When I started grad school I was excited. Excited because I saw the pursuit of knowledge as the this special calling, free of the BS that my friends who worked in corporations or the government or even education had to deal with. I was apart of this fraternity of knowledge-seekers. Yea, there's some hazing of newbies along the way, but that's like normal, right?
My balloon got popped before I finished my Masters and many, many times along the way as I pursued my PhD. The first time, when the department chair (MS degree) who spoke so highly of me to others and to me and encouraged me to a pursue a PhD refused to write me a letter of recommendation for grad school....despite the fact that I had secured funding from two different sources for doctorate education. His hesitance -- he told me the story of how he wrote a letter for a female student many years ago, a bright star of a young woman. She started out fine but then flunked out. He'd never written a letter for a Black student before and he couldn't afford to have his name associated with another failing student...Tha HELL!
There's this persistent idea that science because of its rules and methodologies and objectiveness and truth-seeking that Science (and the scholarly places we study and practice it) are somehow these utopian-like or utopian-aspiring settings. This is a lie. A big fat lie. Oh, science has rules and methods, and calls of objectivity and aims to understand the natural world, but that doesn't make the endeavor or the people who do it above the frailties of being human. Of exercising bias, prejudices. Doing the mental gymnastics necessary to unethically gather and collect data and pass it off as "for the greater good".
A contingent of individuals - who are mostly white and male and heterosexual and cis - plus some others who proximate themselves to that - defend this
ideal myth tooth and nail. It's often the go-to reference when institutions are asked to explain their lack of diversity and inclusion among their ranks..."Oh, we don't care about demographics. Color, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc don't matter because we simply want the best and brightest." All the while they never (care to) realize that this behavior steadily reinforces the supposition that insidiously perpetuates a Eurocentric (Western/White/Anglo) perspective as universal, as the ideal. The one that all other perspectives aspire to and are inspired by.
This alone is the reason why old-fashioned liberal arts education requirements for STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) majors is still a good idea. Philosophy, Economics, Social Sciences, Ethnic Studies, and Gender Studies course offer critical thinking and synthesis opportunities to scholars to frame their STEM education. It also provides necessary background information to help people understand how their STEM education fits into the 3-D and 2-D landscape of life. With so little actual representation of *some* of these ideas and ethical considerations from real-live people of diverse backgrounds participating in STEM to influence the academic and career culture, then formal and informal learning opportunities into these critical race, gender and identity platforms matter so much.
Which is why I spoke up when EcoInternet/Glen Barry continued to use problematic images of Africa and African people when discussing the problem of Ebola. Science isn't unbiased and despite the promise it offers to help the world and humanity, the excitement over science and trust of scientists is not a universal value. Many, many people from Indigenous and forcefully transplanted populations are wary of science and the promises it makes to life better...Better for whom? Any nation or peoples who've been touched by Imperial Colonialism (which is ALMOST everybody) has volumes of historical accounts (i.e., warnings) of being done dirty by European explorers. Science is no exception. That's why I called on EcoInternet to modify its messages about what it was saying about environmental use, sustainability and over-population in West Africa.
We're more concerned with communicating ecological science truthfully.
~EcoInternet (emphasis mine)
More as concerned, we've decided that this framing of the issue is more important. As in he's the arbiter of what is truthful and science and valid. So much communication fail in this.
Going through his timeline (EcoInternet and his personal account) and his essays, Dr. Glen Barry is definitely lobbying for himself as the expert to follow and and listen to. To me his messages sound very much like "Hey, let's fix this nasty situation over there with those people" Ross Perot inflection added.
And maybe he doesn't mean to come off looking and sounding like an ass. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don't buy it. I think he doesn't care one bit how it comes off - good or bad... and that's the problem. Cultural sensitivity, inclusive dialogue to examine problems and promote solutions don't seem to matter. This is page 1 from the privilege handbook people.
For everyone who wants to believe and fight for science being a close to ideal/unbiased land, then this attitude must be plucked. This is why we can't have nice things.
<_<. Science isn't exempt from the human condition or human input. So when messages like these continue to be a apart of our academic, scientific and science communication dialogue, we need to recognize that is a problem. And call it out.
Below is the dialogue with EcoInternet and my commentary on culturally sensitive science communication matters.