Black scholars answered Redditors’ questions about how structural racism impacts people of color working in the hard sciences.

By Sameer Rao

ColorLines, September 30, 2016 —

Bias is pushing women of color out of STEM fields. Photo: iStockPhoto/PeopleImages

United by a desire to combat racism and implicit racial bias in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, four leading Black scientists and researchers addressed those concerns in a candid Reddit #AskMeAnything (AMA) session yesterday (September 29).

Drs. Shirley Malcolm, Ed Smith, Avery D. Posey, Jr. and Caleph B. Wilson answered more than three dozen questions pertaining to users’ experiences with bias. The AMA preceded Science Magazine’s publication of “Doing Science While Black,” an article by Dr. Smith that describes experiences like being mistaken for a delivery person when starting at a lab.

We’ve embedded a portion of the discussion below. See the full AMA here.


Racial Biases in Science:  MAScience AMA Series: Hi, we’re leaders from the American Association from the Advancement of Science, and we want to talk about identifying, confronting, and overcoming implicit racial bias in science. Ask Us Anything!


knockturnal48 points5 days ago
I am also interested in this, but in regard to socioeconomic diversity. Coming from a working class family, I have been very aware of the socioeconomic differences between me and coworkers throughout college, graduate school, and now as a faculty. This has been a significant problem when it comes to income – my student loans have made it difficult to live on the low academic wages associated with graduate school and junior faculty positions, but most of my colleagues do not have the same problem. I am very worried about starting a family before I complete repayment of my loans and have been tenured for this very reason.
How can socioeconomic diversity be dealt with? How do more people like myself get into science and live on academic wages?

Recognize-Bias19 points5 days ago
You are correct that as we make progress and move ever closer to Rev. King’s “dream” of judging others based not on “skin color” but “character”, “socioeconomic diversity” becomes even more significant. So in almost every cohort that we have had in our PREP since 2004, we have had a trainee that has your background. Invariably there is always a very strong bond between her/him and the rest of the cohort. These two diverse groups share a sense of being “different” and consistent with another issue with diversity that Dr. Pat King has written about in the “Dilemma of Difference”: in our book, “Plain Talk About the Human Genome Project…” and elsewhere. How can it be dealt with? In my opinion, it is already included in many programs that are being developed to create classrooms and workplaces that resemble America.

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