Scientists: Racism Prevents Black Americans from Becoming One of Us


A group of scientists is blaming “institutionalized racism” for keeping black Americans out of science careers, even as it also insists science employers should be allowed to hire more Chinese and Indan employees for jobs that could go to black Americans.

“We are exhausted,” says the June 2 declaration from the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). The panel, headed by a diversity manager at the University of Colorado, continued:

Institutionalized racism, housing discrimination and educational inequality have prevented African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and other minority groups from joining our ranks in scientific research and medicine. As a scientific society, we create events and programs to remove barriers and attract minority students to our ranks. We try to educate, advocate and serve as role models.

We are angry. The systemic biases, racial profiling and inequalities in access make our goals almost unattainable.

However, the group is also trying to block President Donald Trump’s plans to reduce the inflow of Chinese laboratory workers who may steal U.S. technology.

On June 1, the day before the “institutionalize racism” claim, the group declared:

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology opposes plans by the Trump administration to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the U.S. who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army. The visa cancellation could affect at least 3,000 students.

On April 23, the group also opposed Trump’s temporary curbs on legal migration, saying, “any policy that would limit the ability for researchers to staff their labs is a grave mistake that could damage the American scientific enterprise in ways we cannot measure.”

The sector’s workforce is already flooded with migrants. “According to the National Science Foundation, more than half of postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences are temporary, visa-holding noncitizens,” the April 23 letter admitted.

A 2019 National Science Foundation report notes that the employment of black Americans as “science technicians” has plummeted from 40,000 in 2008 down to 22,000 in 2017.

The number of black Americans working as biologists crashed from 21,000 in 2008 down to 15,000 in 2017.

The black numbers crashed even as the number of Hispanics in the two careers jumped from 20,000 in 2008 up to 66,000 in 2017. The data table did not show the rise of Asian workers in the sector.

Other science sectors grow their number of black workers. The number of black Americans working as “other natural scientists” climbed from 11,000 to 17,000 over the same period. The number working as chemists rose from 4,000 to 13,000.

A 2o18 report by the National Science Board reported that 17,000 Asians worked as “biological scientists,” alongside 7,000 Hispanics and just 3,000 blacks. The 3,000 black Americans comprised just 2.2 percent of the career, far less than their roughly 11 percent of the workforce.

However, 105,000 whites working as biology scientists comprised 76 percent of the profession, which is roughly in line with their 70 percent share of the working population.

If Americans are divided by race, then whites comprise 51 percent of the “biochemists and physicians” career. But 28,000 immigrant and native-born Asians held 39 percent of the jobs, while Hispanics held 5.6 percent of the jobs.

In contrast, the 1,000 blacks in the career held just a 1.4 percent share of the jobs.

The sector is incredibly competitive, in part, because the American-style scientific ideal stresses competition and performance, not harmony.

But the flood of foreign workers also excludes Americans by driving down salaries. For example, the average starting wage for recent U.S. life-science graduates is roughly $30,000 per year, even for the graduates of very selective colleges, according to the pro-migration Economist magazine.

The cheap labor is great for employers because it allows them to hire more workers for routine but skilled laboratory work. The flood of imported labor also allows employers to schedule long hours as they race each other to the patent office. Those working conditions also push many women out of science.

The group did not respond to multiple emails from Breitbart News. The group’s current president, Gerald W. Hart, at the University of Georgia, did not respond to questions.

But back to the “institutionalized racism” claim:

The letter was co-signed by committee chair Sonia C. Flores, the “Vice Chair for Diversity and Justice” at the University of Colorado. The letter cited the recommendations of Angela Davis, who was reportedly a communist when she was acquitted on charges of helping start a court gunfight that killed four people in 1970:

… In the words of Angela Davis: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be antiracist.” We call on all members of the ASBMB to step up, speak out and intervene, even if our voices shake, for it is only in just actions that we will start correcting some of the historical wrongs that our nation has imposed upon communities of color.

We will not be silent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

The letter did not include any policy recommendations to help African Americans in biology careers, such as immigration reductions or curbs on visa workers.

Nor did the group offer communist-style caps on the number on Asians or white Americas allowed into the field.

Instead, the letter ended with a literary flourish:

We must walk together. Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” As a scientific society, let us not wait for a beacon, but, through our engagement and actions, shine a light on inequities and light a path for everyone to walk on toward a just and equitable future. We must light up the darkness together.

The signatories included a majority of women and minorities: Flores, Vahe Bandarian, Ruma Banerjee, Suzanne Barbour, Carlos Castañeda, Joseph Chaney, Adela Cota–Gomez. Kayunta Johnson-Winters, Carlos Lopez, Lana Saleh, and Gustavo Silva.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC, or email the author at


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