Racist white dude: <says racist things>
White women scientists: <silence>
Racist white dude: science and feminism don’t mix.
White women scientists: OH NO HE DIDN’T!!!!!

#WhiteFeminism TM never fails to white feminism
I just received an email about the following tweet from its author, and I would like to offer some comments, as a minoritized woman professor in physics about having a graduate student in physics speak to me like this:
1. I don’t believe that professors are more important than graduate students, but I also recognize that people who are faculty have worked hard to attain their positions — especially people who are minoritized. As such, I think professors are owed a certain amount of respect.
By respect, I don’t mean deference. If you disagree with me, fine, disagree.
2. As a minoritized woman graduate student, I never would have dreamed DREAMED of calling a prof, in my discipline no less, “unhinged,” much less in public. The entitlement in believing it is okay to do so, and that there will be no consequence, speaks to a deep-seated privilege.
When I was a graduate student, I once *looked* angry when a postdoc made a “you Black people” comment to me, and I had to change research groups because people thought I had overreacted. I can’t even make facial expressions at real fuckshit without serious consequences.
3. The power dynamics of being a Black woman professor in particle physics are such that some random male grad student can come along and confidently call me unhinged in public as a response to my commentary about white supremacy in science, without any worry about his future.
The power dynamics are also such that despite the fact that he was brazenly disrespectful to me in public, people are going to say I “punched down” by writing this thread. And that’s part of patriarchy: men get to treat women any old way and women get judged for their response.
5. “I understood your post to be kind of a provocative faux anecdote that was supposed to represent the actual dynamics of white women/men in science.Admittedly, I don’t have data on this, but it did seem to fly in the face of what I myself have observed in my years in academia.”
That’s from his email to me. He says he has no data, but he was still calling my analysis “provocative” and “unhinged” because it didn’t match with his experience as a man who has only been in the field for a few years.
I started grad school 16 years ago. I graduated w/ a PhD 8 years ago. I have since held a $100K grant to specifically study the impact of racism/sexism on physics. I currently hold a faculty appointment in both physics & women’s studies.He has no data.But I’m the provocative one.
6. “I missed your talk at SUNY Albany, which I was told was very good, hence why I followed you on Twitter.”

The talk I gave was a seminar to SUNY Albany’s women’s studies. Im other words, he knows I am a recognized expert and still feels his lack of data exceeds my expertise.
The talk I gave was on a concept I call “white empiricism” — a phenomenon where white, male- dominated science trusts white men’s rationalism based on their sense of aesthetics more than Black women’s self-reported data.
The paper, to be published in Signs Journal in 2020, was a finalist for the 2019 Catharine Stimpson Prize.

I wrote it to describe things like what happened today: a white man n physics telling me, based on his gut feeling, that his lack of data was better than all of my data.
It’s easy to point the finger at this one graduate student but his behavior is representative of a systemic issue in physics: an arrogant, dehumanizing disregard for data that doesn’t support white men’s standpoint.
Physicists find it easier to believe that string theory is worth exploring — despite no empirical evidence — than to believe Black women about our experiences with white supremacy, despite mounds of empirical evidence in the form of our testimony and extensive research.
Physicists have generally been content to practice white empiricism because they don’t believe it is epistemically limiting. They don’t think it affects what we can learn about physics. This is predicated on a couple of false beliefs:
1. Black women have nothing to offer physics
“White empiricism obviously harms Black women’s participation in science, but that’s fine because Black women don’t have much to offer.”
2. “Physicists are being rational in all of their discursive choices. Research directions are chosen through reason, not moral commitment.”
But an environment that is hostile to people who have a different standpoint can never be as open as it needs to be to alternative frameworks. White empiricism makes physics into a homogenizing environment, which discourages new modes of thought.
The paper is set in the context of the area of philosophy that deals with knowledge systems.

A short way of summarizing the previous tweets: white empiricism is an epistemically limiting form of anti-intellectualism that is a foundational praxis in professional science.
And this means that physics students are being taught to practice science using white empiricism, rather than a strong form of empiricism that has been released from the white supremacist chains that bind our social relations
I’m actually still sick with a fever, so I really need to stop now.

But consider how much time I had to spend explaining my expertise and my CV and why I felt I had to, while this one grad student was ready to just tell me I was being unfairly provocative and anti-white woman.
And so yes, let’s not forget the other part of this: he was protecting white women from me. Because white women need saving from the unhinged, provocative Black woman.
Now, just think about how awful (white) (male) professors treat Black women like me in private, if this is how poorly graduate students behave in public
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