You know, when you join a new organization, you don’t typically scan the board of directors looking for people who have previously been publicly identified as over-the-line bigots no reasonable person should associate with ever. Or at least I don’t. I certainly didn’t when I signed on as a minion for ScienceBlogs.
So I was surprised to learn that the over-the-line racist sexist bigot biologist Jim Watson is still on the Seed Media board.
Of course, if I refused to work for anyone who associated with what I consider to be unacceptable racism or sexism, I would never have a job ever again. I couldn’t even work for myself. Given the editorial freedom we have here at ScienceBlogs, I’m not really worried about stains to my personal political purity that might result from the association. I am, however, worried about the effect that Watson’s poison might have on this organization, and on the public perception of the scientific establishment.
(Note: I am a better person than Jim Watson. I do not harbor conscious prejudice and I like to think that I engage in less -ismy jerkwadishness than the status quo. I have never stolen even the weest of wafer-thin ideas from Rosalind Franklin. You don’t have to tell me any of these things. But I also have not extricated myself from a social structure built on racist sexist jerkwadism, with all the advantages that brings me as a middle-class white person, and I occasionally find myself harboring unconscious prejudices which I must then work to isolate and unroot. I’m of the school that says -isms are pervasive structural problems and Mother Culture is very sneaky with the unwanted memes.)
I’m not going to explain why it’s an offensively bad idea to put an out-and-out bigot on the board of directors of a company whose mission is to improve global science literacy. Nor will I detail the evidence supporting the proposition that Jim Watson is an out-and-out bigot no reasonable person should associate with ever. If you need to catch up on either of those things, you can go follow Zuska’s links. Nor am I at liberty to comment on discussions in the sooper-seekrit internal backchannels.
But I have never been shy about telling people what I think they should do about the racism and sexism in their midst, and this is what I think Seed should do: Fire Jim Watson. Fire him as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, and replace him with someone who cares about bringing science to all of the public, not just the white male public.