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Scientists and Academics Are Going on Strike Against Systemic Racism in #ShutDownSTEM

Never underestimate the power of nerds.

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After two weeks of protests and campaigning, the call to fight against systemic racism shows no signs of slowing down. More voices are joining the chorus of anti-racism, and people in positions of power are forced to respond. Now, the scientists, researchers, and academics of the world are stepping up.

ShutDown Stem is a community initiative of STEM professionals, researchers, and academics working together to demand racial justice. The scientists are collaborating with Particles for Justice and Vanguard STEM, to call for a strike on Wednesday June 10th.

The group is using the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM, #ShutDownAcademia, and #Strike4BlackLives to encourage fellow scientists and academics to address anti-Black racism within the STEM fields and academia at large.

Their mission statement reads:

“Our responsibility starts with our role in society. In academia, our thoughts and words turn into new ways of knowing. Our research papers turn into media releases, books and legislation that reinforce anti-Black narratives. In STEM, we create technologies that affect every part of our society and are routinely weaponized against Black people.

Black academic and Black STEM professionals are hurting because they exist in and are attacked by institutional and systemic racism. Black people have been tirelessly working for change, alongside their Indigenous and People of Color allies. 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.”

The mission statement added that while all were invited to join the strike, researchers working on the COVID-19 pandemic are obviously exempt given the critical nature of their work.

“#ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM is the time for white and non-Black People of Color (NBPOC) to not only educate themselves, but to define a detailed plan of action to carry forward. Wednesday June 10, 2020 will mark the day that we transition into a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM. We join with members of Particles for Justice in calling for a #Strike4BlackLives.

To be clear: #ShutDownSTEM is aimed at the broad research community who is not directly participating in ending the global pandemic, COVID-19. If your daily activities are directly helping us end this global crisis, we send our sincerest gratitude. The rest of us, we need to get to work.”

Their website lists resources and action items for people at all levels of STEM, from students to scientists to fundraisers to faculty. The site promotes a three-prong approach comprised of education, action, and healing to address the inadequacies of the STEM field and the work that must be done to fight systemic and structural oppression.

The protest also addresses the heavy lifting that people of color are forced to do regarding spearheading diversity initiatives and educating their friends and co-workers in the field. They also want to move on from inclusive lip service and diversity signalling to actual actionable items to change the system.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of physics and core faculty in women’s studies at University of New Hampshire, said “We don’t want more diversity, inclusion, and equity seminars, … We want people to take action, including participating in protests, for justice, now. We need people to be active in reforming the institutions they work within, rather than waiting for a top-down solution.”

More than 3,000 academics have pledged their support for the strike.

(via Gizmodo, image: ShutDownSTEM)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.