Department of Biology Solidarity Statement

By || Biology Department Faculty

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the horrendously racist, violent attacks targeting Black bodies across the country. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery stand as the latest victims in a long record of violent, racist acts against Black individuals. We denounce and reject these recent racist acts of violence and harassment against Black people, as well as the record of racist policies that have historically enabled such acts. As a department, we stand in solidarity and support with those committed to dismantling all forms of racial violence, anti-blackness discrimination, and the associated racist policies that maintain and even normalize those actions against fellow human beings. 

As members of an academic department in the STEM field, we acknowledge and recognize that, historically, ideas associated with the biological sciences have been used to promote and justify multiple manifestations of oppression, exploitation, and vulnerability experienced on a daily basis by people of color. From scientific racism to forced sterilizations of Black bodies, or from unethical studies of untreated syphilis in Tuskegee men to the isolation and commercial development of HeLa cells for cancer research, we as a discipline cannot turn a blind eye to this historical record. We can do better, both as individuals in a free society and as an academic collective, to advance social justice by calling out injustices done in the name of science.

In addition, as a science department in a predominantly white institution, we are aware that invisible, institutionalized barriers can create and reinforce feelings of isolation and reduce a sense of belonging. As a result, Black members of our community feel excluded, frustrated, and angry.  Too often is their presence tokenized, questioned, or overlooked; too frequently are these experiences leaving them traumatized, enraged, and fearful. Scientific endeavors only succeed when the multiple perspectives of all people are brought together and allowed to challenge one another; this can only happen when all members of a community are empowered to contribute and question historically dominant voices. Therefore, we commit to actively working to create an atmosphere in which our Black students and colleagues across campus feel a genuine sense of belonging and can safely continue to live their academic and individual lives. In such a space where Black students are welcomed, valued, supported, and celebrated, they can engage in learning and research while also being free to live their lives without having to justify their presence. Similarly, we will strive to continue modifying our curriculum to highlight, examine, and discuss the ways in which we think, talk, and perform science, both now and in a historical context. 

Our commitment towards the development of a truly inclusive learning community is anchored and guided by anti-racist policies and informed by global social justice, including, but not limited to, teaching about the historical misuse of science, identifying and removing barriers to entry and success, and evaluating the student experience. This gives us a roadmap to meaningful, achievable change and also helps us be accountable to ourselves and our students.

In solidarity,

The members of the Department of Biology at F&M

PS: A copy of this document will be placed on the Biology website, where it will be routinely updated as we make progress in our commitments and actions.

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the horrendously racist, violent attacks targeting Black bodies across the country. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery stand as the latest victims in a long record of violent, racist acts against Black individuals. We denounce and reject these recent racist actions of violence and harassment against Black people, as well as the record of racist policies that have historically enabled such acts. As a department, we stand in solidarity and support with those committed to dismantling all forms of racial violence, anti-blackness discrimination, and the associated racist policies that maintain and even normalize those actions against fellow human beings. 

As members of an academic department in the STEM field, we acknowledge and recognize that, historically, ideas associated with the biological sciences have been used to promote and justify multiple manifestations of oppression, exploitation, and vulnerability experienced on a daily basis by people of color. From scientific racism to forced sterilizations of Black bodies, from unethical studies of untreated syphilis in Tuskegee men to the isolation and commercial development of HeLa cells for cancer research, we as a discipline cannot turn a blind eye to this historical record. We can do better, both as individuals in a free society and as an academic collective, to advance social justice by calling out injustices done in the name of science.

In addition, as a science department in a primarily white institution, we are aware that invisible, institutionalized barriers can create and reinforce feelings of isolation and reduce a sense of belonging. As a result, Black members of our community feel excluded, frustrated, and angry.  Too often is their presence tokenized, questioned, or overlooked; too frequently are these experiences leaving them traumatized, enraged, and fearful. Scientific endeavors only succeed when the multiple perspectives of all people are brought together and allowed to challenge one another; this can only happen when all members of a community are empowered to contribute and question historically dominant voices. We therefore commit to actively work to create an atmosphere in which our Black students and colleagues across campus feel a genuine sense of belonging and can safely continue to live their academic and individual lives. In such a space where Black students are welcomed, valued, supported, and celebrated, they can engage in learning and research while also being free to live their lives without having to justify their presence. Similarly, we will strive to continue modifying our curriculum to highlight, examine, and discuss the ways in which we think, talk, and do science, both now and in a historical context. 

Our commitment towards the development of a truly inclusive learning community is anchored and guided by anti-racist policies and informed by global social justice, including but not limited to teaching about the historical misuse of science, identifying and removing barriers that exclude entry and success, and evaluating the student experience. This gives us a roadmap to meaningful, achievable change and also helps us be accountable to ourselves and our students.

In solidarity,

The members of the Department of Biology at F&M

PS: A copy of this document will be placed on the Biology website, where it will be routinely updated as we make progress in our commitments and actions.

This piece was written by members of the Department of Biology at F&M. For any questions regarding the piece please contact jorge.mena-ali@fandm.edu or reporter@fandm.edu.

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