Letter to the AAS on #BlackLivesMatter

I’ve decided that I have the energy to channel my anger and frustration and sadness regarding the murder of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling (and the 604+ people of color who have been killed by the police in the US since January 1 2016) to do something about it. Specifically, I was moved by this tweet thread to write to a professional organization I belong to, the American Astronomical Society, asking them to endorse or issue a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Below is the letter:

Dear AAS Council,

I was enthused to see a post by AAS CSMA members on the Women in Astronomy blog (http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.nl/2016/07/black-lives-matter-standing-in.html) making a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I was very disappointed that this statement is not (yet) officially endorsed by the AAS or even the CSMA. Please endorse this statement or issue a similar one.

At a time when our Black colleagues and their families are facing the very real threat of violence and death in their everyday lives, they need to know that their professional organization acknowledges this and provides full support. The amount of effort it takes to do the emotional diversity work is staggering, and our Black colleagues do it every day. It is past time for white allies and predominantly white organizations to step up and shoulder that responsibility too, *especially* when Black people are being gunned down by the police. I find it wrong that the only diversity issue widely discussed in astronomy is sexism, when racism and white supremacy are so pervasive as well. Additionally, solidarity with gender minorities without solidarity with racial/ethnic minorities does not fully support colleagues with intersectional identities such as black women.

Our Black colleagues need to know that they have the full official support of the AAS, and that their contributions to science matter to the AAS, not just because they are POC and “diversity is important”, but because they are human beings with inherently valuable lives, and we live in a world where that needs to be re-said. Science does not happen in a societal vacuum, and the voice of the AAS is needed now to ensure that Black astronomers feel like a valuable part of the scientific community.

Abigail Stevens
PhD Candidate, Univ. of Amsterdam
Junior AAS member

(Thank you to Dave Tsang and Madhura Killedar for feedback on this letter!)

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