As one of the Bay Area's most popular cultural institutions, the Academy is proud to reflect the diverse communities we serve. The events of 2020 also taught us that reflecting isn’t enough: We have an ethical and moral mandate to learn from and lift up the communities in our midst that suffer disproportionately from systemic racism, structural inequality, and environmental injustice. While we recognize that our road to racial equity is still very much under construction, we’re deeply committed to ensuring our actions match our values—and to sharing our progress with you along the way.
As part of our deep commitment to create and maintain an equitable and inclusive institution, we are pleased to share Phase 1 of our Racial Equity Action Plan. Developed in partnership with the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Racial Equity, this document summarizes the Academy’s current, ongoing, and future practices and will continue to be updated as we complete this critical work in 2021 and beyond.
On June 4, Dr. Scott Sampson, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, shared the following with Academy staff and Trustees about support for Black Lives Matter:
The events of recent weeks have shone a bright spotlight on racism in America—particularly against Black Americans. Alongside the killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and Ahmaud Arbery by white civilians, we have witnessed COVID-19 disproportionately result in sickness and death within communities of color.
I have watched recent events with horror, disgust, and shame at what we as a society continue to allow.
The societal systems we participate in—legal, health, education, and housing, among others—privilege some and discriminate against others. Those who benefit most from this privilege must join the hard work to make these systems equitable.
So, what is the role of the California Academy of Sciences and other science museums at this moment and moving forward?
First, I believe we must build stronger internal systems to actively root out and fight systemic racism. We must truly embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility at all levels of our organization, including among staff, Trustees, Fellows, and volunteers. Currently, our staff, including leadership, does not include enough people of color. Not only should all visitors see themselves reflected in the Academy’s people, we should also seek opportunities in our materials, programs, exhibits, online content, and events to proactively celebrate cultural differences and amplify historically suppressed voices.
Second, we must work harder to ensure that all communities of color have equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities. Here, the Academy needs to build on its previous successes—scaling up accessibility to free and reduced admission, designing outreach and teacher professional development programs for under-resourced communities, and providing career internships for youth of color.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, we must listen and become more responsive to the unique needs of the diverse communities we serve. And we must build long-term relationships and alliances that keep us engaged with the struggles and successes of these communities over time. We can help make science the domain of everyone, rather than a select few. In addition, given the Academy’s focus on the intersection of people and the natural world, we can support the fight for ecological justice, including access to healthy air, water, food, and nature.
The Academy has not done enough. We know that we need to do much more. In the coming weeks, we will establish an internal staff team to develop an action plan around anti-racism, diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. We will seek help from outside experts, and weave this plan into our new organizational strategy. Our efforts to change societal systems must begin in our own house.
Now and tomorrow, we stand in solidarity with those calling for an end to racism.
Scott D. Sampson, PhD
Executive Director, California Academy of Sciences
William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair