ShutDownSTEM, Day of Reflection: June 10, 2020

On June 10, 2020, academics and scientists were asked to step away from their business and usual, to have a “Day of Reflection”. We were urged to spend the day learning about how racism affects everyone and to ponder how we can contribute to cultural changes to remove barriers to full participation.

My Day of Reflection convinced me that I should become an active ally, strive for action where I can implement it, and use my voice to encourage others to think and learn. My learning journey ultimately motivated me and others plant scientists to submit a proposal to the NSF, seeking funds to address systemic racism in professional societies. Our proposal, ROOT&SHOOT (Rooting Out Oppression Together and SHaring Our Outcomes Transparently), was funded in the summer of 2021, ROOT&SHOOT.

This is what I wrote after the Day of Reflection.

Thank you to everyone who made yesterday happen. Thank you to the organizers of #ShutDownStem for assembling a huge reading list to help me and other start to grasp the magnitude of the ways that racism persists.

By asking us to stop doing “business as usual,” scientific institutions including ASPB confirmed their commitment to addressing racism. It takes time to learn, and without this support I would not have made time read, listen, and study about the social, cultural and racial inequities that infuse STEM and academic culture, as well as the wider world.

I’m still reeling from my what I learned about the persistent consequences of slavery and segregation, and how this history continues to affect the lives of Black people in the US and UK  from Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe case for reparations and Reni Eddo-LodgeWhy I’m no longer talking to white people about race. (I have listed what I listened to and read on June 10 below).

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories through #BlackintheIvory. I can’t imagine how painful it is to share your stories. They’ve left me saddened and stunned, troubled, and helped me to “see the water” – a expression used by Robin DiAngelo  when talking about White Fragility, something I and other white people need to overcome to begin to address the system of racial inequality.

The more I read and learned the more I realized I need and want to learn.

As DNLee so succinctly put it, “Give yourself a personal workshop. Use today to plan what your workshops are going to be this summer.”

I’m looking forward to hearing what others learned, and particularly your thoughts on how ASPB as a professional society can “effect positive change in its efforts to support equity, diversity, and inclusion in the plant sciences and to address systemic racism within our own community.”

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Did you participate in ShutDownSTEM, and if so what did you learn?

How has this time changed your perspective and plans?

What were the most impactful resources you read or listened to?

And particularly, what are your thoughts on how ASPB as a professional society can “effect positive change in its efforts to support equity, diversity, and inclusion in the plant sciences and to address systemic racism within.”

What can I do?

Amplify – Be aware of whose voices I amplify through sharing on social media, and work to ensure that I use my reach to support Black, ethnic minority and other minoritized voices

Learn – Read and listen to people who are better educated than I am about how STEM can better support Black and other minoritized people. Learn how to talk about racial discrimination with more confidence.

Support – Offer support in concrete ways, for example offer to read a CV or job application, or paper draft.

Nominate – Put forth names of Black candidates for all opportunities that arise. (

Educate – Organize a webinar series or training series about mentoring. Mentoring seems to be a key learnable skill that can help to make a more supportive environment.

What I listened to

What I read

A fist holding many plant species in front of a circle with a rainbow gradient

Image by Siobhan Braybrook

Structure and belonging: Pathways to success for underrepresented minority and women PhD students in STEM fields

Vaunted diversity program catches on

For much, much, more information, check out this amazing set of resources, “The Anti-racism Tookkit” curated by Siobhan Braybrook

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