February  14, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Contrary to popular belief, African-Americas are and have been groundbreaking, innovative and miraculous scientists, researchers and doctors. This is evidence that we have the intellectual ability to create and do things that can revolutionize society. It is important that we teach our children to have the strength and courage to challenge biology class with the same intensity it takes to play video games or play basketball.

Life challenges did not stop a black foster child named Daniel Hale Williams from becoming the first doctor to successfully perform open heart surgery. Louis Latimer did not allow the fact that he was the son of runaway slaves prevent him from improving Thomas Edison’s light bulb; his improvements created the light bulb we use today. Institutionalized racism did not stop Dr. Alexander Thomas August from becoming the first black physician to head a hospital in the United States. Today, diseases like cervical and breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes serve as the call for our young men and women to pursue the sciences.

There are social barriers that will often seem insurmountable, but there are dedicated teachers, advances in technology and specialized university programs that put achievement in the sciences well within our realm of possibility. The Science Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the ROADS program at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and BioTrek program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are all learning resources whose goal is to change how people view (including who is capable of engaging in scientific study) and do science. These programs, and many others, offer full scholarships to African-American students looking to pursue a career in the sciences.

There are so many opportunities for our children to engage in scientific discovery and innovation. Your son or daughter could be the scientist that creates the first consumer robot. Your granddaughter or grandson could be the biochemist that develops the immunization for HIV/AIDS. Your niece or nephew could be the microbiologist to create a cure for diabetes. The idea that black children do not like or are not interested in the sciences is just not true. Our children are just as interested in the subject as their white peers and they are just as capable of achieving in those fields. After all, we have done it before.