Earlier in the week we looked at the new television series Cosmos and the fervor it caused between pro-science and pro-religion camps. Lost within this science vs. religion debate, however, is the obvious racial angle surrounding Cosmos. Neil deGrasse Tyson—the series’ host—is one of the few widely-recognizable black scientific figures today. He himself has stated that there is a distinct lack of representation of African Americans in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fields. What broader trends in race and science might this show illuminate?
Research affirms deGrasse Tyson’s opinions, showing that there are indeed significant inequalities in career attainments in STEM fields for women and minority groups:
- J. Scott Long and Mary Frank Fox. 1995. “Scientific careers: Universalism and particularism.” Annual Review of Sociology 21(1): 4571
- Joyce Tang. 2000. Doing engineering: The career attainment and mobility of Caucasian, Black, and AsianAmerican engineers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield
Given the limited ways in which African Americans are typically represented in the media, deGrasse Tyson’s well established media presence as an African American scientist proves doubly important:
- Herman Gray. 1995. Watching Race: Television and the struggle for “blackness.” Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
- Herman Gray. 2005. Cultural moves: African Americans and the politics of representation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press