James Sherley on Different Treatment Because of Race
  James Sherley     Biography    
Recorded: 06 Sep 2001

So one of the things that I’ve come to realize is that we have to think about people as distributions. There are people that I would meet with it wouldn’t pose any issue at all. Not one that I would be aware of, not one that they would be aware of. It wouldn’t be an issue. But there are many for which it would be. In some cases it would be not something that it would even be consciously aware of. It’s just the way they relate to black people. And I would perceive, sense, and note it! That would be a problem in our relationship. There are other cases where basically people meet me and they dismiss me. It’s the hypothetical situation you present is a little more complicated when there’s something involved where there’s room to benefit from having an interaction. So in those cases usually you figure out how to get to things. But it’s those times where there is no clear benefit from it where things drop off. And you know, the scientific community in terms of everything from getting tenure at your institution to being able to get a clone that you need is about having connections and interactions with people. So I don’t know. It’s been—what’s hard for me and I find this to be true all the time, what’s really hard for me—when people get to know me, there aren’t any more issues. And I think that’s true in general. It’s about having a chance to get to know and talk with one another. But when they don’t know me, I don’t get the same kind of benefit acceptance that others get. So I always find that that’s the case—once people get to know me, things are fine. But it’s when they don’t know you. So a lot of time you know you go out and give a talk, a presentation that’s all they’re going to get to interact with you is just that. The skepticism is already there because you look different, you sound different, you talk different, you’re from a different—I mean its just all the differences get in the way of what you’ve said. I mean I have people come up to me after my talks—I don’t know, one of the things I like to do is talk with people about this with other scientists because then I discover that some of the things I encounter, everybody encounters. But you know, people come up after a meeting and say, “That was interesting, but I don’t know if I believe it.” Well, why don’t you believe it? That’s okay, but why are you telling me you don’t believe it.

I know some of these things, that’s definitely the case. But I want to know how many people it is that every time they go to a meeting when they’re in their forties that people keep thinking that they’re someone’s graduate student, their postdoc. Yeah, I’d like to do a survey on that one.

James Sherley is a scientist on the forefront of adult stem-cell research. He earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.D./Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology (BCMB Program) from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He was a Principal Investigator in the Division of Medical Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is currently a Principal Investigator at the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health at MIT. His present research is in integrated studies in somatic stem cell kinetics.

Sherley was honored as a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Science in 1993, and in 2001 became a Pew Science and Society Institute Fellow.

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