When Noelle Sawyer, a Bahamian mathematician from Southwestern University, came to the United States to attend college, she was taken aback. In the first two years of her undergraduate course, Sawyer’s research focused on dynamics and geometry, and she kept thinking: “Why doesn’t anyone treat me like I am good at learning?”
Marissa Kawehi Loving is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Science Foundation and a visiting assistant professor of mathematics at Georgia Institute of Technology, and the co-founder of the website Native mathematicianShe said that when Loving’s research focused on low-dimensional topology and geometric group theory, she “feeled that I really couldn’t win when she was a graduate student.” She added that if she had achieved something, no one would admit it, or they would. Said “I got that very, very good thing only because of my identity, not because of my talents.” Although Sawyer is now an assistant professor, she said that she still met other mathematicians and they regarded her as Be someone who doesn’t belong to her. “I hate attending meetings because almost every time someone says something harmful or harmful to me,” said Sawyer, who organized the first time together with Ai and others. Black for Math Week On Twitter last year.
Juliette Bruce is a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, working in the field of algebraic geometry. She organized 2020 Cross Math Day For transgender and non-binary mathematicians, she and a co-organizer brought it back as a two-day event this year.She is also a board member spectrum, Association of LGBTQ+ Mathematicians. Bruce was harassed at a large math conference. She said that when she was doing poster presentations, someone “stared at the poster for a while, stood closer, and stared at me for a long time”, and then made “very rude comments” about her appearance. ,she says.
Racism, sexism, and other forms of systemic oppression are not unique to mathematics. They are certainly not new, but many people in the field still deny their existence. “One of the biggest challenges is how difficult it is to start a dialogue on this issue,” Sawyer said, “because mathematicians firmly believe that mathematics is the purest of all sciences.” However, statistics for math majors are hard to ignore.In 2019 New York Times A profile report by Edray Herber Goins, a professor of black mathematics at Pomona College, stated:Less than 1% His doctorate in mathematics is awarded to African Americans. According to a survey conducted by NSF in 2020, out of a total of 2,012 doctoral degree holders in mathematics and statistics in the United States in 2019, Only 585 (29.1%) were awarded to womenThis percentage is slightly lower than in 2010, when 29.4% of PhDs in these fields (467 out of 1,590) were Granted to women. (Because these figures are grouped by gender rather than gender, the survey did not report how many of these people were considered to be a gender other than male or female.)
Recently, many mathematicians have been pushing for more discussion of these issues and forcing the field to face up to the racism, sexism, and other harmful prejudices it sometimes contains. In response to those who say that this kind of discussion distracts collective attention from mathematics research and directs it to social issues, Goins said, “If you think talking about racism is distracting, imagine experiencing it… .. Not all of us can ignore what is directly happening to us.”
Recently, Goins’ research focuses on number theory and algebraic geometry, he joined a team dedicated to updating the website Mathematicians scattered in Africa, also known as MAD PagesIt includes a searchable database containing more than 700 profiles of researchers in mathematics and related fields.The original version of the website was created in 1997 Scott WilliamsAt that time, he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, and has now retired. “Mathematics is human endeavor,” Goins said. “When we prove theorems, when we teach, we are not automata standing in front of the room and writing abstract symbols on the blackboard. We are really people with stories.”
Goins likes to follow the stories of 20th century mathematicians William Schieffelin Claytor and Vivienne Malone-Mayes, and they are all included in MAD Pages. Claytor is the third black American to receive a doctorate. In mathematics, and was the first black American to publish mathematical research that was not a paper. “This is a man with a very promising career, but because of the strength at the time, he gave up,” Goins said. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, Clayto worked at West Virginia State University. He applied for one at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, but as Goins said, others don’t want a “black” among the faculty members. “Even in Princeton Town, he is not allowed to go to the cinema or even buy clothes,” he said.
When Claytor moved to the second postdoctoral position at the University of Michigan, “he was not allowed to teach due to racist behavior,” Goins said. In addition, he pointed out that at this time “an outstanding figure appeared in topology”-Robert Lee Moore of the University of Texas at Austin-“He is famous for saying that he does not want black people to enter the field. He didn’t want the Jews in the field, he didn’t want the women in the field. It is generally believed that Moore really worked hard to make sure that Clayto did not publish his paper-behind the scenes, he did not really let Clayto’s students in the meeting. Give a speech.”
Malone-Mayes encountered racism and sexism from Moore, but she persisted in the field. Gones said that when she decided to pursue a PhD, she wanted to apply to Baylor University, but the school did not allow black Americans to enter. Instead, she attended the University of Texas at Austin. She had a different adviser, but it was there that she met Moore.Last year UT Austin announced its decision Delete Moore’s name From one of its buildings, Dallas Morning News Report. (For more information on other problematic named instances in mathematics, Sawyer suggests List posted on the postgraduate blog of the American Mathematical Society July 2020. )
Sometimes, Marlon Metz “has to sit in a chair in the corridor because Moore does not allow her to be in the classroom while teaching,” Gones said. However, despite the existence of apartheid and isolation, Marlon Meyers received a doctorate in 1966, becoming the fifth black American woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics. “And, ironically, she became the first black professor at Baylor University,” Gones said.
Lack of representation
Many times, the stories of pioneering mathematicians from marginalized backgrounds are buried. TuringThe World War II codebreaker known as the “father of modern computer science” is usually “an LGBTQ mathematician that most people know,” Bruce points out. “Besides, I think the list of famous LGBTQ+ mathematicians has become very, very boring.” Looking for more historical examples “Go into the subtle territory, you know, not everyone wants to go out. Speculate on someone’s past gender identity Or sexual orientation may be a minefield,” she added.
However, it is important to pioneer the example of pioneers. Loving received her PhD in mathematics in 2019 and was the first Native Hawaiian woman to receive this degree. When she was in graduate school and faced negative comments and stereotypes, she remembered that she was thinking: “Who else is in front of me? When you can see to some extent that you can win it, and when you think,’Maybe it It’s hopeless’ to fight a battle is not the same.”
Sawyer said she “knows very well” that she can “leave academia and leave it all behind.” But in the end, she doesn’t want “mathematics to become a safe corner of science for very bad people,” she said. Every few months, Loving hears of students of color leaving their PhD in mathematics. Program. “These stories are always about harassment, abuse and neglect,” she said. Both Sawyer and Loving seized the opportunity to cultivate the math community and provide them with support and a sense of belonging. Nevertheless, Love said, “I can’t tell you how many times I have talented students of color, [and] When I talk to their white teacher mentors, or when I read letters from these people, it’s as if they can’t see their talents. They can’t see themselves in them… It all comes down to the failure of imagining who will succeed. Who can become a mathematician? Who is worthy of here? “
Goins believes that if the mathematics department changes their recruitment methods and pays more attention to factors such as whether future faculty and staff “want to help build a community” and whether they are “good at teaching or may be good at encouraging women and minorities”, this will be helpful. Helped. Undergraduate students continue to work in this industry. “
He is the chief project director of the project African Diaspora Joint Mathematics Symposium (ADJOINT), a one-year project of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), in which black teachers form a resource community. Goins said that these groups met at MSRI in Berkeley, California for two weeks when the project started, and continued to meet in the next academic year, “so they can continue to conduct research and promote communication with each other.” The research topics are different each year. In 2021, they include “The Adventure of Constructing Galois Theory”, “The Steinberg Module of the Braid Group”, “Race/Ethnic Differences in Health” and “Personalized Policies Using Decision Models in Complex Human-Centered Issues” .
“I want to make sure that minorities feel welcome and they do have a community that they think they are a part of,” Goins said. As the world begins to think about the future of COVID, new possibilities have emerged. For example, the Department of Mathematics will have to consider whether to return to “normal” or deconstruct and reconstruct some old ways of doing things. Many mathematicians say that their field is full of opportunities to reimagine a more inclusive and dynamic future for people of all backgrounds.