Thousands of scientists and researchers in the U.S. and around the world went on strike on Wednesday to protest and to urge reflection on racism in society and in academia, especially in STEM fields.
#ShutDownSTEM, #ShutDownAcademia and#Strike4BlackLives were the hashtags used on social media to talk about the protest, which was planned in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd due to police brutality.
#ShutDownSTEM made it clear the strike was aimed at the broad research community that is not directly participating in working to end COVID-19.
“As members of the global academic and STEM communities, we have an enormous ethical obligation to stop doing ‘business as usual,’” said a statement from the protest organizers. “Black academic and Black STEM professionals are hurting because they exist in and are attacked by institutional and systemic racism. … For Black academics and STEM professionals, #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM is a time to prioritize their needs— whether that is to rest, reflect, or to act— without incurring additional cumulative disadvantage.”
Brian Nord, a Black astrophysicist who works at particle physics and accelerator laboratory Fermilab and is an organizer of #ShutDownStem, described to Gizmodo how racism rears its head even toward Black scientists who make it into academia.
“When [the academic community] does try to show the value of diversity and inclusion, they do it by having those who are already marginalized do the work of their own liberation,” Brian Nord, research scientist at Fermilab, told Gizmodo. “They have us who are already embedded in that system and facing the problems that the system created do these activities and join these committees and all of these things that have ultimately been shown just to be window dressing … There has not been real investment and commitment in us.
One social media account, called Minorities in STEM, lauded the work of academics of color in the sciences.
“Special shoutout to ALL MINORITIES IN STEM. You are not only destroying the systemic racism that exists in many parts of the [world] but you are creating a just & equal earth for the unborn! Future generations thank you! Don’t give up now,” said a tweet by the group.
Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, professor of Soil Biogeochemistry and Falasco Endowed Chair in Earth Sciences at the University of California Merced, said on Twitter it is time to learn about the issues facing Black communities and take action.