I sometimes ask myself: what would ISU co-founder Todd Hawley have to say in today’s world situation?
Todd was gay in the 1980s, at a time of perilous fights for equality and the rights of sexual minorities. He therefore knew what it means to belong to a discriminated group.
Unfortunately Todd passed away in 1995, but his spirit is very present in our Credo: “…ISU is a place where students and faculty from all backgrounds are welcomed; where diversity of culture, philosophy, lifestyle, training and opinion are honored and nurtured…”
Todd’s co-founder Peter Diamandis has expressed his views on racism through his recent blog postings.
Our founders can be very proud of the diversity of the community they have helped build: 5000 alumni from over 100 countries, without counting our global faculty and staff.
But we are still far from our targets and we need to continue working everyday for a more diverse, inclusive and less biased community, following the “3I” philosophy for which the ISU is well known.
ISU alumnus Patrick Beattly (SSP01) has connected us with the #BlackInSTEM movement to help bring ISU’s learning to more black people.
ISU Master student Sahba El-Shawa makes a strong statement on Space and race that I invite you to read below.
Sahba has also made recommendations on how to make ISU’s student recruitment, curriculum and lecturers more inclusive, and on raising awareness on race matters as they relate to space activities: “We need to enact policies, create scholarships, and outreach programs to target minorities that are clearly underrepresented in our ISU community.”
ISU encourages the dialogue among all community members to raise awareness and take action. Discussion groups with students, staff and faculty have started at ISU on racism and other systemic inequalities in the space community.
Stay tuned as we will soon announce new partnerships with intergovernmental organisations and sponsors whose primary aim is to facilitate access to space education and training for emerging space countries and communities.
And you, what do you stand for, and against?
Juan de Dalmau
On Space and Race
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the protests for black lives all around the world, many people are finally educating themselves and speaking up on the ways that racism has infiltrated every aspect of our existence.
But the space industry has remained largely silent, preoccupied with another milestone.
Even though we know that space exploration is impacted by politics and influences them in return, we carry on as if we exist in a bubble. As long as we get funding, as long as the mission is successful, nothing else matters.
We talk about the Space Race, but not race and space.
The Moon landings happened around the same time as the Civil Rights movement, and we are never taught that side of them. I only recently learned that Civil Rights activists actually protested against them back then.
Because while white people were on the Moon, black people were fighting for basic human rights on Earth.
The result of not being aware of this history is that we now see it repeating itself, with the SpaceX launch happening as if in a parallel universe to the Black Lives Matter movement. The disconnect is truly jarring.
Now, more than ever, it is important to be clearly, loudly, and vehemently anti-racist. Now is the time to make a real change.
ISU prides itself on its 3Is approach and its diverse community, but we know that is not enough. We need to do more.
Rarely do we talk about space inaccessibility and the inequalities that exist within the space sector, or because of it. This is only just starting to change, and we have a very long way to go.
Systemic racism can only be addressed by examining and rebuilding the systems that enforce it. We need to establish new policies and programs to support those who suffer because of it, and properly educate the generations to come. Only by working together can we ensure a just and fair future for all humankind.
Space can only unite us once we address our issues here on Earth. Until then, it is just another system that perpetuates inequality.
This is our chance to correct the mistakes of our past. Let’s not repeat them.
Sahba El-Shawa, ISU MSS20