Summary: Black Lives Matter. White supremacy, and all that comes with it, has to be dismantled. White supremacy has a long and terrible history in our country, and the current manifestations of this, including violence against people of color and recent increases in violence against Asian and Pacific Island heritage people is unacceptable. Everyone deserves the right to safely explore and appreciate this incredible world.
My values: I do not accept oppression. I am committed to challenging and ultimately ending racism, however it manifests (overt, covert). I believe that undoing racism targeted at Black people in particular is a key strategic step to eliminating racism, sexism, classism, anti-Semitism, gay oppression, and all forms of oppression. Everyone will benefit from this work but that is not why we need to do it; the work is intrinsically important because a debt is owed to Black people, particularly because of the enslavement of people of African heritage. If we make progress on this front it will help our society learn to face many important debts, including the fact that here in North America, all of our infrastructure has been and continues to be built upon land stolen from Indigenous peoples and by the unpaid or underpaid labor of people of the global majority, often under brutal conditions.
How does this connect to marine biology, you might ask? I’ll hypothesize that you might especially be wondering this if you are white, by the way. In all sectors of society we need to take action against racism, regardless of what our profession is. This work is part of our work as scientists, because racism is operating in our labs, institutions, and communities. Racism is hindering brilliant and creative people from safely accessing nature to pursue natural history! For me, the thing I cherish most about my role as a scientist is being in nature, observing and geeking out about the strange things I see. There is a profound, heartbreaking violence to the way that many people of color have been excluded from the right to safely be in nature (and this really extends to all people who aren’t white and male, to be honest). This is something I fully take for granted as a white man. So, I hope you can see why I believe that a clear statement on this is important.
Why now? I started really deciding to work on strategizing and fighting to dismantle racism in 1999. I won’t try to summarize what I’ve done in that time here. Suffice to say, it hasn’t been enough. The institutions of oppression are systemic and very deep. This means that progress that individuals make is usually slow. I admit that until 2020, I didn't openly incorporate my anti-oppression values into my academic life. Now I have a position of leadership, I see that it is important that I decide to be more visible with my values.
Actions: Let’s please join together in openly cherishing and supporting our Black, Asian, Latinx and people of color peers and colleagues in marine biology, ecology, ocean sciences, environmental sciences, and conservation (and beyond!). Join me in taking action. Vote, donate, read, have an opinion, share it with elected officials, and finally, and very importantly for other white people, LISTEN.
Please note that I recognize that this statement is not a comprehensive piece of activism in itself. It is just a statement of values that I hope to use to guide myself and people I have influence over when we stray. It’s hard to address a complex issue in few words and not make mistakes.
We should all have an ethos. I’ll conclude by pointing out that this statement is consistent with the CTELab policies and ethos document that I wrote for our research group in 2018. All members of my lab have discussed, agreed to, and signed this document starting in 2019. Please feel free to check out the CTELab ethos (attached below) update for 2023.