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Duration:05:44
Uploaded:2016-11-21
Last sync:2018-04-30 15:20
We're taking a break from our regular content this week to share this message with you. It's more important than ever to remind ourselves who we are, and what good we can do for our planet, and one another.
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Field Museum Women in Science: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/about/employee-groups/women-science
Field Museum Outfielders: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/about/employee-groups/outfielders
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Credits:

Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Director, Camera, Editor:
Sheheryar Ahsan

Contributions from:
Kate Golembiewski

Production Assistant:
Serri Graslie
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This episode is supported by and filmed on location at:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL
(http://www.fieldmuseum.org)
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Emily: I’m going to share two stories with you today about how I learn about our world. One has to do with how I approach learning about the natural world, and the other has to do with challenging personal biases.

Last week, for the first time in my life, I saw a Virginia opossum alive; before, I’d only ever seen them dead on the side of the road, and in our museum preparation lab. They don’t live in the places I grew up in South Dakota, and Montana. But my boyfriend had been seeing one around our house. Every time he spotted it, he’d come inside and say “it’s on the porch” I’d excitedly run outside, only to see nothing.

But then last week, coming home, I saw the opossum. It was emerging from a hole it had chewed in a pumpkin on my front porch. The scene was amazing, and hilarious. My sister was with me, so we spent the night reading facts about opossums.

We learned they are the only marsupials found in North America, and that they have 13 nipples, 12 of which are arranged in a circle, and one in the center. Now I have a whole new appreciation for these animals, just by virtue of being exposed to one and taking the time to learn more about their species - and their circle of nipples.

That was story 1. Story 2 is also about something that was missing from the places where I grew up. When I was a junior in high school in Rapid City, South Dakota, my government class took a trip to Washington D.C. through a program designed to get us better acquainted with our country's government. But before we left, my teacher sat us down and said he had to prepare us for something.

He said, we're going to get on a plane in Rapid City and step off in D.C., and there are going to be a lot of black people there. He said, you all are going to see more racial minorities in those first thirty seconds than any of you have probably ever seen in your entire lives. So don’t point, or stare or be afraid you’re going to be mugged. You’ll be fine.

Because here's the reality of the place I come from: It’s rural. Before I moved to Chicago three years ago, I'd never ridden in a taxi, been on public transportation, or in a building with more than 14 stories. I didn't exactly ride a horse to school, but I did spend my summers branding cattle and helping my Dad on our ranch.

80% of people in the town I grew up in are white - 12% are Native American. Growing up, I was just not exposed to many people who were not like me. I’d never met a Muslim person, an undocumented immigrant, and any number of other racial minorities. I tried Indian food for the first time when I moved to Chicago. And that's too bad — because Indian food is delicious.

The reason I shared these two stories is because I want to make something clear — the way I’ve been able to increase my appreciation for differences is by actively pursuing curiosity, and challenging biases - whether they relate to an aspect of our natural world, or toward a cultural or racial group that I don’t personally identify with. We do that all the time with The Brain Scoop when talking about science, and it’s no different when we challenge our preconceived notions about people who are different than us — or who hold different beliefs. Keeping an open mind is how that happens.

I’m trying to acknowledge and poke at the edges of the privileges of my life that have also sheltered me from much of the world. And I want you guys to acknowledge — and challenge — the biases you, too, hold. This is how we become stronger allies to marginalized groups. In this campaign season — and in the aftermath of the election — we’ve all seen a lot of anger, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness, much of which is founded, and some of which stems from misconceptions. I’ve seen a normalization of the type of harassing language I addressed three years ago in "Where My Ladies At?" I made that video in a moment of my own frustration, in the hope I could address the topic and move on - which was naive, because we are still dealing with it.

We here at The Brain Scoop and The Field Museum refuse to tolerate hurtful comments, online or offline. We research and celebrate the world’s cultures and do our best to foster understanding between people who are different from one another. We’re committed to supporting the mission of our Women in Science group, and the Outfielders, who support LGBTQ+ staff, collaborators, and allies. And I say this because we need all voices to help us speak on behalf of the environment; to help with the discussion; to educate, celebrate, and to take action.

Today, I want to look to the past for inspiration to help us move forward. During the dedication ceremony on The Field Museum’s opening day, the President of the Chicago Historical Society, Edward Mason, stood up in front of a crowd of 10,000 people and said this: "From this storehouse of the arts will be drawn the suggestions and the devices for real improvement in the surroundings of our daily life. And what a scope for the imagination and its works will afford. As an inspiration, therefore, in its own sphere, the value of this museum is priceless. It means much at the present. It means more for the future. It is not simply a collection of wood and metal, clay and stone. It is a potent entity instinct with life and growth, to which all things are possible."

122 years later, Mason’s words still ring true within our institution. He could not have known at that time what technologies would arise during and after his lifetime - that today we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, and that we can learn about opossum nipples in a fraction of a second. But that’s just part of it. Today’s museums can connect with people around the world. We can forge international relationships and grow knowledge-sharing ventures to learn about and better appreciate other peoples and cultures, and use our collections to understand fundamental questions about topics like how climate change is impacting species populations globally.

Mason was right: this collection means much at the present, but it means even more for our future. Our mission to explore and champion the world and its people has never been more important. And in the coming months and years, I’m committed to continuing to use this platform to celebrate and pursue curiosity, and to expanding coverage that champions diversity in all of its forms. Our planet is no less wonderful or beautiful today than it was yesterday, last week, or a hundred years ago. The natural world remains full of awe and inspiration.

In times like these I look to the dung beetle - a small and seemingly inconsequential creature, but one who makes a living by creating something useful out of someone else’s crap. Without these dung beetles, we’d live in a world, quite literally drowning in fecal matter. Today, let’s be the dung beetles of the world, and help - little by little - to clean up where we can, and to roll into the next day.