Are they serious?
During a budgetary hearing this week, a pair of Republicans on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee criticized NASA's efforts to both combat climate change and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), calling the initiatives "woke."
As Space Policy Online breaks it down, the senators — onetime presidential hopeful Ted Cruz of Texas and Eric Schmitt of Missouri, both ranking members of the committee — spoke in broad, Fox News-friendly terms when denouncing NASA's DEI and environmental proposals.
For his part, Schmitt trashed the agency's "obsession with misguided woke policies related to climate change and diversity, equity, and inclusion." He also opined that "China has no interest in out-DEIing us and they’re not intimidated at all by this divisive radical policy that’s found its way into this budget."
"If NASA is seen as partisan, that is very bad for space and space exploration," Cruz added. "So I hope NASA will continue its tradition of staying out of those battles."
As Futurism and other outlets have reported, the American space agency has long been a white boys' club. During the race to the Moon in the 1960s, it had the opportunity to select a highly accomplished Black astronaut for the Apollo program — but ultimately didn't. And though the contributions of numerous Black women as mathematicians during the agency's formative years were well documented in the 2016 book "Hidden Figures," it took decades for their efforts to be recognized.
Strides have been made, but the agency has never had a female administrator and has only had one Black man at its helm. It took until last year for a Black woman to become a crew member on the International Space Station.
So to the contrary of Cruz and Schmitt's grandstanding, it's clear that DEI is still very much needed at NASA. And needless to say, the climate isn't a partisan issue either.
Besides, anyone familiar with current right-wing rhetoric knows that "woke" has become a sort of catch-all code word for progressive anti-bigotry ideals and efforts. From attempts to use more inclusive language in reproductive healthcare to debates about artificial intelligence guardrails, the fear of a "woke" planet has much of the country veritably frothing at the mouth and pining away for the days when there were no consequences for being a bigot — and that outlook, it seems, has made its way to the lawmakers overseeing NASA.
Bottom line? Instead of worrying about the very real ways racism harms America financially, Cruz and Schmitt are instead invoking the "woke" boogeyman to score political points — and frankly, it's pretty embarrassing to witness.
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