4. What I Want

More from my (not-so) daily writing practice

I’ve accepted that it might be time to move on from my current position to another position and/or another graduate program.

I love the idea of solving the unknown or what has been regarded as unsolvable.

That quest for knowledge (masochism?) is what drew me to the sciences, to limnology (a.k.a. the art of reading between the lines), and eventually to the topic of diversity and inclusion in the sciences. Why aren’t there more scientists of color? Why aren’t there more women in leadership? Where are the parents and those who have families? Those questions pique my interest.

I’ve also become acutely aware that the questions that set my heart on fire are absolutely terrifying for many of the people I’ve come in contact with. I can tell by the way people avoid eye contact, or fidget, or redirect the conversation to something more polite. I ask people to dig deep and unearth their conditioning and assumptions. I ask many people to be more consciously aware of social identity and how it functions in daily life in a way that is inescapable. No, we cannot be objectively logical as a way to circumvent it, and peer review doesn’t enure equity, our identity shapes our world view and defines, in many ways, our world. My time in graduate school reinforced for me that being a scientist does not make you exempt from broader societal issues. I chose the rocks because they could not speak and tell no lies, but then realized quickly that I would still be surrounded by people who had hoped for a similar respite from society and held a lot of anti-black beliefs.

Its been interesting to watch my fellow scientists (of color, and not so much) shuffle in discomfort when topics of equity come up. People mention that scientists aren’t known for tact, or for having a way with words, or for being the most social as a way to try to explain away the awkward. I chuckle. am I not a scientist too? Or am I less of a scientist because I am willing to acknowledge multiple ways of knowing? Its also been suggested that people need to learn the rules of the game and should conform to the standard (ie: white, hetero, cis, wealthy, male, etc.) because the game will never change.

I hope for a future for science where the rules have been revised and that it is no longer a game or competition but a community built on trust and integrity. Where white culture is not assumed to be the norm and written into policy and procedure. Where moving through the academy doesn’t require the performance of whiteness to be successful.

In a perfect world, I would use grounded theory and black feminist thought to center the experiences of Black women in the geosciences (or women of color generally — the population is so small). I want to stay in touch with my roots in the geosciences because I love the people I met while on that career path and want to lift as I climb. I would love to look at experiences of undergraduates, graduates, post-docs, administrators and faculty. I’d also like to contrast the experiences of the minoritized with that of the majority. How do they experience and navigate their racial and gender identity? How does the workplace environment contribute to perceived belonging? What are the formative experiences for WOC in the geosciences that are linked to persistence or decision to leave the field and how does that compare to other social identity groups?

Maybe I could start an organization/ subgroup specifically for WOC in geosciences after completing this work. That would be great. For the community in the community and on my own terms.

I am not only hopeful, I am dedicated to being a part of a paradigm shift. Anything that I do next will need to allow me to step more fully into my goal of diversifying the academy.

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