With the Black Lives Matter movement dominating headlines in the last week, systemic racial inequality in academia has also been brought to the forefront, with the hashtag #BlackintheIvory.
Across social media, black academics and educators are sharing countless stories on how they have been subjected to systemic racism, and blatant discrimination from white colleagues.
#BlackintheIvory is when a history teacher brings me in front of the class, closes the door, and says to the class:
“Reuben, you’re a big strong guy, you would have been the perfect slave”
I told student admin. They didn’t believe me. Nothing happened to her
— Reuben William Horace II, MPH (@reubixxcube) June 8, 2020
In light of the wider conversation, a number of researchers – including biologists, particle physicists and astronomers, to name just a few – have come together to spearhead a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and academic strike on June 10 under the hashtags #Strike4BlackLives, #ShutDownSTEM, and #ShutDownAcademia.
“Academia and STEM are global endeavours that sustain a racist system, where black people are murdered,” the Shutdown STEM movement explains on their webpage.
“No matter where you physically live, you impact and are impacted by this moment in history. This is not exclusive to the United States. We must all work against anti-black racism.”
The group asks for white scientists and academics to stop business as usual, and commit to three actions instead: educating themselves, taking responsibility to be actively anti-racist in their spaces of influence, and to make time and space for healing for those affected.
For black academics, the movement suggests taking the day to prioritise their own needs, and provides resources for finding community and black-led mental health support systems.
Acknowledging this strike as the first action in a long series of steps towards positive change, and towards dismantling the discriminatory systems from within, the largest scientific journal publishers in the world – along with many other organisations – have announced they will take part.
Amongst those already pledging to join the cause are Nature, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Institute of Physics, the SETI Institute, arXiv, and a number of universities.
“It is not enough to say that you stand in solidarity,” states the Shutdown STEM website.
“We need you to be accountable. We need your actions.”