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142. Advancing Racial Equity in Science w/ Dr. Kenneth Gibbs

When Dr. Kenneth Gibbs talks about diversity and inclusion in the sciences, it’s not just a cause célèbre. It’s personal.

“For those of you who don’t know me, I am a Black man. A descendent from enslaved Africans here in America, so my family has been here for hundreds of years. That’s part of my story.”

And while his grandfathers had 4th and 8th grade educations, his parents were able to go college in the 1970s because of public investment in programs like Upward Bound. He and his sisters were able to go to graduate school.

“I had a PhD from Stanford by the time I was 27,” Dr. Gibbs recalls. “You can see that arc, but you can also see that when I got that PhD, I was the only black man in my building for that five years that wasn’t a mailman, janitor, or technician.”

He finishes, “There’s nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but I said, ‘There’s something kind of “off” here.'”

Now, he’s working to fix the system, and to make science look more like society.

Diversity is Not Enough

Dr. Kenneth Gibbs

This week, we talk with Dr. Kenneth Gibbs, Director of the Postdoctoral Research Associate Training Program at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

His recent article, Promoting diversity and advancing racial equity in the biomedical sciences, talks about the importance and impact of making academia a welcoming space for people from historically underrepresented minority groups.

In our interview, Dr. Gibbs tells the story of how a few of his friends responded to their graduate school training:

“Three of my friends who are all black women went to elite East Coast institutions and published first-author papers in single-word journals. Two of them had such terrible experiences in grad school they said ‘I’ll never do science again.‘ One said ‘I’ll do science, but I’ll never do academia.‘”

“And I thought, ‘Well thats a damn shame!

“It’s a shame for them, because they have been brutalized and they have experienced this bias they should not experience. And it’s a shame for us, because they are publishing at the top of their fields and if we can not create a space for them to contribute and be excellent and be who they are, then we are all losing.”

Dr. Gibbs debunks some misconceptions about diversity, and argues that we need to go beyond just admitting students from historically underrepresented minority backgrounds – we need to make laboratories and classrooms a place where “everyone can show up and contribute as their full selves.

We hope you will join the conversation – leave a comment below with your experience or ideas, or send us an email or Tweet.

Back to Basics

Our ethanol this week is the Amber Ale from Bell’s Brewing in Comstock, MI. If your beer tastes range from PBR to Natty Light, this Amber might be just what you need to bump you off the beaten path and into the wide world of interesting beer varietes.

And, even if you’re a fan of the most obscure Saison or Gose, this Amber will take you back to simpler times when craft beer was new, and amber was an exciting color.

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