Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On the US Presidential Election

Dear fellow astronomers,

[Trigger warning]

The world awoke today to news of a major upset in the 2016 United States presidential election. The President-elect has based his platform on promises to build a bigger wall between Mexico and the United States, deport Latinx and Muslim people, and jail his political opponents. In addition to his xenophobic political statements, he has bragged about sexually assaulting women, whom he regularly and publicly insults. 

His campaign frequently implied that those who have been labeled “other” -- women of color, men of color, immigrants of all statuses, people with disabilities, trans people, LGBQIA+ people, white women, and those who intersect these groups -- are not welcome in this country. These offensive messages have been validated by a disturbingly large percentage of the voting population. This morning, many of our colleagues woke up to a world in which they may not feel safe. Many of them are expressing fear of even leaving their own homes.  

The undersigned express our solidarity with the people in the astronomy community who are directly and negatively affected by the outcome of this election. We are keeping you in our thoughts, we are feeling your pain, and we are here to support you and to fight for you in whatever way we can. We ask that our colleagues take concrete actions to affirm and validate the needs of the most marginalized members in our community. 

We ask three things:

1. Send a message of support to your colleagues, and publicly commit to maintaining a safe space.  Please publicly express your solidarity. If you cannot find the words, we suggest the following:

“I express my solidarity today with my colleagues who fear for their safety following the election of a President and Vice-President who have legitimized violence against and intimidation of people of color, immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and Muslim-passing folks, Jews, women of all backgrounds, trans folks, LGBQI+ people, people with disabilities, and people at the intersection of these axes. I am committed to fostering an astronomy community that is safe, welcoming, and inclusive of all people."

2. Take concrete steps to protect and advocate for colleagues and students who are particularly vulnerable right now. Please make sure that vulnerable marginalized colleagues are kept safe in our community.  Advocate for them -- and more importantly -- recruit them, employ them, retain them, and promote them.

3. Take concrete steps to educate yourself about the issues pertaining to marginalized folks, and transform these lessons into action. For we will not be able to enact long-lasting progress unless we understand and challenge the systemic structures operating against these groups. 

Let us all strive to make our community a safe place for everyone!

Dr. Lia Corrales
Charee Peters
Prof. Jorge Moreno
Dr. Nicole E. Cabrera Salazar
Dr. Jacqueline Faherty
Prof. John Asher Johnson
Prof. Kim Coble
Prof. Jillian Bellovary
Prof. Adam Burgasser
Prof. Aparna Venkatesan

The above signatories are private citizens exercising their constitutional rights. We unequivocally support similar efforts by other astronomers, to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable members.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with ideas, links, literature, and action items. We include a preliminary list of action items below. This is compiled from multiple articles and ideas posted on social media. Sources that I know of are listed below, but some I was unable to confirm and give proper credit. If this is your work and would like credit, please let Charee Peters know and she will happily cite you. Your feedback on its content and wording is very welcome.

Suggested action items: 

– Create safe spaces for people who need them in these trying times. 

– Offer comfort (in the form of a hug, kind words, etc.) and be considerate of anyone with marginalized identities.

– Support those colleagues of yours who may be facing discrimination and/or racism. Intervening in a situation could save someone’s life. 

– Tell people that you believe them when they are sexually assaulted, harassed and abused.

– Tell people of color that you believe them when they say that they are afraid for their lives and for their children's lives.

– Tell Muslims that you welcome them, that you are not scared of them, and that you will stand up for everyone's Constitutional right to practice their faith of choice or no faith at all.

– Tell Jewish people that you are here for them, that you recognize anti-Semitism is still prevalent in this country, and that you recognize and support their choice to practice their faith

– Tell LGBTQ+ people that you love them regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and that their lives are not worth less than the lives of straight people.

– Make sure that you are protecting yourself and taking care of your mental health. There are many ways to take care of yourself. Ultimately, know that emotions are running high for many people; take the time you need to keep yourself on track.

– Subscribe to a newspaper or donate to a news organization. Help us keep powerful people accountable for their actions.

– Vote. Not just in the presidential election, but in the midterms, in municipal elections, and everything in between.

– Call and write your elected officials, starting with your city councilor and ending with your president.

– Volunteer for a non-profit that aims to make this country better for all people; there are many organizations that need your help.

– Encourage LGBTQIA+ people, women and people of color to run for office, and then donate to and volunteer for them. But know that it’s not on them to make change happen.

– Donate money to organizations that promote inclusivity and diversity. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the #NoDAPL protectors at Sacred Stone Camp, Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and many others.

– Support our younger generations. Offer hugs when appropriate and positive feedback. They are our future and we can educate them about what is happening so that we don’t repeat this.