Black Mathematicians Thread

Today, I did wind up finishing the thread on Black Mathematicians. I had a nasty flare up, which is why I finished 2 days late. However, late is better than never!

I covered 28 Black Mathematicians, 14 women, and 14 men. All were cis. As it turns out, it is incredibly difficult to find nonbinary and transgender Black mathematicians, especially ones with a PhD. I am sure that they exist out there somewhere, but Google and DuckDuckGo turned up empty.

Overall, doing the thread on Mastodon has give me newfound energy to do mathematics and mathematics education research. I partially forgot why I enjoyed mathematics when I pivoted to Quantitative psychology. This kinda makes me want to do research in mathematics, mathematics education, and quantitative psychology. Mathematics Education and Quantitative Psychology have quite a bit of overlap and there is some overlap between mathematics and quantitative psychology.

What I was surprised by was how many Black mathematicians do research on inclusion of Black folks in mathematics. At first when I saw this, I thought it was going to be a fairly low amount like with white mathematicians. I was soon proven wrong and found that at least a solid quarter had this as a research focused. I was baffled until I saw just how common my experiences in mathematics were on racism, lack of representation, and alienation.

I find it humbling, welcoming, and greatly pleasing that the negative experiences moved many Black mathematicians to be more inclusive of others rather than the “Screw you, got mines”. They’re building the ladder to help other succeed rather than yanking it away and I find that beautiful.

What I found most insightful was the sheer amount of Black mathematicians that wanted to get a PhD because of the low amount of Black mathematicians. This makes some of the passive aggressive from white people make sense as well as some of the Black folks who assumed that I was doing my bachelor’s in mathematics to show that it can be done, rather than the fact that mathematics is my strongest interest. I personally was never motivated to do a bachelor’s by the low amount and I definitely wasn’t motivated to show Black folks that it could be done because other Black folks had already done so. It helped put into perspective why many made that assumption. Of course, all of the Black mathematicians also had an interest in mathematics as well, just noting that many had that additional reason pushing them that I did not.

What I found the least surprising was several Black mathematicians switching schools due to the sheer racism. Also not surprising is seeing several Black mathematicians rejected from top schools despite having higher qualifications than the bulk of white peers who applied (such as multiple 1st author papers and talks). Now you can say that some of this might have to do with research fit, though given that the Black mathematicians I saw that got rejected had research interests aligned with a few faculty at the time, this is fairly unlikely.

This kinda also ties into the article I just made on the BBC’s racist and ableist coverage of a Black sociologist. Like that many of those top schools are super white dominant and that it was built like that from the start and completely intentional. While it’ll always sadden me to see such violence, I’m glad to see Black mathematicians pushing back against this and make spaces more welcoming.

Anyways, March is going to be catch up month where I catch up on some of the projects that fell to the wayside. April is going to be my transition month of really preparing things for Canada. May to July is the time where I will be taking things easy and I leave for Canada in August. Excited about this!

Link to Mastodon thread:

Originally posted on Medium here.

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