Sunday, April 23, 2017

March for Science's Blindspot

Japanese awareness of humankind's contribution to global warming is among the highest in the world. The same is true for public acceptance of evolution. These are two of the facts that are front and center in the March for Science.

Then why was March for Science in Japan such a failure. Only two were held in the whole country, in Tokyo and Tsukuba. Nothing in Kansai. Nothing in Tohoku. Nothing in Kyushu. Participation at the marches was at the level of a large family picnic. Japanese participation hovered near zero.

Part of the problem is likely competition from numerous Earth Day celebrations. At least 10 were held across Japan. Earth Day Tokyo is in its 28th year and annually attracts more than 100,000 attendees. In contrast to Washington, D.C., where Earth Day and March for Science coordinated, March for Science Tokyo was unable to work with Earth Day Tokyo.

But the main problem, I think, is in the failure of March for Science to recognize that the war against facts in the United States is deeply rooted in that country's systemic racism. Indeed, March for Science itself has been accused of being a microcosm of liberal racism.

Opposition to climate change is but one example of Lee Atwaters's Rules.
The late, legendarily brutal campaign consultant Lee Atwater explains how Republicans can win the vote of racists without sounding racist themselves: 
[Edited] You start out in 1954 by saying, “N----r, n----r, n----r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n----r”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N----r, n----r.”

Views on evolution and creationism have even stronger ties to racism.

Why is March for Science blind to racism? Perhaps this is because public schools in the United States are highly segregated and strongly favor whites. Except for the addition of immigrants, America's science establishment is a product of this school system. American science is very much a part of the problem it is protesting.

Until scientists go beyond generic diversity statements to combat the racism that is behind the war on facts, they will make no progress on facts in public policy.

While March for Science should be grateful for international help, it needs to recognize that the struggle it is fighting was made in the USA and cannot expect others to simply jump on their bandwagon. It also needs to show some humility. The rest of the world did not cause or even contribute to American science's current fix.

The problem is not Americans' blindness toward science; it is American science's blindness and complicity to its own systemic misogyny and racism.

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