Here’s a letter signed by thousands of people claiming to be professional physicists. I don’t recognize any famous old grand lions of physics like Freeman Dyson, Steven Weinberg, or Stephen Hawking signing this, but I didn’t do a thorough search. Enjoy:
An open letter to SCOTUS from professional physicists
drafted by the Equity & Inclusion in Physics & Astronomy group
We are writing to you today as professional physicists and astrophysicists to respond to comments made by Justices in the course of oral arguments of Fisher vs. University of Texas which occurred on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. First, we strongly repudiate the line of questioning from Justice Antonin Scalia based on the discredited Mismatch Theory. Secondly, we are particularly called to address the question from Chief Justice John Roberts about the value of promoting equity and inclusion in our own field, physics.
… We hope to push our community towards equity and inclusion so that the community of scientists more closely matches the makeup of humankind, because the process of scientific discovery is a human endeavor that benefits from removing prejudice against any race, ethnicity, or gender. Indeed, science relies heavily on consensus about acceptable results as well as future research directions, making diversity among scientists a crucial aspect of objective, bias-free science [2, 3]. …
Affirmative action is just one part of a larger set of actions needed to achieve social justice within our STEM and education fields. In their brief, Heriot and Kirsanow claim that affirmative action causes fewer minority students to enter technical fields because their completion rates are low. Unlike Heriot and Kirsanow, we are scientists and science educators who are keenly aware that merely adding students to a pipeline is not enough to correct for the imbalance of power. The experience of a minority student in STEM is often much different from that of a white student in STEM. Minority students attending primarily white institutions commonly face racism, biases, and a lack of mentoring.
Meanwhile, white students unfairly benefit psychologically from being overrepresented. We argue that it is the social experience of minority students that is more likely to make them drop out, rather than a lack of ability.
Before Justice’s Scalia’s remarks on black scientists, Justice Roberts asked, “what unique perspective does a minority student bring to physics class?” and “What [are] the benefits of diversity… in that situation?” Before addressing these questions directly, we note that it is important to call attention to questions that weren’t asked by the justices, such as, “What unique perspectives do white students bring to a physics class?”
We reject the premise that the presence of minority students and the existence of diversity need to be justified, but meanwhile segregation in physics is tacitly accepted as normal or good. Instead, we embrace the assumption that minority physics students are brilliant
Footnote proving this assumption: “ Leonard, Jacquelyn, and Martin, Danny B. (Eds.). The Brilliance of Black Children in Mathematics: Beyond the Numbers and Toward New Discourse. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers. (2013)”
This is what we see when we look at a minority student in a majority-white physics class: determination and an ability to overcome obstacles and work hard in stressful environments. We see this because we know that many students from minority backgrounds are subjected to social and political stress from institutionalized racism (past and present), a history of economic oppression, and societal abuse from both micro-aggressions
A few years ago when I started writing about the term “micro-aggressions” I feared it would quickly vanish because it’s such comedy gold. But instead, luckily for me (although not for our culture), it has become omnipresent.
The implication that physics or “hard sciences” are somehow divorced from the social realities of racism in our society is completely fallacious. The exclusion of people from physics solely on the basis of the color of their skin is an outrageous outcome that ought to be a top priority for rectification. The rhetorical pretense that including everyone in physics class is somehow irrelevant to the practice of physics ignores the fact that we have learned and discovered all the amazing facts about the universe through working together in a community. The benefits of inclusivity and equity are the same for physics as they are for every other aspect of our world.
The purpose of seeking out talented and otherwise overlooked minority students to fill physics classrooms is to offset the institutionalized imbalance of power and preference that has traditionally gone and continues to go towards white students. Minority students in a classroom are not there to be at the service of enhancing the experience of white students.
We ask that you take these considerations seriously in your deliberations and join us physicists and astrophysicists in the work of achieving full integration and removing the pernicious vestiges of racism and white supremacy from our world.
I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. … It is just this common basis of agreement, with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as ‘Science’. There is only ‘German Science’, ‘Jewish Science’, etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.
… Against that shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree, there are in reality only two safeguards. One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back, and you consequently can’t violate it in ways that impair military efficiency. The other is that so long as some parts of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition can be kept alive.