March for Science

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I remember the first march I attended. I had just turned 18 and the first of a series of significant May Day marches across the country urging congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform were organized. My friends and I hopped on the Metra from Elgin to Chicago. If you study adolescents, you know their brains are very sensitive to exhilarating experiences. I was not an exception; inspired, my friends and I had discovered a powerful voice.

Upon my return, I joined the local coalition for immigrants and refugees and helped organize Elgin’s very own march– complete with the national anthem sang by yours truly (call me Whitney!), and even a few dissenting Minutemen. I’d say Daisy the activist was born, but being the only Mexican American kid of immigrants in my elementary school classes, I’ve been passionate about truth and justice for a long time.

 

My undergraduate and doctoral program gave me a new arena to fight disparities in education: academia. Science and education have become a powerful tool in my own fight for social justice—so I was excited when I learned about an opportunity to attend the March for Science where my love for science and activism would meet. I put on my warmest jacket and my most comfortable Nikes, and I was off.

When I arrived, I was elated to see the representation of children at the march. Children and adolescents—some with parents, some with friends—carried signs such as “THE TIDES ARE RISING AND SO ARE WE,” “I LIKE BIG BRAINS AND I CANNOT LIE.” And there was a large sheet signed by hundreds of children that read “KIDS ARE THE FUTURE. YOU OWE US A LIVABLE PLANET.”

The program ran from 9am-2pm, with speakers from many disciplines sharing their journey in science, the importance of funding for science, and advocacy for the freedom to publish uncensored work. The run sheet included some musicians and celebrities, but not many. If this was our debut to society, and if the goal of the march was to communicate the importance of our work—I can’t say it was a very attractive one.

We have numerous allies in celebrities and scientists from diverse backgrounds. As scientists, it is key to collaborate with colleagues in public relations, interdisciplinary studies, and dissemination and intervention science to make sure we’re translating our message regarding the important role of science in our society in a meaningful way to those who don’t practice in our field.

In addition to collaborating with allies, being inclusive of populations of diverse backgrounds is essential to our cause. Despite learning about the struggles the March for Science had with celebrating diversity before departing, I remained optimistic. I grabbed my sharpie and enthusiastically finished my sign. The side of my sign that elicited the most reactions stated:

 

Latina.
Christian.
Activist.
Scientist.

Todos somos ciencia.
(The other side read “Science is my Superpower”).

I received skeptical glances and “Mhmm. That’s an interesting combination,” and even “I’m glad you wrote Christian! I work to advocate thoughtful connections between theology and science.” The response that warmed my heart was a Latina
Christian engineer named Margarita who, upon learning that my friend and I had PhDs exclaimed “Oh, a doctor doctor!” It was a small moment that beautifully captured many of the identities I hold dear to me. I didn’t have to explain ME, and that rarely happens.

Allow me to explain now. Because I have looked about 15 years of age for a long time, when I explain that I am a doctor with a PhD, the reaction is an odd amalgamation of perplexity (“how old are you?”), excitement (intersection of demographics—“a young Latina? That’s great!”), and about half the time, a disappointed “Oh, so not a medical doctor?” (Most people don’t know that the highest degree awarded by a university is a PhD, a fact I didn’t know until I attended commencement).

A person with my demographic background should not be the anomaly in scientific fields. Our society in combination
with scientific fields should be advocating the inclusion of and translation to those who hold different beliefs as well as those who have not had the privilege of developing a basic understanding of science. Meaningful contributions can come from both young and old. Those in our society have different histories and cultural backgrounds; they have faith, passion, and a love for family. All of us as scientists must think of the humanity that links us as we advocate for the inclusion of society in both the discovery of knowledge and the dissemination of our work.

Dr. Daisy E. Camacho-Thompson was awarded the Society for Research on Child Development Latino Caucus award to attend the March for Science in Washington D. C. She is a developmental psychologist, and currently a postdoctoral research associate with Arizona State University’s Psychology Department’s REACH Institute. 


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