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Let’s be sincere about eliminating systemic racism

by Luis A. Echegoyen, ACS President
July 18, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 28


Photo of Luis Echegoyen.
Credit: Daniel Stanley Photography
Luis Echegoyen

I admit that I have many biases about different things, which are feelings and perceptions that result mainly from my early formative years. These mostly unconscious biases are deeply ingrained in me and are very difficult to change, but I make a conscious effort to successfully control and mitigate their effects by reading extensively, participating in training sessions, and engaging in deep introspection.

These efforts are successful because I am truly sincere about my desire to eliminate, to the extent possible, these biases from my persona. I am not authentically unbiased, meaning I was not born and raised without biases, but I am truly sincere about changing my attitudes concerning my implicit or unconscious biases.

Do people need to be authentically unbiased to fight against prejudice and racism, or is sincerity, accompanied by appropriate actions, enough? In my opinion, being sincere, managing your biases, and redirecting your actions accordingly can go a long way in developing yourself and effectively working toward eliminating prejudice and racism.

As President of ACS, I want to address the issue of systemic racism. ACS, as an organization, is sincere about its desire to end racism in the chemical sciences and is currently engaging with staff, members, and volunteers to define and shape what actions or policies we may take.

Those of us who sincerely believe in eliminating systemic racism as an ethical, moral, and necessary imperative need to join forces and form special support groups to help influence as many others as we can, and to act promptly. Those of us in privileged positions are particularly needed because our influence can be significant and lead to real changes.

This is a time for actions, not words, since we have discussed the issues long enough and, sadly, those discussions have not brought us any closer to eliminating systemic racism from our country.

We need to talk with and reach out to individuals who are either hypocritical or less sincere than we are to try to persuade them to become activists against systemic racism. It’s important to discuss all the issues openly, as well as our perceptions, feelings, and biases. No topic should be taboo. These interactions should be designed to help everyone understand how it really feels to be a person of color in our society; the associated anxieties, frustrations, insecurities, and fears. It is also important for all of us to go through a deep introspection to acknowledge our own level of bias, prejudice, and racism. Accepting these feelings and realities will provide the basis for us to move forward.

Most of the people who are truly sincere about ending systemic racism are not necessarily authentic and have to continue working against their biases about their attitudes toward diversity, and they possess implicit biases that must be recognized and worked on to mitigate. Accepting this reality is a required starting point for everyone to move forward. Being truly sincere is a good starting point.

In these challenging times we are learning how to live and be productive virtually while coping with social unrest resulting from indiscriminate violence against (and brutal killings of) Black ­people in our country. Rightfully, a large percentage of the population is incensed and demanding immediate reforms to avoid similar tragedies in the future, but the roots of the problems are very deep and have been for many generations.

This is a time for actions, not words, since we have discussed the issues long enough and, sadly, those discussions have not brought us any closer to eliminating systemic racism from our country. The privileged among us need to get involved with actions, not just words, and it needs to be now. We need to join forces with people of color to end systemic racism. I want to motivate privileged groups to engage actively in the fight against blatant discrimination, oppression, and aggression against the people of color in our community.

It is not just up to the oppressed to continue fighting for their rights as they have been doing for so long—we all need to get actively involved in order to succeed. We cannot continue to ignore that prejudice and racism are a part of our system and our lives and somehow accept it as just the way things are. It is up to all of us to change this situation, which is fragmenting and weakening America. We need to use all our talents to help end prejudice and racism.

I welcome your ideas and suggestions on how ACS as an organization can help end racism in the chemical sciences. Please email me at

Let us all contribute sincerely and actively. Enough is enough. Black Lives Matter!

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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