Commitment to Racial Justice

June 12, 2020

Over the past few weeks there has been anger and pain in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many others. We would like to reach out and share our thoughts. Black Lives Matter, and we as a lab stand with the longstanding movement to dismantle systemic racism. Black Lives must be treasured and respected. Recent evidence of police brutality has brought to light what is only the edge of injustices that Black people are experiencing and have experienced for hundreds of years.

As scientists, we need to step back and ask how we as a lab (and as members of our department and university) contribute to the institutionalized oppression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in academia. Just as important, we need to ask what we can do to help reverse the process. To ask and address these difficult questions, we must educate ourselves and critically evaluate our own behavior. All life is intertwined and we wish to embrace and nurture the links that exist between us to create a stronger scientific community, but that can only be done by first understanding how BIPOC are and have been disenfranchised in our predominantly white academic spaces. Our lab mission is therefore to 1) educate ourselves and 2) create a lab environment that welcomes and supports diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. Additionally, we will need to extend this from our lab to 3) our teaching and to 4) other aspects of our lives and careers.

We pledge to form a reading group to hold ourselves accountable to our ongoing education, participate in diversity and inclusion mentorship workshops and events, and listen to BIPOC voices in our community, with the goal of adjusting our behavior in response to what we learn. We will help raise awareness of issues by reaching out to the larger scientific community (lab meetings, departmental events, conferences, and sharing through social media), as well as by pledging to address racist behavior when we see it in our spaces. At times we will have to hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes. At other times we hope to highlight for others what we have learned.

The oppression and injustices placed on Black people must be stopped. We must make spaces more inclusive and diverse and celebrate the sharing of cultures and perspectives – this is essential for the critical thought, challenging of ideas, and intellectual growth on which academia rests. We have a long road ahead of us and it will take time and effort. We are committed to contributing to long-lasting change.

Members of the Marler Lab are currently involved in ALAN (Antiracism Learning and Action in Neuroscience). ALAN is a small learning-action group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison committed to racial justice work in our spaces and communities. This is a group specifically intended to examine topics of race – including those at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, and ability – and develop actions that leverage our own privilege.