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THE NEUTRAL ZONE

STEM professionals and academics around the world on Wednesday participated in a global protest against “racism in the scientific community and at large.” Organizers of the movement included Strike for Black Lives#ShutDownSTEM, and #ShutDownAcademia, consisting of “more than 5,000 scientists and two prominent scientific journals.” Nausheen Shah, one of the organizers of #Strike4BlackLives, stated, “The idea was that there was a need to be doing something other than just organizing seminars and workshops and sitting in the back and saying, ‘Oh, yes, I attended this diversity and inclusion seminar. So, you know, I’m all done, right?'”

Organizers highlighted how “black students still often feel unsupported and unwelcome at predominantly white college campuses and laboratories.” On June 6, Twitter users highlighted experiences with racism in academia using #BlackInTheIvory. Experiences ranged from “repeated microaggressions to physical threats.” A 2018 study by Pew Research Center highlighted that black people made up “11% of the U.S. workforce overall, but represent 9% of STEM workers.” Particles for Justice member Seyda Ipek at the University of California, Irvine, stated, “We hope everyone comes out of this with concrete steps they can take and ask for from their academic institutions.” 

Though numerous universities and scientific societies published statements in response to the killing of George Floyd, some were criticized for having “missed the mark,” such as the June 1 American Chemical Society statement that omitted words such as “black,” “police brutality” and “racism.” ACS published an additional video statement following the criticism.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Across the Globe, Scientists Are Striking for Black Lives – Wired – 6/10/2020
The organizing groups are encouraging all scientists, but especially non-Black academics, to use the day to educate themselves, organize protests, amplify Black voices on social media, and formulate long-term action plans for confronting racism in their everyday lives as scientists. For their Black colleagues, they hope it will be a day they can take a break from the demands of being a Black scholar.

Thousands of scientists worldwide to go on strike for Black lives – Nature – 6/9/2020
“We recognize that our academic institutions and research collaborations — despite big talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion — have ultimately failed Black people,” says a statement by Particles for Justice, a group originally convened to oppose sexism in academia. “An academic strike is urgently needed: to hit pause, to give Black academics a break and to give others an opportunity to reflect on their own complicity in anti-Black racism in academia.”

Scientists condemn racism in #StrikeforBlackLives action worldwide this week – Fox News – 6/9/2020
The effort, which is also using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia on social media, calls on scientists worldwide to pause their work, cancel classes and reschedule meetings in order to spend the day taking action against anti-black racism. Two black scientists, Brian Nord, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab, and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a cosmologist at the University of New Hampshire, are leading the action.

Scientists hold #ShutDownSTEM protest to support Black Lives Matter – The Washington Times – 6/10/2020
Fermilab astrophysicist Brian Nord told AAAS’ Science magazine that research and academic institutions’ prioritization of diversity is misplaced. “I don’t want more diversity and inclusion seminars,” Mr. Nord told AAAS. “Those activities are used to provide a shield to institutions so that they can do the bare minimum.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Prof. Akiko Iwasaki on Twitter, 6/10/2020: I am thrilled to share this fantastic @BioRender graphic abstract made by @SciCommArt to illustrate my article on why we need to increase diversity in research communities. Time to take actions to reform academia. #ShutDownSTEM #Strike4BlackLives

Bret Weinstein on Twitter, 6/10/2020: It seems #shutdownSTEM would be advanced as sabotage of the movement as it is dangerous to the values the movement claims to advance. But it mirrors a closely held fiction of CRT: that science and enlightenment values are tools of oppression. It’s a show of force. #SCIENCE!

Elisabeth #StayingAtHome #Staying Alive Bik on Twitter, 6/10/2020: Today, I will join in #ShutDownSTEM #ShutDownAcademia #Strike4BlackLives and be quiet on Twitter. I will use this time to think and educate myself about how to listen and do better, and how I can help in eradicating racism in STEM and Academia.

Campus Reform on Twitter, 6/10/2020: Academics nationwide #ShutDownSTEM because science is ‘weaponized against black people’

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