After our first anti-racism meeting in support of #Strike4BlackLives, the Aurorasaurus team has been holding monthly meetings alongside members of the aurora science and citizen science communities on further action items to hold ourselves accountable. If you are interested in joining us for future meetings, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. In this post, Liz and Laura share out some of our takeaways from these meetings.
On July 17, the meeting centered on a deep read of some of the posts from #BlackinAstro, a hashtag created by Ashley Walker (@That_Astro_Chic) and blogged by Astrobites, with which Black space scientists shared their experiences. The conversation is relevant to aurora science and Liz and Laura recommend reading through the hashtag conversation on Twitter. Members of the NASA Space Science Education Consortium (NSSEC) attended this meeting. During the meeting, the group read aloud #BlackInAstro: Not a Lack of Science Aspiration, But a Lack of Career Inspiration? by Luna Zagorac, discussing each section in turn. Then, each participant read another #BlackinAstro post individually and reported takeaways back to the group.
Luna Zagorac’s post summarizes the British study “Is Science for Us? Black Students’ and Parents’ Views of Science and Science Careers,” by Louise Archer, Jennifer DeWitt, and Jonathan Osborne, which looks at the reasons for the underrepresentation of Black people in scientific fields. The authors of the study quantified that Black students were interested and skilled in science in school, but a lack of representation in the field and unclear applications of science degrees in other fields created barriers to entry to continuing on. The authors made recommendations against the “lone genius” trope of the successful scientist.
Our group also discussed the importance of mentorship to students wanting to join the field, as well as the challenges of fixed mindset (skills are what you are born with) instead of growth mindset (skills are what you develop them to be), which affect students’ perceptions of their abilities.
You can read the full #BlackinAstro blog post series on AstroBites here.
On August 20, the meeting was structured as a book club discussion of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and the group listened to excerpts of the On Being episode “Resmaa Menakem and Robin DiAngelo in Conversation.” The group then examined the text, podcast excerpts, and several criticisms to learn not only from the book itself, but also the dialogue around this widely-read text.
The conversation between authors and activists Resmaa Menakem and Robin DiAngelo explored ideas of breaking white apathy, making the point that there is work that white people need to do among themselves and within themselves before talking in diverse communities. Among other things, they discussed behaviors that needed to stop: hollow declarations of allyship, “performance art” antiracism, and hope as a tool of whiteness; and expressed the need to replace these things with action that includes white people showing up for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) people. From the critiques of the book White Fragility, Liz and Laura learned about thinking of it as only one first step rather than an end-all-be-all book. We also learned about the importance of reading and recommending Black authors, and centering Black experiences. Liz and Laura felt that the book, podcast, and critiques related to ways that white aurora scientists and aurora citizen scientists can fail to understand the needs of BIPOC scientists and citizen scientists, and provided some structure for beginning anti-racist work.
You can tune in to Resmaa Menakem and Robin DiAngelo in Conversation here.
The September 29 meeting centered on a bystander training by Hollaback! and Pen America. Participants found out more about how to safely intervene when witnessing online harassment. Since so much citizen science includes online groups, Liz and Laura found this particularly useful. After the public training Aurorasaurus held our own group discussion about our takeaways.
During the training, the organizers emphasized that a bystander’s most important consideration should be the person experiencing harassment. They made clear that the goal is not to abuse the abusers, but rather to break the cycle of violence by prioritizing the person being harassed. They pointed out that it can be powerful to leverage your own power and influence to back someone up, especially if you have checked in with them. To accomplish this, they recommended 5 D’s: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. These techniques protect bystanders because they do not necessarily involve direct intervention, and not every person has to do all five. A good starting point is to get comfortable using one technique.
In discussion after the training, our group noticed differences in how different generations among us understood online harassment and approached intervention. To Gen Z participants, online harassment was a part of daily life, while its prevalence was a surprise to some Boomers. Some generations were more comfortable intuiting digital environments, and some preferred the structure of the 5 D’s. Participants were also particularly struck by the collective power of bystanders. Many of us had been in situations where we wanted to help but weren’t sure how and felt isolated. The training affirmed that bystander intervention is a studied field with proven techniques, and that people are not alone when they choose to stand up.
If you missed the training but want to take part, Hollaback and Pen America plan to hold more free sessions, which will be listed here.
Recognizing and Leveraging Privilege
On October 22, the meeting took the form of a discussion on privilege and how it can be used as a tool. Participants examined our own privileges using “50 Potential Privileges in the Workplace” by Better Allies and discussed our results. We then watched Interview with the Memphis Mall “Hoodie Moms” – #LeverageYourPrivilege by Dr. Kira Banks and discussed ways to leverage privilege. Lastly, the group read “Interrupting Bias: Calling Out vs. Calling In” by SeedtheWay to examine one aspect of how to leverage privilege.
The privilege list led to discussion about the ways in which privilege is nuanced and intersectional. Some items on the list came as a surprise to participants, while others seemed obvious. The group noted how workplaces are often structured as if every person has all 50 listed. Some group members asked: how can we use privilege in a way that is constructive?
We then watched Dr. Banks’ video, which took place in the aftermath of police arresting four young Black men in a shopping mall for wearing hoodies. Four white women had staged a protest by going to the mall in hoodies, to draw emphasis to the way that race, rather than wardrobe, was the defining factor in the arrest. Dr. Banks talked with the women and asked why they made the choices they did, and then drew the conversation to how other white people could leverage privilege. Our discussion kept coming back to the idea of “small” actions. Participants felt that since actions have far-reaching effects, no action is small and antiracist actions are always important to take. We extended this idea by reading “Interrupting Bias: Calling Out vs. Calling In” by SeedtheWay to examine examples of ways to “call out” or interrupt bias, and “call in” or encourage growth, thinking especially about ways to make use of privilege in the workplace and at conferences.
You can further explore #LeverageYourPrivilege by watching this playlist from Dr. Banks.
We are continuing to learn. Please let us know if you are interested in joining us for future meetings by emailing us at email@example.com.
These resources were recommended by participants: