, and sense of belonging. 

“STEM is not beyond the abilities of people of color,” Logan stated. “You are good enough.”

Visit the Diverse Voices 2021 website to learn more about the series and access recordings of previous talks.