Skip to main content

Comments and Responses to Decolonizing Astronomy

Alex Sapchik writes:
I thought that from the natural science point of view, rectifying injustice done to past generations is simply impossible for thermodynamic reasons alone. You would basically be trying to force a complex, inherently unstable system back into its equilibrium. The cost would be prohibitive. Even now-disadvantaged groups of people would be WORSE off after that, not better. 
And historic experience confirms this. Every attempt to redistribute wealth or power in order to correct past injustice (e.g. communism, expropriation of white land in Africa) ended up in a disaster. On the other side, in the post-MLK USA and in Nelson Mandela's South Africa a point was made NOT to introduce reverse discrimination - and these countries are doing relatively well. 
And why are you only blaming whites for the plight of African-Americans? Slaves were captured by other BLACK people in Africa, then sold abroad to whites. The African nation of Gabon once prospered on slave trade, and is still one of the richest countries on the continent. 
Maybe it's the other way round - the willingness of BLACK people to enslave their countrymen and sell for a profit resulted in the shameful period of slavery in the USA? After all, Chinese and Irish didn't sell their fellow citizens as slaves - and so there were no slaves of that origin. 
In slave trade, the seller is as deplorable as the buyer. And the sellers were black. 

Wow, where to start? I think I'll start by pointing out how Alex reaches for scientific explanations for the injustices of this country, as if to say, "It was inevitable. This is the way the world works." I'm going to set aside the problems of applying thermodynamic arguments to human behavior since it doesn't really warrant a response. Instead, I argue that Alex is defending the status quo by pointing out the cost is prohibitive. 

Following this argument to it's logical end is rather scary for anyone who does not benefit from the system that Alex defends. This is especially true if were to rewind the clock 50 years and make the same argument. "These civil rights activists need to understand that trying to force a complex, inherently unstable system back into its equilibrium. The cost of allowing Black people to vote, receive an equal education, and not be lynched would be prohibitive." Rewind the clock 150 years and Alex again pops up to tell the slaves, "The cost of freeing you would be prohibitive. Because thermodynamics."

Your arguments about "reverse discrimination" are as silly as they are sad. You are like a CFO who takes over a company and presents their financial situation while ignoring their debts and losses. "It wouldn't be fair to pay back our debtors," your argument to the CEO goes, "because that would take money away from our shareholders." 

Now, onto his argument that BLACK people are responsible for slavery. The people who sold my ancestors into slavery were Africans, from a broad range of countries and tribes. What they did was wrong, to be sure. But I do not live in their country. I am a descendant of Black slaves in this country. The people who hold power today in my country are the descendants of the people instituted a system of complete dehumanization, the deliberate destruction of families, the deaths of millions, and the torture and terrorizing of millions more. I am a Black American. I am subject to the systematic racism in this country

Finally, even a child can understand that someone else's wrongs do not make your sins forgiven. Go back and read your words out loud. Better yet, read your words to an auditorium in Baltimore filled with Black children. Listen to yourself, man! Your lack of basic empathy robs you of your humanity. What this system has done to you is ugly. My heart aches for you, and part of the reason I fight is to free people like you from the need to trade your humanity for privilege. 


Popular posts from this blog

An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:

It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…