As protests and calls to address structural racism and police brutality continue across the country, and the world, I’ve heard from friends and colleagues trying to decide what they should do. While it can be tempting to seek straightforward, low-commitment actions, as engineers and scientists, I believe we can most effectively contribute to our communities by engaging with the open and analytical minds we have honed through our training. This allows us to understand the values of our neighbors so that we can help suggest ways to tailor strategies to the specific circumstances of our communities. As we’ve learned from engineers and scientists we’ve spoken to, aligning efforts to your community is critical to success, even when the outcomes you’re working toward are best articulated on a global scale.
I know this advice may sound overly vague and also a little daunting. This is one reason ESAL published our Local Engagement Playbook with ideas on how to take your initial steps. I’d like to share some specific thoughts as well:
Finally, some of you may be wondering whether engineers and scientists bear any specific responsibility, as a community, to combat racism and bigotry. Leaving aside our own internal issues as well as the many ways science and technology has been used to perpetuate inequality and injustice--just a few of which I listed last week--I believe engineers and scientists can contribute a unique perspective. At its most aspirational, science is the pursuit of objective and more complete understanding. We eagerly collaborate with people around the world, looking past differences in race, religion, and creed because of our shared passion for knowledge. If our scientific pursuits can compel us to find ways to bridge differences across the globe, perhaps we can also help forge the path to shared understanding in our communities back home.
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Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) is a non-advocacy, non-political organization. The information in this post is for general informational purposes and does not imply an endorsement by ESAL for any political candidates, businesses, or organizations mentioned herein.