Statement on Violence in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

On January 6, 2021, we witnessed a horrific day in U.S. history. A mob of violent, homegrown insurrectionists overtook and desecrated the U.S. Capitol, the epicenter of our democracy in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results electing the 46th President of the United States of America. Like many of you, we watched the culmination of sustained attacks on US democracy unfold, and we noted with dismay the stark contrast in the response of law enforcement to this violent mob and to those peacefully protesting the killing of unarmed Black people last year.

White nationalism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, and lawlessness were on full display on January 6th and we acknowledge the trauma that these events may cause for our members. We emphatically condemn these acts and the systems of oppression that undergird them. Now more than ever, we urge our membership to seek ways to be compassionate as we all struggle to process and cope with these events.

Just six months ago, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) released a statement condemning the violence that Black people face from police and self-proclaimed vigilantes. In drafting that statement, we reflected on how recent and historical injustices, coupled with complicity and culpability by many at local and national levels led to the highly visible murders of Black people that compelled us to speak out. Here, too, there has been rampant complicity fostering systemic racism and inequality and complicity by leaders who have time and again failed to refute conspiracy theories and continued to espouse misinformation that ultimately led to the violent acts that put our democracy in peril. As scientists and educators, we must teach our students to obtain evidence, think critically, seek truth, and to expect the same of our country’s leader and elected officials. Such skills are essential to scientific inquiry and are some of the basic tenets of a democratic society.

As a professional society dedicated to supporting physics educators and physics learners, we are concerned about the impact the assault on the Capitol is having on our members who are still navigating the overwhelming challenges of learning and teaching through a pandemic. At AAPT, we reaffirm our commitment to doing our part to ensure that physics learners understand the importance of evidence and data to critical thinking and decision making and to dismantle racism and systemic oppression within our community and beyond.

Specifically, as an organization focused on education, we will:

  • Support physics instruction that emphasizes critical thinking and evidence-based decisions that our students will use both in academic settings and in their everyday lives;
  • Call out injustices and hold ourselves and each other accountable to eliminating injustices that affect our members and our field;
  • Engage with our community to create learning spaces that are inclusive, supportive, and safe;
  • Provide opportunities for our members to hone their skills and support their engagement in doing this work.

The year 2021 has just begun, and it is clearer than ever what we must do. Injustice, the perpetuation of misinformation and fear-mongering will not disappear spontaneously. We must actively and continually work to stop the behaviors which were at the root of the insurrection at the Capitol. We invite the membership to join us in eradicating oppression and providing quality physics education so that all learners are dedicated to truth and justice. This is vital for our democracy and for a society that values liberty and justice for all.


Jan Mader, President

Toni Sauncy, President Elect

Chandralekha Singh, Past President (2020-21)

Tom O’Kuma, Treasurer

Blane Baker, Secretary

Beth A. Cunningham, Executive Officer

Alexis Knaub, Chair, Committee on Diversity in Physics

Arlene Modeste Knowles, Past Chair, Committee on Diversity in Physics

Mel Sabella, Member, Past President (2019-20)

Robert Hilborn, Associate Executive Officer

Gary White, Editor, The Physics Teacher

Beth Parks, Editor, American Journal of Physics

Krista Wood, Member, Board of Directors

Martha Lietz, Member, Board of Directors

Tommi Holsenbeck, Member, Board of Directors

Sam Sampere, Member, Board of Directors