'Anti-racist' petition: Hammer-wielding 'Black geologist may be seen as a threat'

A petition backed by multiple American professors recently referenced the hypothetical scenario and an actual gas pipeline to describe racism in geosciences.

Michigan State University professor Julie Libarkin was one of 16 professionals to receive a prestigious award for creating the 'Call for a Robust Anti-Racism Plan for The Geosciences' petition.

Geoscientist and Michigan State University professor Julie Libarkin received the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Presidential Citation for helping to create the “Call for a Robust Anti-Racism Plan for The Geosciences” petition

Libarkin and her team created “important dialogue and a framework for being anti-racist in geosciences that is being used by organizations around the world to make our community more diverse and inclusive,” the citation reads.

The petition calls out fellow geoscience organizations, in their statements amid racial unrest, for not “specifically referenc[ing] anti-Black racism” and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) for being “uncomfortably silent.” 

The Change.org petition has amassed over 26,000 signatures. 

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Several demands are listed, including the acknowledgement of “inequities in fieldwork.” 

For example, “Black geoscientists are not safe to engage in fieldwork everywhere that white and other privileged geoscientists are able to. Whereas a white geologist with a rock hammer will be seen as ‘safe,’ a Black geologist may be seen as a threat,” reads the petition. 

“Holding ‘suspicious’ objects have been used as a defense to call the police.” 

Libarkin recently shared her ‘anti-racist journey’ with the school news outlet. She said, “as a privileged white woman, sexism I experienced in my career is dramatically overshadowed by racism experienced by my Black, Indigenous and or people of color (BIPOC) colleagues.”

“Racism can be in your face or subtle,” the geoscientist continued in the July 7 interview. “The geosciences have a long history of taking from the planet for financial gain...in our own backyard, the Back Forty mine and Line 5 pipeline illustrate the environmental injustice.”

Pipeline 5 has been at the center of debate in Michigan with removal threats from Governor Whitmer over environmental concerns. Enbridge, the pipeline owner, is in the process of constructing a tunnel, hoping to mitigate environmental impact. 

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Alleged racist incidents Libarkin’s lab has heard include, “A stranger approaches you, tells you ‘your kind’ doesn’t belong, and demands you leave...or consider the manuscript reviewer who, upon reading your non-Anglo name, decides that English must be your second language and proceeds to declare the manuscript ‘unreadable.’”

“Racism thrives in geoscience. Geoscience organizations function alongside the same racist ideologies and practices shaping society,” Libarkin and her team further declare in Nature Communications. The paper seeks “essential constructs for anti-racism” and to “acknowledge that most geoscience organizations were built by, and for, white people.” 

Additionally, “these organizations have continued, for the most part, to uphold customs and expectations that have racist impacts. For example, current expectations around manners, clothing, hair, professional attire, language, and diction are all racist at their core.” 

Libarkin leads the Geocognition Research Laboratory at MSU “where she investigates how people perceive, understand, and make decisions about the Earth.”

Campus Reform has reached out for comment; this article will be updated accordingly. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SergeiKelley