Columbia physics students denounce classmate’s racist remarks
In December 2018, a white Columbia undergraduate harangued a group of primarily black undergraduates, following them from the library to an on-campus café and shouting racist comments at them, including “White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world,” “We built modern civilization,” and “We invented science and industry.” A video of the incident was posted on Twitter and went viral. When the student who delivered the tirade was revealed to be a physics major, the Columbia Society of Physics Students released a statement condemning his rhetoric and standing in solidarity with the affected students.
Excerpt from Columbia Society of Physics Students’ statement
“We believe that scientists must be held to the highest standards of rigor, both in evidence and in ethics. Science is a tool; an exceptionally powerful tool at that. Those who wield it have the enormous responsibility to use it wisely. At best, science brings people together, regardless of race, creed, or religion, in pursuit of knowledge for the universal betterment of humanity; at worst, science is used to justify the widening of such oppressive divisions. We cannot allow members of our scientific community to be so careless in their understanding of scientific history and its role in shaping modern hegemony. We cannot allow such toxic rhetoric to infect our culture, to blind us from our fundamental responsibility as scientists.”
What we like about this statement
- Unequivocally denounces racism and expresses support for students affected by the incident.
- Demonstrates how students can proactively support their peers and respond to issues that affect the larger campus climate.
- Makes clear that the incident is inconsistent with the values and standards of their discipline.
- Acknowledges the historical role that science has played in justifying racism and discrimination.
- Pledges that the signatories will reckon with this history and work to combat it in the future.