The March for Science, scheduled for April 22, was planning to have Bill Nye, the Science Guy, function as the event’s first honorary co-chair, but then made a startling discovery.
Nye is white.
That did it; complaints mounted that the event was not featuring people of color, and voila! As Buzzfeed reports, “Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who first exposed dangerous lead poisoning among the mostly poor black kids in Flint, Michigan, and Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist famous for helping to figure out how to get bacteria to make insulin,” were added to the list.
Forget the fact that Nye isn’t even a scientist; Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was invited to the March’s board after she questioned its commitment to diversity, fulminated, “I love Bill Nye. But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.” Page added that commending the two women “was an opportunity to put up a picture of science that did not just fit the white male image.”
The March’s lead organizer, Jonathan Berman, admitted, “We did talk internally about the optics of having the first person to be announced be only a white man.”
Organizers of the March had a vitriolic response when it appeared references to climate change had been removed from the White House’s website. One organizer railed against the notion that the March would be apolitical, writing, “Colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, and econ justice are scientific issues.”
The very next day, the March for Science posted this:
The group later deleted the original tweet and removed some of the language.
Nye responded to the group’s change of plans by telling BuzzFeed, “With respect to diversity — is that the key word here? There’s a diversity committee on the march, and they’re working this problem. I was born a dorky white guy who became an engineer. I’m playing the hand I was dealt. We can’t — this march can’t solve every problem all at once.”