I write today to voice my solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackinSTEM movements and to explicitly condemn the ongoing police brutality, systemic racism, and explicit racist acts against Black people across America. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the many that have occurred before, coupled with the massive disparities in health outcomes in COVID-19 between Black and white Americans, shine a light on the ongoing violence and systemic oppression in our culture against Black people. These events, coupled with numerous examples of police brutality in the ensuing protests, make it clear that this problem is real, immediate and continuing, and it is simply immoral to not do everything in our power to speak out for real change in our systems.

In the Bahlai Lab, it is an explicit part of our mission to actively disassemble the white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal structures that dominate the scientific discourse. Our work in the biological information sciences is not an exception: our work is not neutral in the spheres of environmental racism, consent and information privacy, and land use rights (among others). It is our core work to critically examine how these issues ultimately shape our beliefs and actions, and it is essential that we center justice in our narratives about our work. Science is never neutral, and we must explicitly work to do better: to build more inclusive structures, to stand up against inequity and call it out wherever we see it, to LISTEN to our colleagues and believe them when they tell us about the racist or discriminatory acts of ourselves and others.

Some small actions my lab has taken include developing reading lists for classes that emphasize work of people of color, explicitly unpacking the ‘heroism’ of many dominant voices in the scientific discourse in the classroom, and centering a code of conduct in the lab’s policies. 500 Women Scientists has compiled a helpful guide to other actions we can take. Here is another excellent resource for white academics wanting to do better.

I call on my students, colleagues and friends to stand up as well. We built, and we uphold these structures; we can, and will disassemble them.

Yours in solidarity,

-Christie Bahlai

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