This also though, has made me think of what else I can do.
Before now, I knew intellectually that race is still an issue in America. I don't think I fully understood the extent of that because it doesn't affect me on a daily basis. Except, maybe it does. At Duke University, there is one black person on my entire floor that is not a member of the janitorial staff, and he is a staff scientist. This is really troubling.
A friend from high school, the amazing poet Kane Smego wrote this on facebook a few days ago, and I cannot get it out of my head. I've copied it all here. Emphasis is my own.
First of all, it comes down to 2 possible viewpoints on the world that influence a person's opinion on what is most certainly the genocide of black men. You either believe that
1.) All human beings are born with equal capacities for love, intelligence, and success. While you believe that all humans have free will and hold a degree of responsibility for their own actions, you realize that the large-scale patterns of incarceration, poverty, gang violence (since so many people want to use that as an example), police brutalization, and other forms of suffering are the result of massive structures of inequality. Because our nation has had written language since its inception (unlike the Greek Empire for many centuries), we also have the ability to examine our history in text and identify many of the events, policies, and mindsets that first created these massive structures. While they have been dismantled and have eroded in certain areas, these structures still stand like the skeleton of an ancient building that we still live inside of. In other words, you understand that millions of people aren't choosing to be poor, and brutalized, and locked up, but rather that there are larger forces at work which make these types of suffering much more likely to affect them.
Or you believe that
2.) Different types of people from different races or cultural backgrounds have different capacities for love, intelligence and success. The large-scale patters of incarceration, poverty, gang violence, police brutalization are the result of their own choices, inherent flaws, or racial and cultural characteristics they receive at birth. We have a name for this second belief system or mindset, it's called RACISM. If you don't like being called racist, labeled a racist, or made to feel like a racist, then maybe you should examine your own belief system and thought process and re-evaluate your view on the nature of reality.
Gosh. You either believe that all humans are born with equal capacities for love, intelligence, and success, or you don't. And it is increasingly clear based on the current injustices that a shockingly large amount of the population whether knowingly or not do not believe this. And it's not their fault, really. By having NO black faculty members on our floor, NO black post docs or graduate students, you're sending a very clear message.
So what can I do?
I am on a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. (Or I will be, next year, semantics whatever.) And the NSF, in each grant proposal, each fellowship proposal, has a section titled "Broader Impacts" and they want to know what service you will do for the greater community. And I swear 90% of these sections are complete bullshit. Mentoring high school students, training undergrads, blah freakin' blah blah blah. I said something about going to my daughter's elementary school with a presentation of my work. One reviewer wrote, "I doubt the applicant will do this" or something to that effect and at the time I bristled with indignation because that reviewer doesn't know me! but let's be honest. I probably wasn't going to do it.
But now I want to.
Aspen, the other grad student in my lab brought it up at lunch. Let's put our time into underserved minority kids from Durham this summer. We put so much freakin' time into these pre-med duke undergrads (and if there is one population that does not need anything it is the pre med undergrads of duke university) why not put that time into a population that actually needs us? Where we can actually make a difference.
Science has SO MANY problems. America has an even bigger problem. But gosh, if I could do one thing that would help both of those problems, well, it would be a shame, the greatest shame, not to.