I’ve been working on part two of my last post, but it’s been slow going and painful.
I’ve been trying to understand things that have happened to me, understand how to situate current struggles within the longer narrative of my life, all this with the hope of finding a way to learn something worth sharing. It’s exhausting, but I believe it is worth doing.
Well, I found out that AMS will not be publishing my part two.
We’ve been given two weeks notice that they are “winding down” their blogs.
I suppose two weeks is enough time for me to finish the post I’ve been working on (though maybe not the last two weeks of December), but why should I? Why should I give anything more to AMS?
Here are some words that have been sitting in an unfinished draft:
I will let you in on a little secret. People don’t actually listen to me or care what I think or care if I’m hurt. Maybe you do (thank you!) but not the people I work with; not people with power. The very few instances where someone attempted to take a risk for me, they found themselves immediately discredited as biased. Go figure. The point is that nothing I do is mattering in the short-run for people at approximately the same power level as I am.
Senior mathematicians who read my writings will still moderate racist and frankly cowardly conversations in the guise of “reaching people where they are.” You must know you are not leading them by example if you have to step on me in order to reach them. This phenomenon is especially troubling when the event is advertised as being anti-racist. The way I have to keep reminding people that I’m not just a collection of social justice opinions. The way the powerful will shut me down so as to reach more people. It is hard to keep showing up. Honestly AMS owes me money.
I keep talking because I know that these conversations we have, the endless panels, I know we are forming a community. I know we are gaining strength in fighting for (undergraduate) students and protecting them from the status quo. But I’m honestly running out of energy for it, because we ourselves are still lost. We are still under attack, and I have to say, I do not see that ending.
I naively thought that I had accumulated some kind of credibility here. The fact that my writing has been shared so much, and the fact that people keep telling me my words have helped them. The invitations. I thought it meant something. I thought it meant I would be listened to. That we would be listened to.
I regularly tag the AMS (you know, the host of this blog) on Twitter asking what they are playing at when day after day brings a new exercise in exclusion. I’m so tired of it. Sometimes I just stare off into space (the blank wall opposite me when I work from home in my basement of boxes and a chair) and I wonder is the AMS salvageable? It pretty clearly isn’t. For every Nice Statement you get out of an AMS president, are perhaps countless instances of racism, homophobia, and just a blatant disregard for the mathematicians I care about.
I looked around at AMS’s website for my tweet storm and realized that of course it is inherently racist, sexist, transphobic, etc. I’m not an expert on capitalism, but it shouldn’t take an expert analysis to understand that systems invented by white men need to be dismantled and anything short of that is racism and gaslighting. I hope some day I am free and unbothered enough to get a good hearty laugh at people who honestly think that structures created by white men to benefit white men could become acceptable to all simply by making small changes in admission. I cannot wait to be able to joyously revel in the absolute clownery of thinking the AMS is actually trying to not be racist.
For now, though, I can’t laugh, because it hurts too much.
I know I am just one person, not deserving of anything more than anyone else, so when I am hurt that an institution or organization doesn’t care about me, it’s not because I want them to care about me more than they care about anyone else. It’s that I know that I am more representative of people excluded from math than I am representative of people included in math, even with my academic privileges. I know that when I am excluded it is representative of too many people’s experiences, and I also know how hard it is to stay safe in these situations.
I think that’s what kills me in all of this, between AMS’s sloppiness and the toxic political rigidity of those who cling desperately to the academic traditions they were able to exploit, there is just no understanding of humanity. They refuse to believe we are hurting, or if they concede that, they have an elaborate fictional backstory about how we deserve it, how it doesn’t matter, or how it would be morally wrong to make it their problem. They hold our resilience against us; weaponize it. They host and/or reject debates on whether we require or deserve special treatment whilst they are the ones who can only feel safe atop a system of exploitation. They are the ones who need the rest of us to not matter. They are the ones who crumble at any hint that their power is not wholly and legitimately earned through merit and effort.
I am a mathematician.
I am a person.
I have worth.
I am no more deserving than anyone else.
I am no less deserving than anyone else.
If you do not care to support my research, you do not support mathematical research. If you choose concepts over humans, you are working against community, against sustainability, and against human flourishing.
If you choose institutions or money over people, you are following in the violent footsteps of those whose statues we are tearing down.
I improve any space I’m in, not because of my credentials, my connections, or my academic pursuits, but because I am unwaveringly committed to justice, to seeing worth in everyone, to ending abuse, and to dismantling causes of suffering.
When people hate me, it’s not because I don’t respect them; it’s because I respect myself.
When people write me off as not good enough, that tells you who they are, not who I am.
Over and over again AMS has chosen itself, while offering sympathies, and collecting fees.
Friends. Fam. Oomfies. Is this your mathematical society?
Who will celebrate you? by Noelle Sawyer
I’m breaking up with my oppressive professional society by Chad M. Topaz