Monday, August 14, 2017

Statement on Charlottesville

Dear fellow astronomers,

[Content warning: violence, racism] 

    Two days ago a group of armed white nationalists disrupted the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, with a message filled with racism and hatred. This message was accompanied with deadly acts of violence. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the media continues to avoid calling this for what it is: white supremacist terrorism. Sadly, the POTUS failed to unambiguously reject these hate groups - many of whom inspire the very base that elected him. These instances confirm to astronomers of color that the executive may not have their safety and interest in mind.

    These acts of violence are used to cause fear amongst people of color in this country, especially Black folks. These acts are not carried out in a vacuum, but rather they are a part of centuries of orchestrated oppression -- a continuation of colonization, slavery, Jim Crow laws, extrajudicial murders by the police and mass incarceration. They are a reflection of a crisis of spirit that this country desperately needs to confront. 

    Within our field these acts hurt members who already feel isolated and excluded, including but not limited to astronomers of color, especially Black students. The mental, physical and emotional toll experienced by them is damaging to their ability to travel freely, to engage in creative scientific work, and above all, to feel truly safe at their home institutions -- especially if those institutions are over-represented by white folks and where a culture of equity and inclusion may not be exercised with intention.  For these reasons, it is critical for astronomy departments around the country and astronomers in leadership positions to do their part to ensure safety and well being.

    As members of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), we unequivocally denounce the acts of violence that took place in Charlottesville. We also resist the historical and systemic reasons that allowed such events to take place. We reject white supremacist narratives that mask hate toward people of color as “freedom of speech.” We urge all astronomers, especially white astronomers, to renew your commitment against racism[1] in our discipline and in your communities. 

    We extend our solidarity to every astronomer of color, especially Black astronomers, during these difficult times. We will continue to do everything we can to protect you and we will fight for you.

Signatories,

Prof. Jorge Moreno
Charee Peters, Ph.D Candidate
Dr. Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Prof. Keith Hawkins
Prof. Kate Daniel
Prof. Jillian Bellovary
Prof. Adam Burgasser
Prof. John A. Johnson
Dr. Lia Corrales
Prof. Alyson Brooks
Prof. Kim Coble
Prof. Aparna Venkatesan

The above signatories are private citizens exercising their constitutional right to express their personal views. This is not an official statement by the CSMA nor the AAS and should not be construed as such.

Links and resources
[1] Racism is defined as the combination of racial prejudice plus power that results in differences in life outcomes between racial groups, such that white people are systematically advantaged compared to people of color.



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