URGENT: Strike4BlackLives Call To Action – June 10

Please participate in the Strike4BlackLives. Please share it widely with your circles. The strike has been called by scholars in the Physics community for Wed. June 10.

#Strike4BlackLives is in dialogue with a call from colleagues in Astronomy to #shutdownSTEM and #shutdownacademia for at least the day of June 10.

Find out more by following the hashtags #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownSTEM.

Follow Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (@Ibjiyongi) on Twitter for up to the minute content.

Below is what you need to know about this day of action.

The call is to stop all usual academic work for [AT LEAST] the day, including teaching, research, and service responsibilities. All ordinary meetings of classes, research groups, and seminars should be cancelled or replaced with discussions with colleagues about anti-black bias in the world and in academia.

Please be aware: the strike is a DAY OF REST FOR BLACK ACADEMICS.

“Therefore, as physicists, we believe an academic strike is urgently needed: to hit pause, to give Black academics a break and to give others an opportunity to reflect on their own complicity in anti-Black racism in academia and their local and global communities.”

What does that mean? It means, in NOTHING that you organize or do on June 10 to address racism in the academy, do you require any labor or involvement by Black academics. Black academics are both exhausted and traumatized right now. The point of the strike is for non-Black academics to show up, speak up, and start to look at ourselves and our institutions for the ways they continue to manifest anti-Black racism, exclusions, silencing, retaliations, and more. And folks: a book group, seminar, talk, or other academic business-as-usual really, really does not cut it. We are in a national and international moment of crisis. Show up. Be uncomfortable. Do more. Do different. Feel anxious. Take risks. To quote some words from below: “we are not calling for more diversity and inclusion talks and seminars. We are not asking people to sit through another training about implicit bias. We are calling for every member of the community to commit to taking actions that will change the material circumstances of how Black lives are lived — to work toward ending the white supremacy that not only snuffs out Black physicist dreams but destroys whole Black lives.”

What follows comes from the official language of the strike. For additional info read widely on the site. Here is the FAQ page. The list of core organizers is below.

#Strike4BlackLives CALL TO ACTION:

It should go without saying that Black lives matter. Yet we find ourselves again mourning and raging over state and vigilante violence against Black people. The recent murders of Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery are just a few examples of the violence and racism that Black people live with every day — and have for centuries — in the US, Canada, and around the world. We acknowledge the ways in which the effects of anti-Black racism are compounded for people who are also, for example, women, trans, non-binary, queer, Indigenous to the lands occupied by the United States and Canada, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, disabled, and/or undocumented. We demand justice, reform, and accountability now.

Therefore, as physicists, we believe an academic strike is urgently needed: to hit pause, to give Black academics a break and to give others an opportunity to reflect on their own complicity in anti-Black racism in academia and their local and global communities. This #strike4blacklives is in dialogue with a call from colleagues in astronomy to #shutdownSTEM and #shutdownacademia for at least the day of June 10.

We recognize that our academic institutions and research collaborations — despite big talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion — have ultimately failed Black people. Demands for justice have been met with gradualism and tokenism, as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives that — while sometimes well-intentioned — have had little meaningful impact on the lived experiences of Black students, staff, researchers, and faculty. Black representation among physics faculty is non-existent at most institutions, and it is widely known that Black students often feel unwelcome, unsupported, and even unsafe in their physics departments and predominantly white campuses.

Anti-Blackness is pervasive throughout academia, and the number of students and faculty in particle physics and other subfields make this very clear. Moreover, anti-Blackness affects all aspects of Black peoples’ lives. To steward a new generation of students, research staff, and faculty in physics means to acknowledge our collective responsibility to combat anti-Blackness, not just on campus, but also in the streets, in governance, and society at large. Ending white supremacy is a matter of urgency, yet far too often, instead of using power to question institutional practices and advocate for Black students, faculty and staff, many senior academics and administrators retreat to the Ivory Tower, disengaging from the pursuit of justice. Again, the fight against white supremacy — in all of its manifestations — is an urgent one, and we are clear that justice will not be achieved until Black people not only have the right to survive but also thrive.

We are conscious of the ways in which Black students and scholars, including two authors of this letter to the community, are expected to do the heavy lifting to advocate for and support justice and representation in academia. We know that this burden functions as an unfair and unevenly distributed barrier to their ability to thrive in academia. We call for a universal strike to give them a break and because those of us with the most privilege have the greatest responsibility to use that privilege to enact change. We must confront the institutional barriers to justice for Black people in academia and beyond, challenge the notion of the meritocracy whereby “objective and neutral” criteria infused with systemic racism are used to exclude Black people from physics and other academic disciplines, and rebuild our institutions and collaborations in a way that is just and equitable.

Importantly, we are not calling for more diversity and inclusion talks and seminars. We are not asking people to sit through another training about implicit bias. We are calling for every member of the community to commit to taking actions that will change the material circumstances of how Black lives are lived — to work toward ending the white supremacy that not only snuffs out Black physicist dreams but destroys whole Black lives. In calling for a strike, we call on people who are not Black to spend a day undertaking discussion and action that furthers this work, while providing Black scientists with a day of rest. Every single institution around the world can and should get involved in this work, and the strike marks an opportunity to recommit to the humanist values which should underpin academic work, including the belief that Black Lives Matter.

What does the strike encompass?

We will stop all usual academic work for the day, including teaching, research, and service responsibilities. All ordinary meetings of classes, research groups, and seminars should be cancelled or replaced with discussions with colleagues about anti-black bias in the world and in academia.

We will also stop activities that advance our own scholarship, including performing research, reading and submitting papers, or sending e-mails about research.

The strike is not a “day off” for non-Black scientists, but a day to engage in academia’s core mission to build a better society for everyone; see below for suggested actions that participants can take on strike day to educate themselves and advocate for change in their communities. Those of us who are Black academics should take the day to do whatever nourishes their hearts, whether that’s protesting, organizing, or watching “Astronomy Club.”

When does the strike happen?

It will take place all day, Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

What does it mean to take action to further the cause of ending global anti-Blackness?

Our usual academic responsibilities will be replaced by actions that center Black lives and agitate for change in our communities. Example actions include, but are not limited to:

  • Participate in a protest. If there are none local to you, organize one. Any number of people can form a protest together.
  • Educate ourselves about the history of anti-Black violence, police brutality, and racism. Pay particular attention to how intersecting identities such as gender and gender identity, religion, nationality and immigration status, sexual orientation, amplify the injustices faced by Black individuals.
  • Repurpose scheduled meetings and seminar times to discuss specific actions you will take to have an impact locally. Focus on concrete actions you can take now. Consider impact beyond academic spaces.
  • If you spend part of your day engaging with entertainment, immerse yourself in the work of Black artists: literature, poetry, visual art, film, music.
  • Contact your local elected representatives and other public officials (for example, police chiefs) about issues affecting Black lives. If you live in the US, you can find your local member of the House of Representatives at this link. For a more comprehensive list of federal, state, and local officials, you can use directories like that provided by Common Cause.
  • Make an action plan for how you will respond to anti-Black police brutality and other racism that you see on the streets, at work, and in your social circles. This could include thinking through whether and how you will intervene, what you will say, etc.
  • Contact your institution’s leadership to advocate for policies that support and protect Black students, staff and faculty. This includes reforming campus security procedures that target Black students and their friends & families, and institutional barriers to the hiring and promotion of Black scholars.
  • Examine and take responsibility for the relationships that universities have entered into with local law enforcement, with the explicit intention of building trusting relationships with the campus communities and neighboring, non-campus communities most affected by these relationships. Learn how to support groups opposing the relationships between universities and police forces.
  • Donate –at least a day’s worth of salary if you are in a position to do so– to the advancement of justice for Black people. We have included a list of organizations at the end of this site.
  • If you are in a position of power, acknowledge the situation the US is in right now and extend deadlines for your Black students, employees, grantees, trainees, etc. and anyone doing time-consuming support work for the movement for Black lives.

Who should strike?

While our call is from our position as particle physicists and cosmologists, we welcome everyone in academia to join us! We encourage institutions to publicize and support their students, faculty, and staff to join the strike. If you have a labor contract that precludes engaging in strike activities, we encourage you to donate one of your vacation days to this important day.

As researchers, teachers, students, and staff we devote an immense amount of our time and mental energy to learning more about the world and ourselves within the framework of our own discipline. The strike day gives us the space and time to center Black lives, show solidarity with academics with marginalized ascribed identities, to educate ourselves about the ways in which we and our institutions are complicit in anti-Black racism, and to take concrete action for change.

~~~~~~

Authors

Foregrounding our Black members who developed this idea, and then in alphabetical order

Brian Nord (Fermilab and University of Chicago) (click here for a personal statement)

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (University of New Hampshire)

Matthew Buckley (Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey)

Kyle Cranmer (New York University)

Djuna Croon (TRIUMF)

Daniel Harlow (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Seyda Ipek (University of California, Irvine)

Sam McDermott (Fermilab)

Matthew Reece (Harvard University)

Nausheen Shah (Wayne State University)

Brian Shuve (Harvey Mudd College)

Tracy Slatyer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Tim M.P. Tait (University of California, Irvine)

Graham White (TRIUMF)

Tien-Tien Yu (University of Oregon)

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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