In June, Academy leadership invited audiologists and students who self-identify as Black to join in creating institutional change.

A seven-member steering group was created from respondents to:

  1. Identify a process for facilitating discussions among Black audiologists about personal experiences and priorities.
  2. Facilitate virtual meetings with Black audiologists for exchange of information.
  3. Identify common themes and priorities.
  4. Develop recommendations on next steps for the Academy.
  5. Work with the Academy Board of Directors to identify a sustained approach for change in the culture of the Academy.

This work is in progress and the Board of Directors received an update at the July Board meeting.

I recognize that the Black audiologists who are part of the steering group and the others joining the dialogue may not have planned to assume the role of activist along with their audiology duties. However, I am very grateful to them for stepping up to this challenge and adding more work and stress to their days and evenings. Now others of us, too, must step up to the challenge.

I am sharing below materials recently used by the Academy’s board, council chairs, and partner board chairs to examine implicit bias and allyship. Each of us in this group—predominantly white—reviewed the materials as homework and then came together to discuss how we can infuse allyship into the work of the Academy. I am asking our membership to join this effort and also to review the materials.

Before reading any further, I encourage you to click here and take the Race Implicit Association Test (IAT), which provides a tool to discover hidden cognitive biases related to race.

Most people are aware of their explicit biases, but it is difficult for us to become aware of our implicit biases. Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or beliefs that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. It is important for each of us to acknowledge and manage implicit biases if our goal is to become an ally.

Congressman and civil-rights leader John Lewis (2/21/40-7/17/20) spoke directly of allyship:

“Swimming against the current isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to reach the goal…It only takes one to start the conversation, and allies are needed to finish it. And that’s the very essence of ‘good trouble.’”

We have started the conversation and we need an Academy of allies to move this work forward.

I encourage you also to access the four-part series on allyship here. Take the time to fill out the Social Identity Wheel that helps us think about the individual lens we use as we approach the world and how this might impact our ability to be an ally.

An ally takes on the responsibility of (1) acknowledging and openly talking about our privileges, (2) listening more and speaking less, (3) using direct communication and integrity, (4) not expecting to be educated by oppressed group members, (5) growing in our capacity to be challenged, (6) embracing the complex emotions that come from allyship, and (7) not expecting awards or recognition.

There is no one way to be an ally. We hope some of these materials will encourage dialogue and discovery of what sphere you will influence positively (your family, your colleagues, associations, communities).

Allies focus on impact rather than intention. Inclusion means that the voices that need to be heard are in the room; that is what success will look like. Together we can create a culture of inclusion at the Academy.

Although the focus at this time is on Black audiologists, this work is setting the stage for the work that needs to be done to guarantee inclusion in the Academy of all individuals who identify with a marginalized group. This work is designed to benefit all our members and the patients we serve. I look forward to continuing this work as past president of the Academy and I know the incoming president, Angela Shoup, will continue to make this work a priority.

Catherine Palmer, PhD
President | American Academy of Audiology


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