This is about more than campaign comments to whip up a crowd. The appointment of Mr. Bannon as senior advisor and chief strategist is clearly a worry. Racist thinking and rhetoric has no role and should not be tolerated in the White House and in the Administration’s strategic thinking or appointments. This is simply not acceptable in our country. We are not talking about freedom of speech or an offhand ill-advised comment here, but the public profile and policies of the highest office in our country. What I have seen and heard disgusts me as a person, an American and, yes, as a scientist.
Science suffers from such divisiveness, and its success demands fighting back against bigotry, misogyny and racism. Every scientist knows that insight and innovation have no bounds drawn by race, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or any other artificial boundary. A good idea in a research setting is just that, and we need every good idea and new perspective we can get to solve scientific problems. That’s the reason to increase diversity in STEM education. That’s the reason to ensure educational opportunity and resist false arguments that hold people back.
Pseudo-science concerning race is just that—false. The derisive attacks on the reliability of science that have been part and parcel of the President-elect’s campaign and Breibart “news” stories are similarly nonsensical to scientists. But they are hurtful to many and affect us all. Not just because they are offensive, but because they misdirect students and promising scientists away from doing work that we need them to do. These comments are expressions of views and of policies that will directly damage our need as a nation to develop a skilled and diverse workforce of scientists. Policies that discourage immigration, policies that emphasize barriers between people, and attitudes that seem destined to make bigotry part of the mainstream of our political discourse will damage both our scientific enterprise and, more importantly, our democracy.
So, as a scientist, I believe we must fight back. We must fight for policies that encourage, not discourage new STEM students and graduates, women, people of color, the disabled, LGBTQ students—regardless of heritage or religion. We must counter the racist and misogynist language from the incoming administration and its senior appointees and create a welcoming environment for all scientists to feel empowered. We need to reach out, as scientists, to communities all across the country, in order to help them deal with the problems that science can address—from public health and safety and environmental protection to environmental justice for disadvantaged communities. And we must remember, amidst all the rhetoric, that many things happen outside of Washington and the federal government. Scientists can work with people everywhere, not just when the federal government asks us to.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is in the fight. As we all must be as scientists. The nation is counting on us.