Lab heads should learn to talk about racism

Lab heads should learn to talk about racism
 This article was published on Nature's Worldviews column.  Photo credit: Alisdaire Hickson/Flickr

This article was published on Nature's Worldviews column.

Photo credit: Alisdaire Hickson/Flickr

Last month, anti-Asian graffiti was painted in residences on the campus of my PhD alma mater, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, and Asian students’ work was vandalized with racist slogans. That same week brought allegations that a leading astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, had used racist language towards trainees, among other bullying. (The astrophysicist has defended her behaviour, and says her comments were distorted and taken out of context; see news story.)

When blatantly racist incidents occur in our universities, we academics usually prefer not to address them. We leave their handling to university administrators, who tend to deal only with the most serious cases, frequently long after they have happened. In my experience, scientists often do a poor job of recognizing and dealing with racism in our workplaces.

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