The National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) has six contributors on the MAA’s Math Values blog. They are Jacqueline Brannon-Giles, Jamylle Laurice Carter, Leona A. Harris, Haydee Lindo, Anisah Nu’man and Omayra Ortega.
The NAM is “a non-profit professional organization in the mathematical sciences with membership open to all persons interested in the mission and purpose of NAM which are: promoting excellence in the mathematical sciences and promoting the mathematical development of all underrepresented minorities.”
Here are a few important recent posts by and about the NAM on the Math Values blog:
This post is by Jamylle Carter, professor of mathematics at Diablo Valley College. She conducted focus groups with some of her students who “identified partly, if not solely, as African-American” and were part of the DVC Umoja Learning Community. Her goal was to understand what factors contributed to their “academic transformations.” In this post, she focuses on four qualities instructors had that helped these students: compassion, connection, comfort and challenge. Carter shares some quotes from her students (whose names were changed for privacy) about how these qualities impacted them.
This post is by Carrie Diaz Eaton, chair of the MAA Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics. She wrote:
To the Black mathematics community:
You are an important part of mathematics. We see your anger at police brutality, police murder, and active racism all against Black bodies and lives. We see that this extends beyond George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We see COVID-19 is taking your lives disproportionately. We see the absolute dearth of Black mathematicians in our community. We are actively failing you at every turn as a society and as a mathematics community. We kneel together with you. #BlackLivesMatter
“Mathematics instruction and research do not happen in a vacuum,” she reminds the broader math community, adding “We cannot be effective mathematics teachers if we think that students all enter the classroom with the same sense of value and safety. We cannot be effective colleagues if we think that all of our colleagues enter academia with the same sense of value and safety. We need to actively work to become anti-racist as individuals and collectively in our workplaces. In doing so, we must hold ourselves and our academic institutions accountable for the continued oppression of Black students, staff, and faculty.”
Eaton then describes the efforts of her committee, along with five actions we can take to make a difference.
Haydee Lindo, assistant professor of mathematics at Williams College, wrote this piece. It opens with some stark statistics:
Only 4% of Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics (1007 of 24,293) were awarded to Black and African American students in 2016…Of the 1,769 tenured mathematicians at the math departments of the 50 United States universities that produce the most math Ph.D.s. approximately 13 are black mathematicians.
“It is difficult to speak honestly about the fact that living, working and studying in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) or primarily white spaces are often a fraught experience for Black students and professionals. This is compounded by the fact that our fellow students, colleagues, and mentors sometimes do not see, or fail to acknowledge, racial discrimination when it occurs. Such discrepancies in awareness and perception are an issue inside and outside of academia,” Lindo added.
She discusses microaggressions, overt aggression toward students of color, and stereotype management. She wrote that “black mathematicians and engineers remain successful by progressing, ‘from being preoccupied with attempts to prove stereotypes wrong to adopting more self-defined reasons to achieve.’ The truth is that our happiness and continued achievement may rely on the realization that our excellence and accomplishments may not, and more importantly do not, need to be validated by anyone but ourselves. This, of course, is much easier said than done.”
This post is by Anisah N. Nu’Man, assistant professor of mathematics at Spelman College. She wrote it in May for Mental Health Awareness Month, but the topic remains important as ever now. The post was inspired by a question that one of Nu’Man’s students posed before one of her linear algebra classes. It discusses a variety of issues that impact mathematicians of color at all career stages.
With regards to her undergraduate students, she wrote:
Notably, the conversation with my students about mental health started in one of my upper-level mathematics courses at Spelman College, a historically Black college for women. As math majors, these students are, in some sense, entering our profession. It feels important to appreciate how their experiences, as young female Black mathematicians, will inform the ways they experience this profession. During the conversation, I recognized that this unique classroom setting allows for discussions on the intersection of mathematics, gender, and race within academia – from the undergraduate experience to that of a tenured professor – and the impact this intersectionality can have on one’s professional and personal life.
She added “If one is considering the mental health of Black women in mathematics, one must be aware that identity markers, such as ‘Black’ and ‘women,’ add to the conversation of mental health…I know from personal experience that having these layered identities, of being a Black woman mathematician, can add stress in what can already be a stressful profession.”
She describes some of the challenges Black mathematicians face and steps for addressing mental health issues in the mathematics community, especially within communities of color.