The scientific community is shutting down on June 10 in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in an effort organized by Black scientists and allies to take specific actions to combat anti-Black racism.
Protests began in Minneapolis on May 26 following the death of George Floyd while in police custody the previous day. Floyd was pinned beneath a police officer who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd lost consciousness after pleading, “I can’t breathe” – words that have now been repeated around the globe. In the weeks since, protesters around the world have congregated despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to demand police reform and an end to systemic racism and violence against Black communities and those of color.
“In the wake of the most recent murders of Black people in the US, it is clear that white and other non-Black people have to step up and do the work to eradicate anti-Black racism,” the #ShutDownSTEM organizers write on their website. “As members of the global academic and STEM communities, we have an enormous obligation to stop doing ‘business as usual.’”
Responding to the call to Strike For Black Lives, #ShutDownSTEM, and #ShutDownAcademia, more than 3,000 physicists, astronomers, and academics have made a commitment to forego research, classes, meetings, and other “business as usual” on June 10, and to instead spend the day focusing on issues of racial equality and inclusiveness within their research facilities, institutes, and fields to show their support in battling racism, according to the American Institute of Physics.
Racism causes life-threatening conditions for black men every day. A recent report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the average life expectancy of a black man at birth is nearly five years shorter than their white counterpart, with police violence being a leading cause of death for young Black men in the US. Black men in the US are more likely to be reincarcerated due to “deeply ingrained” racial biases that can add to the perpetuation of race-based trauma and police brutality.
The social media shutdown is a part of a multi-identity, intersectional coalition of STEM professionals and academics, including Particles for Justice and VanguardSTEM. A long list of research organizations and publications have shown their support for the internet shutdown, including Nature, MIT, AAAS, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, among many others.