Salk Employee criticizes Black Lives Matter
Email proclaiming â€˜Good lives matter' creates an uproar
By Gary Robbins
A computer programmer at the Salk Institute in La Jolla has sparked an uproar by using the center's email system to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd.
Bob Kuczewski, 63, who has worked at the elite biomedical research institute for about eight years, sent an email to the Salk community on June 2 that says, in part, â€œAt the risk of losing a job that I love very much ... Black lives matter? White lives matter? All lives matter?
â€œHow about ... Good lives matter ... most.
â€œThe notions of good and bad are being undermined by the superficial colors of black and white. Rodney King was not a particularly good man. From what I have read, George Floyd was also not a particularly good man. Certainly Derek Chauvin is not a very good man either. Their skin color doesn't matter.â€
Chauvin is the Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder in the death of Floyd.
The message quickly spread to social media, where Kuczewski's words drew criticism from scientists, including Rusty Gage, president of the Salk.
He said Kuczewski's email was inflammatory and some people regarded it as racist.
â€œI want to be very clear that the remarks included in the email in question do not reflect the values or position of the Salk Institute,â€ Gage said in a public statement on Wednesday.
Gage said that subsequent emails were shifted to Slack, a conversation platform that is widely used by companies.
Kuczewski was still employed by the institute on Monday, but Salk has the authority to take disciplinary action.
Kuczewski confirmed to the Union-Tribune on Monday that he sent the email. But he declined to comment further.
He works as a programmer in the laboratory of Terry Sejnowski, one of the nation's most highly regarded computational neurobiologists.
Sejnowski could not be reached for comment.
Kuczewski is a political activist who has appeared before the San Diego City Council many times.
In 2017, he urged the council not to join a legal battle that sought to prevent the Trump administration from preventing refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. He also talks about policing and social-justice issues on US Hawks, a hang gliding website.
In his email to the Salk community, Kuczewski objected to the title Black Lives Matter. â€œIt's not about black and white. It's about good and bad. That's what matters and that's what we should hold up as our ideals. The deification of people based on the color of their skin is extremely flawed and does not lead us to a better society.
â€œHolding people accountable for being better human beings ... does.â€
Salk neurobiologist Ed Calloway responded on Twitter. â€œThe remarks in the email are repulsive and contrary to the values of the Salk Institute.â€
Megan Kirchgessner, a graduate student in Calloway's lab, also spoke up on Twitter. â€œHey, @salkinstitute, when an email this toxic gets sent out to the whole institute, asking people to kindly take their conversations elsewhere is NOT an appropriate response.â€