Hollywood not as empty as expected - Pride + BLM
June 17th, 2020
I have been living in Pasadena now for three months, mostly staying at home due to the Covid-19 limitations. Because everything is now (very) slowly opening again, I thought it might be nice to visit some tourist attractions while there are still very few tourists around. I thought Hollywood would be the perfect destination for my trip, because there is quite some stuff to see outside and easy to reach by Metro. So last Sunday I decided to just go. Obviously, I had not been following the local news very well, because I ended up in the middle of the LA Pride parade at Hollywood Boulevard, which was marching in solidarity with the All Black Lives Matter protests. I decided to stick around to support. I stayed at the side of the crowd though to be more corona-safe.
There were not many people in the Metro, but when I got outside there were thousands (media said ~40.000!) of people gathering in the streets. The vibe was very festive, very different from the other protest I had seen on the news. I have never in my life seen this many protest signs. People were dressed up in Pride colors and the skin color of the people on the street was just as colorful. The crowd was extremely diverse, also in age! I have seen everything, from small children to the elderly. All marching in response to racial injustice, police brutality, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression. But more personally, I found this march to be an inspiring and an example of how we should celebrate diversity.
I believe we should do everything to be a less segregated society. For me as a scientist, I think we can do more to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Traditionally, there is a certain view of what a typical scientist should be like. I am not necessarily only talking about appearance. Some characteristics and skills are more valued than others, leading to always selecting a similar type of people for the job. I think that prejudices about people of color might lead to thinking they do not have these characteristics. But mostly, I think there is something wrong with this list of characteristics and skills a scientist should have.
I have experienced when looking for gender equality, that social skills, collaborative skills, but also teaching is valued much less than for example confidence and first-author output. Confidence is often related to the ability to promote yourself and your research. With the 'right' amount of this confidence, you have a higher chance of obtaining grants, make media pick up your research, and gather other types of funding. But should there be this focus on money? What about quality and originality? I think science could really benefit from more collaboration. I guess most people will agree with this statement. Without wanting the generalize, I think men are typically more confident than women and women are typically more collaborative. These are just two examples, but there are many more approaches to science that are valued less than others. I think this does not only impact gender equality but also prevents minorities and specifically people of color the enter academia. The whole environment is not diverse at all. So my point is not to hire necessarily more women or people of color (universities still should! role models are important!), but I would like to see more different types of people in science. More different characteristics and skills. If we are more tolerant for different approaches to science, we can get rid of this image of the typical scientist and I think diversity and inclusion will follow in all aspects.
Well, this was not really where I planned to go with this post. I just planned to talk about the day I had in Hollywood, but I hope you liked reading my thoughts on this anyway. I would have liked to contribute more to the protests, but I am also conflicted. I know this is the time to act, but covid-19 is still a serious problem. And ironically, as we have learned, new outbreaks will affect these minorities the most. I know my opinion about the situation might be a bit mild for USA standards, but just understand, my reference level of racism in society is still Dutch. I am not denying there is racism in the Netherlands, we should do everything to get rid of it completely, but I think the racism in the Netherlands is for the largest part not intentional and could potentially be fixed by making people aware/educate when they might be racist or have prejudices.