White Guys In Space

May 05 2011 Published by under Culture, Random & Gratuitous

Perhaps I've been oversensitized, but that was my thought upon seeing this (admittedly very cool and fun riff on the Star Trek poster) mission poster for the last Endeavour shuttle mission from NASA:

Click to go to the NASA site where you can get a full-resolution version

11 responses so far

  • Mark Schaal says:

    I remember when Crash was up for an Oscar, and being shocked when several people argued against that movie on the basis that racism no longer existed in the US.

    Of course that was before Obama was elected President, which as we all know eliminated racism overnight. Now all we have to do is elect a woman to eliminate sexism.

    Seriously, I do hopefully believe each generation is becoming more race- and gender- neutral, it is just a slow change. But as I've seen a friend putting make-up on her 2-year-old girl, I realize these biases run very very deep.

  • I think if anything has demonstrated that racism is alive and well in the US, it was the election of Obama as president. Certainly the aftermath.

  • rknop says:

    Yeah, the fact of the election itself does demonstrate that racism is not as bad as it was a few decades ago (when a black guy getting the nomination would have been unthinkable), but the reaction to Obama both before and after the election has included a *lot* of racially motivated stuff. It's pretty sad.

  • engineer says:

    You know, as a white guy, seeing the word "white" used in a less than positive connotation just rubs me the wrong way.

    We all know our history, but part of maturity is understanding that centuries of history can't be changed with a (for lack of a less inflammatory term) whiny attitude about the result of that history, and that no one wins any friends or allies among $RACE guys by implying that being $RACE is less than a desirable thing to be/have/exist. We all (should) want betterment for all our fellow human beings, but I don't see how this particular attitude does anything other than stir the pot.

    I am reasonably certain that using the word "black" or "brown" that way is not seen as socially acceptable. Why is any racial term?

  • rknop says:

    It's not pejorative. There's nothing wrong with being a white guy. My observation is that this shuttle crew, from the space agency of the USA, is composed entirely of white males. Now, we are talking statistics of small numbers, so it doesn't make sense to insist that every shuttle crew be entirely representative. However, I did find it striking. If we don't notice things like this, we run the risk of sliding into a casual unintended racism-- where disparities that exist are not noticed and hence we start to deny that they do exist.

  • In Hell's Kitchen (NYC) says:

    I'm old enough to remember Scott-Heron singing:


  • engineer says:

    Your point about complacency is valid, and perhaps my gut reaction is tainted by hearing "white guy" as a negative thing elsewhere, but it still doesn't sit quite right with me.

  • Isabel says:

    I agree with engineer. You did it for the "ratings" didn't you (i.e. it's attention getting isn't it)? This is a science blog. Some statistics please? Really, if we don't "notice" that NASA is too white, we will slip into racism? That's ridiculous. There have been non-white male crews; this is cherry-picking for one thing.


  • rknop says:

    Er... do I do things for ratings? I'm a very very tiny, small voice in the science blogosphere, with very few followers, and to whom very few people pay attention. The one thing I have noticed over time that gets me more attention is just posting frequently and regularly, whatever it is. I'm not really doing that right now. I don't really give a crap about ratings; lots of bloggers follow their number of pageviews and so forth, and I can't be bothered to do that.

    Second, "this is a science blog" is a very common refrain from people who don't like a post on a science blog. In fact, however, this blog is "about physics, astronomy, and many other things". If you've read past posts here, you'll see that in fact I ramble on on lots of things. I don't pretend that this is a blog that presents research or that is scientifically rigorous in every post that it makes.

    Finally, calling this "cherry picking" misses the whole point. This is my one reaction to this one poster I saw posted somewhere else. Sure, it's individual and not statistical, but this isn't me going through all of NASA's posters and trying to find something to critcize. Indeed, this is the first of these mission posters that I'd ever seen, and I saw it posted on boingboing.net. I didn't realize that these posters existed before this.

  • Isabel says:

    "I'm a very very tiny, small voice in the science blogosphere, with very few followers,"

    It's just an expression, which is why I added in parentheses "i.e. attention getting". I'm sure it's a sure way to get more hits, whether you intend it or not. Why post something provocative based on an anecdote, when you could have probably found some stats, or evidence of outreach, etc to discuss. Maybe use your observation as a kick off to a post.

    And i didn't mean every post should be about science, rather that no posts should be unscientific, as in getting people worked up over an anecdotal observation. And yes, using 'white' in a way you would not reference another race. As China gains power I wonder if it will be "yellow guys this" and "yellow guys that".

    Did you follow the link?

  • I would argue that while people may have quibbles about the whiteness of the picture, the total lack of women is worse. There is no way you can paper over missing what constitutes half of the population everywhere, regardless of race.