The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police are a reminder of what Black people have known for some time; Black lives are not valued. In the United States, being a visible descendent of Africans automatically comes with excess baggage. Remnants of slavery and Jim-Crow era segregation are visible in almost every facet of life. Higher education is no different. Barriers that exclude Black people from educational achievement develop early, resulting in a low number of Black professionals with high level degrees or positions. The field of marine science is not an exception to this rule. While Black people make up ~13% of the American population, from 1976-2016 we accounted for only ~1% of doctorate degrees in ocean sciences.
Being a Black Marine Scientist, I live these stats every day. I navigate my professional sphere as a minority on a daily basis, an experience unfamiliar to many of my colleagues. What makes this even harder is the lack of space needed to interact with and share knowledge on the diversity and culture of Black people. The lack of space in marine science for Black scientists is not unique to me unfortunately. Frustrated and wanting a space to promote and commune with Black Marine Scientists, #BlackInMarineScienceWeek was created. From Nov 29th- Dec 5th we will focus on the experience and research of Black Marine Scientists across the globe. Similar to #BlackBotanistsWeek and #BlackinGeoscienceWeek, we have taken the week to carve out our own space in the field of science and provide the opportunity for allies and colleagues to learn more about our experiences.
During the week, we will focus on everything from hair regimes, to some of our favorite scientific techniques. We have planned a variety of panels and workshops that will highlight the international diversity of Black marine scientists. While our group of panelists and volunteers is diverse, we have one major uniter: we have each experienced systematic oppression and exclusion. Irrespective of our position, socioeconomic status, or origin, portions of our journey are shared simply because of our skin color. We invite allies to listen to the lived experiences that will be discussed throughout the week as well as our thoughts on and wishes to create more inclusive and diverse spaces for Black scientists. During the week, we have planned events targeted to inspire the next generation of scientists, young and old. We will have behind-the-scene tours of aquariums across the country and discussions with prominent Black scientists, as well as Instagram and Twitter take-overs of accounts dedicated to science.
Follow us on Twitter @BlackinMarSci and Instagram @blackinmarinescience to learn more, and check out our website for the most up-to-date schedule of events for next week. We hope you join us during this action-packed week.
Bernard, R.E., Cooperdock, E.H.G. No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geosci 11,292-295 (2018). https://doi.org/10.