The Physics and Astronomy Anti-Racism Coalition (PAARC) is a collective of physics and astronomy graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates dedicated to confronting and dismantling racist and anti-Black structures in academia. We are devoted to building connections and solidarity across universities and their faculty and staff, learning from one another about organizing, and creating and collecting anti-racist resources. We aim to build a physics and astronomy community that is fully committed to the goals of racial and social justice.
Motivation for PAARC
Academia has failed physicists of color. At every academic level, from the undergraduate classroom to the research laboratory, people of color have been relegated to a perpetually marginalized position within the field of physics. This marginalization, which weighs particularly heavily on Black, Indigenous, and Latinx physicists, takes the forms of exclusion, discrimination, underappreciation, and outright harassment. For physicists and astronomers who are further marginalized on account of their other social identities, especially Black women, LBGTQ+ people of color, and people of color with disabilities, these injustices are especially acute.
Importantly, this failure is not merely a consequence of racist attitudes of individual physicists. Rather, marginalization persists because institutions, policies, and practices are structured in such a way that systemic racism and white supremacy are continually reproduced and reaffirmed. Hiring and admissions policies, toxic and exclusive academic environments, campus policing practices, and economic stresses on people of color are all elements of this system. Such structures and policies must be identified, understood, and then dismantled by collective action, guided by the voices of people of color.
These claims are nothing new: Physicists of color have spoken out against these injustices for decades, even as the response of the largely white establishment has remained woefully inadequate to address, or even fully acknowledge, the scale of the problem. However, today, there is a renewed awareness that the present state of affairs can and must be challenged. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other Black people at the hands of police have placed the realities of anti-Black racism in sharp relief. Protest movements have erupted worldwide in response to this violence, and it is clear that momentum is building. Taking these movements seriously demands a reckoning with systemic racism in all corners of society; physics is no exception.
The Physics and Astronomy Anti-Racism Coalition (PAARC) is an organization born out of this new awareness and energy. PAARC is a collective of physics and astronomy graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates dedicated to confronting and dismantling racist and anti-Black structures in academia. White supremacy is a collective problem which demands a collective solution. With this in mind, we are building a network of scientists that can face these struggles together, by sharing knowledge, developing organizing strategies, building community solidarity, and cultivating the seeds of a nascent anti-racist physics and astronomy culture. We call on our physics and astronomy colleagues to join us in this effort.
Spurred on by this understanding, we envision a world in which:
- All physicists and astronomers can realize their full potential as scientists, without facing barriers on the basis of their race, background, or identity.
- Physicists and astronomers feel safe bringing all parts of their identity to work, without fear of exclusion, harassment, or other forms of marginalization.
- People from all races and identities are equitably represented within the physics and astronomy communities.
- Physics and astronomy departments foster a culture which prioritizes the wellbeing, growth, and success of their members, with a particular focus on supporting the needs of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx scientists.
- A collective commitment to the goals of racial and social justice is upheld within the physics and astronomy communities. Realizing this commitment would require a greater focus on inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy, increased efforts at science communication and outreach, and financial compensation for DEI work performed by students, faculty, and staff.
- Departments have robust accountability and transparency mechanisms that allow students and other stakeholders to hold departments to their promises to confront systemic racism.
- Strong relationships between anti-racist groups at different universities allow physicists and astronomers committed to racial justice to coordinate actions, share ideas, and build mutual solidarity.
- Physics and astronomy departments across the country are united in the fight against systemic anti-Blackness and racism in the physical sciences.
- The current spontaneous push against systemic racism is consolidated into a sustainable, organized movement for radical change.
In order to realize the goals mentioned above, the members of PAARC will work to:
- Maintain a database of resources, such as action item checklists, slide decks, instructional tools, and organizing strategies, for student groups to use in their efforts against systemic racism.
- Keep a record of the work that student groups have done to push for change at their institutions. This record could include lists of demands made by student groups, and a log of accomplishments and setbacks at individual universities.
- Build a nationwide community of BIPOC physicists and astronomers, and cultivate solidarity for individual and collective efforts to combat systemic racism.
- Create or collect teaching resources aimed at educating group members and allies on how to identify and address systemic racism within physics departments, on both an individual and institutional level. Organize teach-ins, study groups, and discussion spaces to build this collective knowledge.
- Lobby funding agencies to create accountability mechanisms for funding that is tied to DEI efforts, such as the Broader Impacts stipulation for NSF grants.
- Institute a code of conduct for allies within the coalition. This should include a procedure for checking if members are following the code of conduct, and should describe a mechanism to address violations of the code. Such a code should embody the kind of culture we want to foster in our individual institutions.