Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here
“The enterprise of science has been — and remains — complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices,” says a Nature editorial. “We recognize that Nature is one of the white institutions that is responsible for bias in research and scholarship.” The editorial lays out the journal’s commitment to establishing a process that will hold us to account on the many changes we need to make. This will include a special issue of the journal, under the guidance of a guest editor, exploring systemic racism in research, research policy and publishing.
More than 5,000 scientists, as well as societies, universities and publishers, have downed their usual tools today to focus on dismantling systemic anti-Black racism and oppression. The event is being planned by two ad hoc groups of scientists using hashtags such as #Strike4BlackLives, #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia. The physical-sciences preprint server arXiv and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, along with its main journal, Science, are among the influential institutions committed to the strike — as is Nature.
With the hashtag #BlackInTheIvory, thousands of academics on Twitter have shared ways in which they have personally faced prejudice in science because of their identity. Communications researchers Joy Melody Woods and Shardé M. Davis, who created the hashtag, tell The Chronicle of Higher Education that they were fed up with university statements in support of Black Lives Matter that weren’t backed up by concrete action.“Systemic racism has been with us, but unfortunately, white academics have not given it the weight and attention that it deserves. Because in order for them to recognize systemic racism, they also have to recognize their white privilege, which has propelled their careers in ways that are not based upon merit,” says Davis. “That’s uncomfortable, but the beautiful thing about this moment is that white folks are being forced to face it. They cannot turn their heads away.”
Features & opinion
“Physicists act like the smartest people on Earth, interjecting themselves into every other academic discipline, and then throw their hands up in ignorance when asked to figure out how to make a minor contribution to justice and equality,” writes astrophysicist Brian Nord. Nord is one of the co-organizers of today’s academic strike for Black lives. He asks everyone to reflect on why innovation or productivity is put forward as the motivation for supporting diversity and inclusion. “Isn’t our humanity enough?”
“White people are struggling with what to say or do,” notes educator and writer Jasmine Roberts. “Yet this moment we’re witnessing across the country is not about White feelings. It is about the constant trauma, historic pain, and dehumanization that Black people experience, and frankly, have been experiencing long before the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery.” Roberts calls on white academia to do better and recommends ten tangible actions as a starting point to support Black faculty members, staff and students.
Read more: Concrete Steps for Recruiting, Supporting, and Advancing Underrepresented Minoritized Scientists by a group of psychologists and neuroscientists led by Mina Cikara, Emily Falk and Gregory Samanez-Larkin.
“As our non-Black colleagues engage with anti-racist activities, we want to create space for all Black people to heal,” writes Academics for Black Survival and Wellness, a group of Black counselling psychologists. Starting on 19 June, they are offering a week of free (but donate-what-you-can) virtual events, resources and personal and professional development for Black academics.
See many more resources for Black academics and STEM professionals on the #ShutDownSTEM resources page.