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Black lives matter. The moderation team at AskScience wants to express our outrage and sadness at the systemic racism and disproportionate violence experienced by the black community. This has gone on for too long, and it’s time for lasting change.

When 1 out of every 1,000 black men and boys in the United States can expect to be killed by the police, police violence is a public health crisis. Black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. In 2019, 1,099 people were killed by police in the US; 24% of those were black, even though only 13% of the population is black.

When black Americans make up a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths, healthcare disparity is another public health crisis. In Michigan, black people make up 14% of the population and 40% of COVID-19 deaths. In Louisiana, black people are 33% of the population but account for 70% of COVID-19 deaths. Black Americans are more likely to work in essential jobs, with 38% of black workers employed in these industries compared with 29% of white workers. They are less likely to have access to health insurance and more likely to lack continuity in medical care.

These disparities, these crises, are not coincidental. They are the result of systemic racism, economic inequality, and oppression.

Change requires us to look inward, too. For over a decade, AskScience has been a forum where redditors can discuss scientific topics with scientists. Our panel includes hundreds of STEM professionals who volunteer their time, and we are proud to be an interface between scientists and non-scientists. We are fully committed to making science more accessible, and we hope it inspires people to consider careers in STEM.

However, we must acknowledge that STEM suffers from a marked lack of diversity. In the US, black workers comprise 11% of the US workforce, but hold just 7% of STEM jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only 4% of medical doctors are black. Hispanic workers make up 16% of the US workforce, 6% of STEM jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 4.4% of medical doctors. Women make up 47% of the US workforce but 41% of STEM professionals with professional or doctoral degrees. And while we know around 3.5% of the US workforce identifies as LGBTQ+, their representation in STEM fields is largely unknown.

These numbers become even more dismal in certain disciplines. For example, as of 2019, less than 4% of tenured or tenure-track geoscience positions are held by people of color, and fewer than 100 black women in the US have received PhDs in physics.

This lack of diversity is unacceptable and actively harmful, both to people who are not afforded opportunities they deserve and to the STEM community as a whole. We cannot truly say we have cultivated the best and brightest in our respective fields when we are missing the voices of talented, brilliant people who are held back by widespread racism, sexism, and homophobia.

It is up to us to confront these systemic injustices directly. We must all stand together against police violence, racism, and economic, social, and environmental inequality. STEM professional need to make sure underrepresented voices are heard, to listen, and to offer support. We must be the change.

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