I’ve been reading all the comments on #BlackHistoryMonth posts that NASA Johnson made (and will hopefully continue to make!) like this one (also below), and the comments are a bit frustrating to me.
The first African American woman in space was Mae Jemison. Celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth!
— Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) February 1, 2016
The comments say things like: “why does it make any difference what color she is. She did the work and deserved to go”; “sigh… enough with the race business.”; “She looks American. Does she actually wear an, ‘African-American’ flag on her suit?”; “I always wonder why that is an issue. Should have been so normal that a celebration was not necessary.”
I understand that we should celebrate astronauts of all colors equally and all the time. I understand that there shouldn’t need to be a specific time to point out African American history, but our society doesn’t do it unless there’s a special reason. We continuously ignore, generally ignorantly, the powerful effects people of colored have had on American culture.
A lot of people are saying that race no longer matters (and maybe it doesn’t), but I believe that we need to be putting out more media (especially related to STEM) that features minority groups. And #BlackHistoryMonth is a great time to start doing that.
As I learn about the role non-whites have played in NASA’s culture by creating these posts, others will (hopefully) learn along with me. They’ll see the posts and share the posts, and someone will eventually be reached by them that thinks, “They did it. So I can do it too!” Or “I didn’t know that!” And then maybe over the course of the month, people will become knowledgeable enough to incorporate just a small part of this into their every day culture.
These astronauts are all extraordinary people. You need to be extraordinary to become an astronaut.
So no, their race does not change that their achievements are already more than impressive. What their race does is give minority groups role models that look like them. What their race does is help inspire a generation to reach for the stars.
I just wish the comments on the posts reflected that…
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?
P.S. Jayson Jackson, my boss at the Alumni Association, sends out an inspirational quote every day. They are always, well, inspirational, but the one today particularly resonated with me:
“Anything worthy of your passion, should be worthy of your preparation.” – Sue Enquist