I thought the identity politics that infected the first incarnation of the Science March had abated, but, according to Stat News, they’re actually getting worse, with fractures developing in the organization over issues of diversity, immigration, gender parity, and so on.
What was billed as science advocates speaking with a unified voice, then, has instead surfaced long-lingering tensions within the scientific community.
Rachel Holloway, a clinical psychologist who chairs the event’s diversity and inclusion committee, conceded that initially the group was overwhelmed by scientists and activists clamoring for a spot at the table. It was “like trying to drink water out of a fire hose,” she said.
Things have settled down since January, and organizers have begun to address members’ concerns. But many are not satisfied.
. . . Jacquelyn Gill, a biology and ecology professor at the University of Maine, told STAT that she quit the organizing committee in recent weeks because of leaders’ resistance to aggressively addressing inequalities — including race and gender.
“We were really in this position where, because the march failed to actively address those structural inequalities within its own organization and then to effectively communicate those values outward, we carried those inequalities forward,” Gill said. “Some of these problems stem from the march leadership failing early on in its messaging.”
. . . The event’s official diversity policy, posted just days after the march was announced in January, has undergone repeated revisions, and is now in its fourth version.
The latest, as Wednesday, read: “We acknowledge that society and scientific institutions often fail to include and value the contributions of scientists from underrepresented groups. … We better serve everyone when we affirm that the labors and achievements of underrepresented communities are foundational to the creation and maintenance of our democracy; engage in difficult conversations; and sustain an open scientific community that celebrates, respects, and includes people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.”
As an example of how every group wants its own special interests identified and emphasized, have a look at this post at Latino Rebels.
I have no objection to the March’s statement of diversity, because of course science should be an open community, any bigotry is unconscionable, and in fact science works best when everyone has the same opportunity to contribute, though that may not mean that all groups are represented in the field exactly according to their proportion in the population.
What bothers me is the message that the March is supposed to impart. If it’s that we stand up for science, science funding, and unfettered promulgation of scientific truth, that’s fine; but I don’t think it will have much impact. If it’s that the scientific community is plagued by the same inequities that infect society at large, well, those issues were addressed in the Woman’s March, and are not unique to science. To march about those issues, though the issues must be addressed, serves no purpose except to fracture whatever unified message the demonstration was supposed to have. It also brings the social problems of science to the wrong people (we’re supposed to be sending a message to society at large, while internecine problems should be called to the attention to the scientific community). Finally, what is achieved by diluting the March with social issues not endemic to science itself? What will be achieved?
I don’t know, not do I know any longer what the March is supposed to accomplish, or what its message is. There’s even an anti-harassment policy on the March for Science webpage that mentions—wait for it—hate speech:
Across all social media platforms, we will remove comments that include rude language or personal insults. Any commenters who use derogatory or hateful language and/or engage in personal attacks will banned, blocked, and/or removed from the relevant March for Science online groups or accounts.
The March for Science does not tolerate hate speech, bigotry, or harassment within or outside our community. Targeting individuals or communities with violent language, including statements that reflect racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, or any form of bigotry, will result in banning and/or blocking. Personal attacks based on religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation will also lead to banning and/or blocking. To flag an issue, please contact a March for Science administrator on the relevant social media platform.
Have you ever seen a march that requires such a policy? But it’s symptomatic of the March’s young organizers, who seem to be sufficiently inexperienced that they didn’t think things through in the first place. And what is happening here is what is ruining the effectiveness of the Left in general. It is the petulance of college students writ larger, something I’ve always worried about.
Will I participate? (I’ll be back before it starts.). I don’t know. It depends whether they can decide what the purpose of the March really is, and how they’ll convey their message. Right now I’m dubious, for without a unified goal the March will just be a bunch of people blowing off steam in a way that has no tangible benefits.