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Role of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)

In school, most people learn that science is the pursuit of objective knowledge. As such, many scientists and non-scientists alike do not consider how racial biases and social inequities affect who gets access to STEM learning opportunities, who becomes STEM professionals, and what types of scientific research gets funded. As an organization that prides ourselves on encompassing “all things STEM” we recognize a critical need for all our collaborators to become aware of and engage in conversations surrounding social justice in STEM. In this message, you will find resources to learn about how racism impacts STEM opportunities in PK-12, college, and the workplace, as well as resources to guide you in being an ally for Black lives in STEM.

 

Below is a small sampling of statistics to spark conversations with your friends, family, students, teachers, scientists, and coworkers about how #BlackLivesMatter in STEM:

  • STEM Opportunity: Of US high schools with the highest percentage of Black and Latinx students, a quarter do not offer Algebra II and a third do not offer chemistry.[1] In addition, only 57% of Black and African American students attend high schools where the “full range” of STEM courses are offered (Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics) compared to 71% of White students and 81% of Asian students.[2]
  • STEM Representation: There are twice as many Black college students as there are Black faculty.[3]
  • Racism Persists in Higher Ed: Black people who have attended college are more likely to say they’ve faced certain situations like people acting suspicious of them, being unfairly stopped by the police, and fearing for their personal safety because of their race[4]
  • Racism in the Workplace: 62% of Black STEM employees say they have experienced discrimination at work due to their race or ethnicity.[5]
  • Anti-Blackness in Modern Medicine: “A 2016 survey of 222 white medical students and residents published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that half of them endorsed at least one myth about physiological differences between black people and white people, including that black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s.”[6]

[1] https://all4ed.org/articles/doesnt-add-up-african-american-students-less-likely-to-complete-calculus-and-other-college-level-courses-in-high-school-according-to-new-nces-report/

[2] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/crdc-college-and-career-readiness-snapshot.pdf

[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/31/us-college-faculty-student-diversity/

[4] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/02/for-black-americans-experiences-of-racial-discrimination-vary-by-education-level-gender/

[5] https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/blacks-in-stem-jobs-are-especially-concerned-about-diversity-and-discrimination-in-the-workplace/#fn-24050-37

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/racial-differences-doctors.html

It is also important to acknowledge the many ways that Black people have been overlooked, used, and abused by western science. Ranging from the abuses endured by Black patients in the Tuskegee Study[7] to the buried contributions of African American women in NASA’s “space race[8],” science has a long history of exploiting Black bodies, knowledge, and achievements.[9] We owe it to our Black students and colleagues to continue learning about science’s racist foundations so we can actively work toward a more just future in STEM.

At SciTech Institute, we acknowledge that we are not the experts in this realm. Our small staff of primarily White employees cannot speak to the experiences or needs of Black people in STEM. What we can do, however, is use our platform to bring these voices to the forefront of your attention. We ask that you join us in our commitment to continue seeking out the voices of Black people in STEM to help guide the diversity and inclusion initiatives we champion.

We are in this fight for the long haul. In addition to doubling down on our efforts to champion equity in everything we do, we are taking the following steps to build on the current momentum of social justice conversations happening around the country and around the world:

  1. We will continue to update this page – a “Diversity and Equity in STEM” category – on our resource page on the SciTech Institute website, featuring the resources with the tag #BlackLivesMatter in STEM. Community members can contribute to our resource directory here: https://scitechinstitute.org/add-directory-listing/
  2. The Chief Science Officer (CSO) program, our international STEM ambassador program for 6th-12th grade students, will elect and convene its first CSO Committee on People of Color in STEM for the 2020-2021 school year.
  3. As the first of a series of planned community working groups, we will be inviting community members to join the inaugural Arizona Committee on Diversity and Equity in STEM. This committee will be responsible for deciding their agendas and goals, and SciTech will host (virtually or in person) quarterly meetings where members of the committee can advise on SciTech Institute initiatives.

To follow the continuing conversations on social media about being Black in STEM and academia, follow #BLACKandSTEM #BlackinSTEM #BlackInTheIvory #BlackAFinSTEM`

[7] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/tuskegee-study-medical-distrust-research/487439/

[8] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/forgotten-black-women-mathematicians-who-helped-win-wars-and-send-astronauts-space-180960393/

[9] For more examples, see Free Radical’s recent Facebook post here

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