I’ve given much reflection on Thursday’s class led by Sid. There was concern about how some people are unwilling to believe Flint is getting better although there is data from multiple institutions showing otherwise. My main thought in response was “it is reasonable for people whose trust has been totally violated to not believe in the ‘power in numbers.’” Perhaps for them, they see it as the more scientists/engineers that get involve saying things are getting better, the more people involved in the cover-up. Especially if they feel the injustice was based on racial bias. Others argue that it has more to do with poverty than race, those who claim the white people in Flint are just as poor as the black people. After all, how many agencies were involved in the DC Crisis?
However, this morning I had a conversation that made me reflect on how considerate I was being of other people’s perspective.
The topic of discussion: academia and activism, with a sprinkle of politics (the topic which seems to follow me inside and outside of ethics class). I recalled the topics of a guest speaker, Dr. Emily Satterwhite, in my contemporary pedagogy class. Dr. Satterwhite is an Associate Professor in Appalachian Studies, Department of Religion and Culture.
This is Dr. Satterwhite.
And this is Dr. Satterwhite being removed from construction equipment by state police after 14 hours. It took two hours to cut through the steel pipe in which her arms are locked. She was arrested, and later released on bond.
Despite being in liberal arts and human science, even Dr. Satterwhite reaped the negative consequences for her involvement in act of protest. This particular story in her chapter is complex. I do not wish to get the details wrong, so I do encourage you to look into it yourself or reach out to Dr. Satterwhite personally.
The short take-away provided by the other person engage in this conversation: bias. Being too committed to one side of the story. I am not saying that is true for Dr. Satterwhite, but that is the perception and root of said negative consequences.
I asked where does that leave us scientists, engineers, academics in regard to activism? It’s not an easy answer, as you know from numerous class discussions. In this morning’s discussion, this person expressed concern that academics are seen as on the left (of the political spectrum), thus skewing others view of their work. I followed up by asking why it is that the problem is that the work academics are involved in are considered to be on the left in the first place. My example: global climate change. I said that I believe this was an example of an issues seen as an issue on the left, thus anyone who believes in this phenomenon and/or does science supporting this is viewed as “on the left.” I was quickly schooled when my breakfast mate pointed out that the opposing view is not disbelief in the science behind global climate change, perhaps they spent time to do the research and genuinely believe the data—but rather the opposing view is that investing resources to combat this issue is a lower priority than other social issues (think hunger, poverty, illness).
It’s not as if I hadn’t heard this argument before. Yet why is it that because it is not an opinion of my own, I do not readily consider it before contributing to the conversation?
It’s something that takes practice, but acknowledgement is the first step.