Today – Wednesday 10 June – will not be a normal day in the physics calendar. That’s because, at the time of writing, more than 3000 physicists around the world have agreed to take part in a “Strike for Black Lives”.
Organized in the wake of the death of George Floyd – part of a wider pattern of police killings of black Americans that has now been condemned by several US scientific societies – the strike is not intended to be a “day off” for non-black people. Instead, participating physicists have pledged to use the time they would have spent teaching classes or doing research to explore what practical actions they can take to support black physicists.
The strike has come about following discussions between the cosmologists Chanda Prescod-Weinstein from the University of New Hampshire and Brian Nord from Fermilab and the University of Chicago, working together with members of the #ShutDownSTEM initiative and the Particles for Justice Group.
If you’re wondering what you can do, the Strike for Black Lives organizers have compiled a list of suggested steps and actions. Staff at the arXiv pre-print server have already agreed not to announce new papers on the day of the strike, while staff at the Institute of Physics (Physics World‘s parent organization) plan to suspend normal work in favour of “reflect[ing] on the role that we can take as individuals and as an organization”. If you wish, you can pledge your personal support too.
Here at Physics World, we’re highlighting – on our home page and on social media – relevant stories we’ve published by or about black physicists and the issues they face.
Some physicists, I am sure, will question the need for this initiative or feel it has no relevance to them. But we all harbour unconscious biases, myself included – as I discovered while writing this feature on diversity in physics.
If there’s only one thing you do, read this powerful open letter by Nord and Prescod-Weinstein, who explain far better than I can precisely why the Strike for Black Lives is so vital.
Posted on behalf of the Physics World editorial team