The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020 has sparked days of protests in every state in the United States and in nations across the world. These protests are not an isolated response but emerge from decades of struggle against the violence of white supremacy. We continue to witness with horror as militarized police forces are deployed against protestors and bystanders across the United States. The use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and military medical helicopters to intimidate protestors breaks with international codes of humanitarian conduct and undermines the rule of law. The History of Science Society condemns the ongoing racism that structures the American policing, criminal, and legal systems. We unequivocally affirm that Black lives matter.
We know from our historical work how thoroughly entangled science is with racism. Our histories have demonstrated this across medicine, science, and technology, including, among many others, the use of the bodies of unwilling enslaved women in the creation of gynecology techniques, the collection of blood from indigenous communities in Cold War preservation programs, the development of racist database surveillance practices in policing, or in the deployment of anthropology to legitimate racist public policies.
We grieve the devastating impact of Euroamerican race science that divided humans into separate and unequal categories. We denounce the historic and ongoing exclusion of Black scientists from professional scientific networks, resources, and credit for their work. And we call out the role that science and medicine have played—and continue to play—in creating and sanctifying racism, particularly in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting Black, brown, and indigenous communities in the United States.
Acknowledging the ways that science and medicine have been complicit in anti-Blackness, colonial violence, slavery, and white supremacy is only the first step. We must also recognize how racism has shaped our own histories. Thus, our commitment to end white supremacy begins with our research, our teaching, and how we conduct the business of the Society. We pledge to actively elevate the work of Black scholars and dismantle racism in the fabric of our discipline and our institutions. We call ourselves to a harder, better understanding of our Society’s mission that draws on our unique insights into the history of science, medicine, and technology for the urgent and necessary task of combating racism, everywhere.
-The History of Science Society
The Open Conversations section in the June 2020 issue of Isis, the flagship journal of the History of Science Society, examines how diversity in the history of science can be a force for justice. It discusses the need to diversify the profession and to address the causes underlying white-centrism in the historical study of science. We urge you to read the discussion: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/709484
The HSS Graduate and Early Career Caucus have compiled a list of resources and opportunities for donation: https://hssgecc.wordpress.com/