I believe in equality. I believe in fair and equal treatment of any human being without judgement of one’s skin colour, sexuality, religion, culture, gender, or identification. In the context of science and academia, I believe everyone has the same right to education and to be treated equally and fairly within this (or any) space.
However, equality isn’t something that I’ve spent a lot of time actively thinking about. I thought it wasn’t something that affected me directly, and that as long as my actions were just, and not racist or anti- LGBTQ+ that I was doing the right thing. I’m embarrassed now by how wrong that view is. It’s been my privilege not to have to think about equality every day, but that is all the more reason to make it a priority.
I am extremely grateful that in the wake of the events in the past few weeks that many people, news outlets, and organizations have posted “things you can do” or “how to be an effective ally”. There are too many of these outpourings to name each, but from them, this is what I’ve decided to do; my way of personal protest:
- I’ve changed my reading list. At the beginning of the year, I started keeping track of the books I’ve been reading. Of the authors I’ve read/am reading in the last 6 months, only one of them is a person of colour. And that one book (an amazing piece of fiction focussed on residential school life in Canada) was so painful that I’ve had to put it down several times. I was nauseous with embarrassment when I realized this. So, I’ve revamped my reading list. Next is Angela Saini’s Superior; after that, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. Any suggestions on what to read next are more than welcome.
- I am going to better educate myself; specifically, on the UK’s history with racism. I didn’t grow up in the UK, but I live and work here, so it’s my responsibility to be informed. If I’m very honest, this will probably start with Wikipedia, but also with books (see above), media, podcasts, and by asking questions of friends and colleagues (which has the added bonus of getting a conversation started). I continue to learn about Canada’s imperfect history through podcasts such as The Secret Life of Canada and Missing & Murdered; now it’s my responsibility to expand that worldview.
- I will foster an equal working environment. I am not in a position of much power, but I will be starting a research group soon (more on that later). When I do, it will be a fair and diverse group where everyone is shown equality and respect. This position will be written into the lab manual which everyone will agree to before starting, and transgressions will be taken seriously.
This isn’t a one-day stand on social media; I want to keep equality at the forefront of my mind until it doesn’t have to be anymore. These aren’t things that I’ll be able to accomplish overnight; this is a movement for a more just world. I recognize that I am not and never will be perfect, and that I will have implicit biases that I have to unlearn and fight against. I also recognize that a 3-point manifesto won’t be enough, and that these initiatives will expand and evolve as I learn what I can and should be doing. But I hope that this can be a decent start.