I don't get very many comments. Much of that has to do with what I blog about - most introductory topics. I focus on curiosity.
Yet, I've noticed that whenever I affirm a more activist tone in my posts and discuss topics related to diversity or inclusion or access to higher education or the sciences to individuals from under-represented groups, I get all kinds of action.
I have 350 published blog posts and the 10 posts with the most comments are each when I am speaking about the experiences of people of color, most notably being a black person.
Some of those comment threads include positive words. But by and large most of those comments and often the very first in the thread are from someone who objects to 'my voice' as a science blogger at Scientific American. The objections usually fall into one of three categories:
- This IS NOT about Science
- This topic or angle is not worthy of Scientific American
- Why are you talking about Black people, Black Women or minorities?
To which I respond like this.
Here are my favorites! (and by favorite, I mean not my favorite at all).
1. Derailing Danny.
2. Hurt Feelings Harry.
3. Gatekeeping Gyrome AND Place-checking Patty all in the same thread. (Nice!)
4. Here's a comment I got from someone who read a piece published by my PhD alma mater when I was honored by the White House for my science outreach to African American communities.
Suburb Sally was ALL in her fee-fees. She looked me up on line and found me via about.me and sent me an email. Girl. I. Can. NOT.
Why does any of this matter? Maybe it doesn't. But it certainly is exhausting, and I'm not alone. Being a woman of color and visible and with something to say brings all kinds of attention. I know that and others are taking note of it, too. A year ago #RaceSwapExp was a twitter experiment where women of color changed their avatars to that of white men. Guess what happened? The trolling slowed and in some cases halted. Christopher Carbone, a white male (who often tweets about social justice issues) replaced his avatar with that of a Black Woman. What did he experience? Unbelievable and unrelenting trolling.
I'm sure I could free myself of all of this trolling if I merely discussed science and not anything else (say feminism or injustice) or even my personal experiences as a woman, person of color, from a working class family - well anything that draws attention to me and de-centers the conversation about how science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) are treated as default white male domain. Yeah, I imagine that would quiet the trolls. And it's plenty tempting. I get frustrated having to explain even to so-called open-minded people that my perspective and that of other under-represented minorities in STEM are valid on their own, needing no further proof as legitimate or real or widespread. This is why organizations and publications that appeal to specific affinity groups matter - why Black/Latino/Women/LGBTQA/Disability/etc spaces are still important and needed. The foolishness we endure for just existing and daring to BE, for rejecting the thoughts and feelings of the privileged and and not put someone else's comfort before our own is more than some people can handle.
*Sigh* I'll just enjoy this beautiful day in the meantime.