Tyson Speaks Out About Being a Black Astrophysicist – A Rare Scientific Phenomenon

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Neil deGrasse Tyson finally speak out about being a Black Astrophysicist – a rare phenomenon in the science world. “I’ve never been female, but I’ve been black all my life and so let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective. I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expressions of these ambitions. All I can say that is the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist was, hands-down, the path of most resistance through the forces of society. … Now here I am, I think, one of the most visible scientists in the land. And I look behind me and I say, ‘Where are the others who might have been this?’ And they’re not there. And I wonder: Where is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not simply because of the forces of society that prevent it at every turn?”

But Tyson’s current stature as a black astrophysicist is as elusive a phenomenon as the Higgs boson as NPR put it. They have a great article called, “The Most Powerful Nerd In The Universe Is A Scientific Anomaly”

“There are very, very few African-American astrophysics PhDs,” Tyson told Alcalde, an alumni magazine for the University of Texas, Austin, where he went to graduate school. “That’s for a reason. I was doing something people of my skin color were not supposed to do. So people who believed in me, like Sagan, were important.”

It was while at UT that Tyson discovered another bias. “I was stopped and questioned seven times by University police on my way into the physics building,” he said. “Seven times. Zero times was I stopped going into the gym — and I went to the gym a lot. That says all you need to know about how welcome I felt at Texas.”

Jus how underrepresented are black folk are in STEM fields, and in particular astrophysicists? In 2012, the astrophysicist J.C. Holbrook tried to conduct a tally, and she could identify only a few dozen from the last six decades.

“Holbrook begins with some startling statistics: since 1955, only forty African-Americans have earned doctorates in astronomy or physics doing an astronomy dissertation. This means they comprise at most 2.47% of PhDs in astronomy. Out of 594 faculty at top 40 astronomy programs, 6 are African-American (1%). Notably, Hispanics fare no better, with 7 (1.2%), while Asians account for 42 of the 594, for 7.1%.”

As NPR put it: “Those questions are proving to be as difficult to resolve as any in physics.”

Via: NPR article  “The Most Powerful Nerd In The Universe Is A Scientific Anomaly”

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