Changes for inclusion/exclusion

I am writing this post to announce that I have stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief of this blog. This might raise some questions, and it’s a good time to write a little about how I see the blog, plus we’d like to hear about your ideas.

 

First, Adriana Salerno, Piper H, and Luis Leyva are all continuing on the blog, and we are joined by Nathan Alexander of Morehouse College. This group brings a wide variety of identities to this role, but there are gaps in our experiences. We continue to seek regular guest author contributions, and I would like to grow the editorial board both to increase our ability to engage issues across the mathematics community and to sustain the blog’s activity. If you are interested or know someone who would be great, please let me know.

I also want to raise up the work our founding Editor-in-Chief, Adriana Salerno, has done. Leading the creation of this kind of space in the mathematics community in which we discuss issues of equity, inclusion, power, and justice is a labor of love that I believe has changed the mathematics community forever. Moreover, the work of this blog is particularly emotionally challenging, both because it requires to focus on painful experiences in our lives and because it evokes strong responses from readers. Please join me in thanking Dr Salerno!

If I have an agenda for the role of EiC, it is to maintain the momentum of the blog while working to make it easier to get powerful ideas published. On this front, I am pleased to share a new way to suggest blog posts. If you have an idea for a blog post, one that you would hope to write or one that you would hope to read, please post it here:

https://forms.gle/U27UL6J9yNMtY9Vc7

In terms of the blog content and operation, I currently envision deepening what we do rather than trying to turn the direction of the blog. I like our mix of posts about individual experiences, MathEd and equity research, spotlights on programs/initiatives/people, calls to action, and more editorial pieces. I do think that the blog has matured to the point that we can start asking: what ideas, voices, concerns, and perspectives are being represented in the blog, and which are missing, especially which are missing that we believe need to be amplified in the mathematics community? Those of you who know me might be taking bets about how long it takes for me to use the word epistemology, well it just happened. I think it’s really important that we, as a community, grapple with questions such as: what is mathematics, what does it mean to do mathematics, who gets to be a mathematician or knower of mathematics, and who gets to decide answers to these questions (adapted from Rochelle Gutiérrez and others)? I certainly expect that my sensitivity to these epistemological and ontological questions will surface at times in the blog, as it has in the past, as I try to help authors produce the best post possible but not as anything more than a sensitivity.

But the reason you have probably read this far is because you are thoughtful about what it means that I, BK, would be serving as Editor-in-Chief. I am afforded significant privileges as I walk through the world. I am assumed to be white and male, and it very obvious to me that this leads people to vest me with significant mathematical authority; similarly, people listen to me differently when talking about issues of  identity and justice than they do people speaking from what they perceive as marginalized or minoritized identities in our community. It would be inappropriate for me to let this perspective gate-keep conversations of justice. I have two ideas about how to act ethically in this role.

(1) I come to conversations of equity, identity, justice, and power through some of my less visible identities. I am queer; I identify as gay and mildly gender non-conforming. In a discussion today, a white colleague said that he struggled to understand W.E.B. Du Bois’s words about Black people in the US being “gifted with second-sight” and asked me for an example. For me, I see masculinity like it’s green code from the Matrix. I am conscious of the expectations, and I am constantly managing whether to meet those expectations or deal with not meeting them. At times, I have been jealous of the ways that hetero-normative men seem to be able to live in this role without the conscious attention it requires from me, though more and more I see the effort they seem to put into not letting their conscious minds acknowledge the ways they are managing these expectations because having to try to meet these expectations is the fastest way to fail to meet them. Similarly, in the context when and where I grew up, the answer I was supposed to give to the race question was “half-Jewish”. I don’t particularly identify as Jewish, and I agree that it’s problematic (i) that we only name the “non-white” identity and (ii) that we have quantified something that ought not be quantified. But these othered identities were entry points for me into seeing the systems that structure culture, both US and mathematics. These experiences do not mean that I understand the experience of living while Black in the US, for example, but they do help me listen differently to others’ experiences and to see systems. I am strongly committed to using the access afforded to me by these experiences to keep educating myself and to approaching my editorial work as a learner rather than as learned.

(2) I also think that the editorial stance of a blog like inclusion/exclusion must be different than that of other publications. For example, we might interpret the publication of a research piece in a journal as requiring that journal’s editorial board to support all of the results and methods in the piece. The inclusion/exclusion blog cannot have a completely unified and singular editorial voice or perspective because that would conflict with our mission of maintaining a challenging diversity of authorial voices and perspectives. Instead, the editorial stance for this blog is that our board stands behind the conversations driven by our posts rather than only publishing ideas with which we all agree. Similarly, my understanding is that the AMS trusts our board to curate ideas for our community, but they do not interpret our blog as speaking for them. In this context, the role of Editor-in-Chief is more about facilitation and administration than it is about final decision-making.

Frankly, there are two other reasons that I am happy to step into this role. On one hand, I feel a responsibility to help other people, especially white people, do the work of learning about race and identity. Too often, women of color are asked to be “unpaid sherpas” in this work, but I am in a position to reduce that effect. On the other hand, this work is less triggering for me than some of my colleagues. As Gutiérrez has pointed out (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1166672.pdf) the mathematics community has made significant progress in that resistance to discussions of justice used to come primarily from within the community and now seems to come mostly from without. However, this blog has been the object of intense scrutiny at times. I will admit that I found those episodes emotionally challenging but not dangerous to me personally. And when people disagree with what I’ve written, they tend to call me bored or stupid and leave it at that, rather than attempting to ruin my life. I don’t mean to suggest that all editorial work should be done by privileged people, but I do see it as a strength I can bring to this particular job at this particular time.

So, if you’ll have me, I would be honored to serve the mathematics community as the Editor-in-Chief of inclusion/exclusion. And the board and I would love to hear all the brilliant ideas you have for blog posts: https://forms.gle/U27UL6J9yNMtY9Vc7

Cheers, BK

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2 Responses to Changes for inclusion/exclusion

  1. Mike Egan says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful introduction to your editorship, BK. As you’ve acknowledged, you’re stepping into some big shoes. Thanks to Dr. Salerno for getting this important and interesting blog off the ground, and good luck to you, BK, as you strive to maintain its quality and relevance.

  2. Mike says:

    Yes: thanks very much, Adriana! And welcome to the EiC role, Brian.

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