Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, by David Wang

Diversity & Inclusion Statement in Support of Black Live Matter

Posted on Jun 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter. The violent acts against Black people including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others, are horrifying reminders of the work that is left to do in dismantling racism in our country. Another recent event is especially relevant for us as a group of active field researchers and nature enthusiasts. Christian Cooper, a Black man who sits on the board of the NYC Audubon Society, was birdwatching in Central Park and requested that a woman leash her dog in accordance with local ordinances. She responded by saying she was going to call the police and claim “there’s an African American man threatening [her] life”, and then proceeded to do so. This is a small glimpse into the everyday experiences of our Black colleagues. We must work to ensure that Black members of our scientific community are welcomed, included, and supported in professional activities, and that they are safe in outdoor spaces.

We recognize that our Black friends and colleagues may be experiencing acute trauma due to recent events, and systemically due to intergenerational racism against the Black community. Adhoc Black Lives Matter Resources and Funds have compiled resources that include free healing and therapy sessions (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Our non-Black members can work as allies at this time by signing petitions, donating money and supplies, and self-educating about how to do anti-racist work. You can donate to the Black Lives Matter movement, or make a split donation to 70+ bail bonds and other supportive funds at once. You can sign petitions listed by the Adhoc Black Lives Matter Resources and Funds. You can self-educate using these scaffolded anti-racist resources, and this large set of anti-racist resources that includes material for parents and their children. These are just some of the many ways you can support Black people in the United States right now.

We are working with the ASIH Executive Committee to form a plan of action for our ASIH leadership to take on important and intentional ally work to support all our members. We specifically call for support for our Black and Brown members as well as non-member herpetologists and ichthyologists from marginalized communities who have not felt welcomed or included by ASIH. We made several recommendations to society leadership in response to the results of the 2019 Diversity and Inclusion survey. We are using this document as a starting point and we welcome feedback from the community - please feel free to contact us at diversitycommitteeasih [at] gmail.com. We will share additional resources and updates in the coming weeks.

As biologists, we are trained to think critically and to synthesize information from diverse sources to advance our understanding of the natural world. We can apply this same approach to advance our understanding of how our Black colleagues experience the world. Showing support for one group does not take away from support for another. Just as we have shown solidarity with women by making a strong statement against sexism, and allyship for our LGBTQ+ members by introducing initiatives to increase visibility at the JMIH, we are sending this message to show support for our Black members and colleagues. We hope that our non-Black membership can take this time to self-educate, listen, and be open to learning from perspectives different from their own.

In solidarity,

ASIH Diversity and Inclusion Committee

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