Black Scientist Called Shocking Slur For Declining To Write For Free

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Danielle Lee

Dr. Danielle Lee (PHOTO CREDIT: ScienceSeeker.org)

In a blatant display of male privilege infused misogyny, Ofek, an editor at Biology-Online.com,  called Dr. Danielle Lee (pictured above) an “urban whore” during an email exchange simply because she declined to write a pro bono monthly blog for the website.

Click here to see Dr. Danielle Lee’s email exchange with Ofek of Biology Online.

Dr. Lee, a biologist who studies “animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology,” pens her own Urban Scientist blog through the Scientific American Blog Network, and after contemplating the shocking exchange, did what any writer would naturally do: she wrote about it:

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed.This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee.

View Dr. Lee’s official response below:

What happened next is a study in white privilege, racism and sexism.

Proving once again that solidarity is for White women (Big ups to Mikki Kendall), Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American removed Dr. Lee’s blog because, allegedly, it didn’t fit within the confines of science:

Lee’s friend, Dr. Isis, grabbed the torch and reposted Lee’s entire razor sharp response to Ofek and Biology-Online on her own blog, Isis the Scientist, and asked others to do the same. The ensuing online outrage on Lee’s behalf led Scientific American to offer the following tepid explanation on why they removed the blog:

Editor’s note: (10/14/13) This post was originally published on Friday, October 11, 2013, at 16:58, and taken down within the hour. As fully detailed here, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove it. Email to the editor referenced in this post to elicit his comments has gone unanswered, Biology Online would not disclose his identity or give out additional contact information and other efforts to identify him to solicit a response have been unsuccessful. Biology Online has confirmed the exchange. This post is therefore being republished as of October 14th at 4:46pm.

But that is much too little, much too late. Furthermore, it is insulting for DiChristina to preface Dr. Lee’s experience with her own attempt at professional victimization.

Dr. Lee made three mistakes in giving voice to the unprofessional treatment she experienced from Biology-Online .

She is Black.

She is gifted.

She is a woman.

Gifted, Black women must speak softly or be silenced. They must be grateful for opportunities in the way that infants must be grateful that their parents change their dirty diapers. They exist outside of their societal-prescribed roles as Mammies, Sapphires and Jezebels only at the pleasure of a White Supremacy Capitalist Patriarchy and the moment they dare to graciously say “I neither desire nor require your favor,” they are called “whores.”

And the racist skepticism shown by DiChristina is nothing new.

Black women who are raped must have asked for it. Black women who are harassed on the street deserve it because their hips are too wide, their skirts are too short or their pants are too tight. Black women who are abused, well, it must be all that sass.

It apparently never crossed DiChristina’s mind that Dr. Lee, the highly-educated professional who raises her site’s profile by writing there, could be telling the truth.

Biology-Online belated apologized to Dr. Lee, and fired Ofek, but the damage has been done. The hashtag #StandingWithDNLee” has quickly gaining momentum and I am so very proud to support this sister. Her story is like too many of ours; her story is like mine.

I have had experiences with professional men who felt as though I should feel blessed simply to be in their presence.  There are corporations who take our work for granted, because we should be grateful. It doesn’t matter that our free labor increases their profits, we should be grateful for the opportunity. We are told that we must not want it enough, because it we did, we would “pay our dues” instead of worrying about paying our bills.

We are told we are short-sighted and narrow-minded. Men mansplain to us that we will never be successful because we dare to refuse to work for them for free. Because we are whores. We are Black urban whores who only deserve what this supremacist system dares to grant us. And some White women will pretend that none of this is happening, just as they did years and years ago when they pretended that the curly-haired slave-girl in the kitchen didn’t look like their own daughters.

There is a quote accredited to world-renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson that has always resonated with me:

We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there.

Truer words have never been spoken.

So, thank you, Dr. Danielle Lee. Thank you for not sitting down and shutting up.

And you have an entire army of Black women standing with you.

******

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