Storify is closing and over the coming weeks, I will be migrating my posts to my blog. This is an archive of my article first published on Storify in March 2017.
By mid-March 2017, women of colour (WOC) had been contacting me about their experiences with various March for Science satellite marches. They were concerned about low commitment to diversity, especially racial inclusion. Other issues, such as accessibility, also remained a problem.
Diversity issues had plagued the March for Science central organising committee from its inception. By mid-March 2017, almost two months after announcing the protest, the organisers had yet to demonstrate concrete commitment to diversity (equity, inclusion and accessibility). Women of colour had been contacting me in private and in public on Twitter, voicing concerns that satellite marches were not doing enough on diversity planning.
These women’s efforts to increase proactive action on diversity was being met with opposition from fellow local committee members. This ranged from not being listened to, to being told that there were no problems with inclusion, to outright hostility, alienation and conflict with organisers or fellow committee members. One woman described this experience as “gaslighting.”
The women who were in touch with me felt under-valued, and some questioned their involvement or were seeking advice about how to reconcile their efforts in a culture lacking collegiality and solidarity for women of colour.
The central organising committee still has gaps on its leadership with representation of experts for disability; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) researchers; and equity and diversity practitioners making decisions mindful of racial, ethnic and religious minorities in STEM.
The march committee’s non-partisan and “a-political” stance seems to be a shield against confronting the Trump Administrations policies.
It is unclear how the March for Science will have concrete impact given they don’t have a clear road-map for policy change. Overturning the Trump Administration’s adverse policies, such as the Executive Order on visas and immigration (the “Muslim ban”), requires practical action and collaboration with other organisations and social movements.
The March for Science wants to be a “celebration of science” and draw on the veneer of social protest, without any of the political advocacy. It is unclear how this will will lead to effective changes. The organisers seem to be preoccupied with making Trump supporters comfortable with the goals of the march, without being willing to address the safety and impact on minority groups more acutely affected by President Trump’s policies.
As an organisation, the March for Science functions as an extension of White privilege, by shying away from decisive political action. If this trend continues, it will be majority groups who will feel safe and welcome at the march, and minorities will be forced to weigh up their personal safety and community interests should they choose to attend. The march is in serious danger of reproducing the status quo, seeking high attendance from White people from majority groups, over proactive inclusion and social justice.
WOC leaving the March for Science
A few women joined the public conversation, sharing why they had left their local marches, or why tensions around diversity had disenfranchised their participation from the beginning.
Responses from scientists
Scientists noted that the march is “a giant mess” on diversity, by causing disunity and marginalising minority groups. Others were concerned about the organisers’ reticence to address politics head-on.
Accessibility concerns remain high, with the central committee not doing enough to include input from disability experts and ignoring new members who have lived experience with disability.
Dr Jaquelyn Gill shared that her decision to leave the March for Science organising committee was based on the organisation’s inability to incorporate diversity, as well as other internal dynamics, such as reticence to work with established activist groups.
Scientists were worried about the need to appease Trump supporters over inclusion.
Many scientists noted that the focus on funding and sponsorship may compromise the integrity of protesting against negative policy decisions.
Eric Holthaus asked how allies might better support efforts to address equity, inclusion and accessibility. I suggested listening and uplifting underrepresented minority writing and advocacy, and I pointed him to other advice on anti-racism advocacy.
Other scientists and community members noted that the March for Science is in true danger of reproducing White privilege, by centring the attendance of White people, especially those who are able-bodied, cisgender and heterosexual.
Deciding not to march
Some scientists expressed their dissatisfaction with the coordination of the march, saying that they would not attend as a result of maligning inclusion.
Image: Words by Flavia Dzodan. Graphic by Z. Zevallos. [Stylised photo of a street intersection with the phrase: My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit! – Flavia Dzodan.]