Andrea Watson

Table of Contents


Here we provide to the scientific community some thoughts and ideas from Black authors and creators on how we can recognize and confront anti-Black racism in our society, in our institutions, and in ourselves. The compilation of this list began following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020 (cw: violent imagery) and the global outrage it sparked, which reminded us of our responsibility to better educate ourselves on the ongoing issue of implicit and explicit racism. The lived experiences and published works of Black people demonstrate that we are all complicit in anti-Black racism in science and academia, no matter how well-meaning or progressive we are as individuals. We therefore urge our colleagues and readers to engage with these resources, even if you think they are not personally relevant to you.


“Patching the Leaks: Revitalizing and Reimagining the STEM Pipeline”

(...) Here, we suggest evidence-based strategies for leaders to incorporate into their diversity and inclusion efforts, including mechanisms to provide a supportive environment, safe spaces, and how to retain a diverse scientific workforce at all stages in the academic pipeline. To this end, we use our personalized experiences to emphasize revised mechanisms that will improve the pipeline throughout each stage. (...)
Antentor O. Hinton Jr., Ph.D. et al. | Cell, 29 Oct 2020

“America’s Private, White, Elite Schools Need Reform. Now.”

(...) What we want is for our educational institutions to acknowledge the ways that they have harmed Black people. And to understand that their lackluster diversity initiatives have failed to address the realities of structural racism day in and day out. And, if they fail to act now to rearrange their institutional social order, then they are just as complicit in Black death as the Derek Chauvins or the Greg and Travis McMichaels of the world, who murder Black people in the light of day. (...)
Tikia K. Hamilton, Ph.D. | Medium, 26 June 2020

“What Black scientists want from colleagues and their institutions”

(...) Nature spoke to six Black academic researchers about the effects of racism on their careers, their advice to white colleagues and their thoughts on meaningful institutional actions. (...)
Virginia Gewin, M.S. | Nature, 22 June 2020

“What I’ve learned about being a Black scientist”

(...) These academic departments—some quite famous for espousing egalitarian and progressive values—were willing to hire a scholar with a Black face, but they made it crystal clear that they did not want the mind that came with it. The issues that mind wanted to study—issues of racial, economic, and gender inequality—simply did not belong in their hallowed halls. (...)
Neil A. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D. | Science, 16 June 2020

“The Life of a Black Academic: Tired and Terrorized”

(...) [D]o not become complacent because you think you feel tired from the impact of structural racism. You are not tired. Your black colleagues are tired. They are tired, weary, exhausted and do not have the luxury of resting. (...)
Henrika McCoy, M.S.W., M.J., Ph.D., L.C.S.W. | Inside Higher Ed, 12 June 2020

“Black in Nature”

(...) Racism can be anywhere, and that includes fieldwork and research settings. Black scientists and nature enthusiasts often encounter persistent, yet thankfully less menacing, racial encounters. Black scientists have been mistaken for other Black colleagues, expected to have roles of servitude or assistance, and often have their skills or expertise questioned. Harmful and traumatic incidents, however, also occur. (...)
Alexus Roberts | Shaz Zamore, Ph.D. | Integrative and Comparative Biology, 9 June 2020

“White Academia: Do Better.”

(...) The aforementioned [tangible actions you can take to support Black faculty, staff, and students mentioned in this article are] certainly not a comprehensive list, but it is a start if you’re serious about addressing systemic racism in the academy and the experiences of Black faculty, students, and staff. (...)
Jasmine Roberts, M.A. | Medium, 8 June 2020

“My Dream Come True: An Open Letter to My Colleagues.”

(...) I have been excluded from participating directly in most academic decisions and policy making. By this, I am referring to the fact that I have not been offered any departmental committee positions (other than those involving diversity) in my 31 years on the campus. (...)

“mSphere of Influence: Hiring of Underrepresented Minority Assistant Professors in Medical School Basic Science Departments Has a Long Way To Go”

(...) It is perplexing that there has been no significant increase in the number of URM [underrepresented minority] assistant professor hires per year despite a 930% increase in annual production of (URM) biomedical Ph.D.’s from 1980 to 2013. In fact, with almost 6,000 Ph.D.’s awarded to URMs from 2005 to 2013, there were actually six fewer URM assistant professors in 2014 than in 2005 compared to an 8.6% growth rate with well represented groups (white, Asian, and international) in that time frame. (...)
Michael D. L. Johnson, Ph.D. | mSphere, 18 Sept 2019


(...) I was sticking out like a sore thumb, yet I was still unnoticeable. (...)

“The Disciplines Where No Black People Earn Ph.D.s”

(...) In 2017, there were more than a dozen fields—largely subfields within science, technology, engineering, and math—in which not a single doctoral degree was awarded to a black person anywhere in the United States. (...)

“The Death of an Adjunct”

(...) She was a black woman in a largely empty building, and people would come by and inquire about whether she was the janitor. Then she would teach classes. Her students loved her, but their parents would call the school questioning whether she had a doctorate. (...)

“Not by proxy: Arguments for improving the use of race in biomedical research”

(...) For more than 100 years, anatomists, population biologists, molecular geneticists, and others have accumulated substantial evidence showing that the social construct of race is not defined by biology (Yudell et al. 2016; Neal 2008). Still, as compellingly described by Perez-Rodriguez and de la Fuente (2017), race continues to be used as a biological variable in research. This results in flawed research conclusions and the continued reinforcement of race as biology, both of which have negative ramifications for the progress and application of science and for the lay public. (...)

“Science’s Role in Reducing US Racial Tensions”

(...) Parallel to the problem of the lack of diversity in research topics and subjects, scientists must confront racism that affects the nature of scientific inquiry. One of the Mertonian norms [Merton’s four principles that comprise the ethos of modern science] of science, universalism, says that the merits of a scientific discovery should be based only on the discovery itself and not on socially defined characteristics, such as the race, culture, and gender of the discovering scientist. Yet, philosophers of science have shown that science is not as neutral and independent as the profession portrays. (...)
Thomas S. Woodson, Ph.D. | Issues in Science and Technology, 2017
(...) [T]his research captures the unique challenges that participants [Black women] experience in their respective academic computing science environments, as well as how participants navigate this historically White, male-dominated field. (...)
LaVar J. Charleston, Ph.D. et al. | Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2014

“Debating the Cause of Health Disparities: Implications for Bioethics and Racial Equality”

(...) Likewise, it is implausible for a large group of people as genetically diverse as African Americans to have such a concentrated genetic susceptibility to so many common complex diseases. A more plausible hypothesis given the persistence of unequal health outcomes along the social matrix of race is that they are caused by social factors. (...)
Dorothy Roberts, J.D. | Cambridge Q. Healthcare Ethics, 2012

Additional resources

The author thanks the members of our lab for their contributions to this post.

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