The year 2020 provided a wake-up call about the role systemic racism plays in shaping our nation and shaping science. While hard work and great mentors helped bring me a long way from a farm in Minnesota, it’s become much clearer that the privilege of being white and male and the accumulated advantages that began there played powerful roles. It’s time for white scientists like me to listen, think, and take action.
We all have personal stories that we use to describe our trajectory in life and science. For the past five decades the narrative I told myself was a simple one of good luck, hard work, support from my community, and mentors at pivotal times. However, in many important ways, this was just a small part of the truth, ignoring the role unperceived privilege played. The many underlying injustices that were laid bare in our nation this past year began to open my eyes, prompting me to look back at the roles hidden privilege played in my career and the power that these have given me. This challenged me to use the power of that privilege to speak and act to try to change the system in which engrained advantages benefit some but not all. I am telling my story in hopes it will encourage my white colleagues to examine their own.