👏🏽 ⁦@joshua_roebke⁩! 👏🏽
“Unlike the city of Cleveland, the demographics of physics have barely changed. The subject has long been a refuge for immigrant but physics was gentrified by Anglo-Saxon men long ago, and it remains their colony still.” joylandmagazine.com/regions/midwes…
“Today, more than three quarters of students in the subject are white, and more than 80% are men. That is the standard model of a physicist. The only college major with a lower percentage of either black or female students is music.”
“But physicists are rarely so political today, even though they adopt the language of resistance. They anoint their theories as revolutionary or radical, even when nothing is overthrown and no one gets hurt. They appropriate the cachet of revolutionaries, much as advertisers do”
“I asked the Laureate if he had some time the following day to talk about the Standard Model. He looked at the conference schedule, pointed to the only talk by an African-American, Bennie Ward, and said he intended to skip that one.” #BlackandSTEM
Where Joshua and I disagree is about the use of "colored physics." I don't think this is innocent, and I have a lengthy discussion of it in #disorderedcosmos. Also, the use of "women and people of color" when you can say "people of color and white women."
The reason it's impossible to see the use of "colored physics" as innocent is that the whole context of the use of color relies on the idea that "white = neutral." There's nothing neutral about that assumption. Why is white neutral? That's not innocent.
There are various ways to shift this vocabulary. We can stop using colors entirely and just use letters.
It doesn't paint the pretty picture that white men thought it did in the 1960s to move to something more abstract but . . . physicists objecting to abstract thought is like people in the desert pouring all of their water out
This is not the only instance of white physicists thinking they were doing something smart when actually they were doing something mediocre and implicitly white supremacist. More recently a couple of physicists hypothesized "dark scientists" like dark scientists don't exist.
This kind of language functions as a mechanism for socializing physicists into white supremacist modes of thought. Students learn: White is neutral. Dark scientists are hypothetical and exotic.
And this isn't just theorizing -- I literally just read a paper yesterday that used the phrase "colored degrees of freedom" and will be talking to the colleague who wrote it about that. This is part of my experience in my day job.
Since someone is saying "I didn't use this phrase with the intent to cause harm." Do you speak with the intention of not causing harm and analyze your word choices accordingly? Because the harm is in not having the intent to avoid harm.
Until you accept that white supremacy and patriarchy live in part through linguistic and behavioral habits that you are assimilated into, and then do the work of consciously challenging that assimilation, you are choosing to cause harm.
I talked about this business with "colored physics" recently in my interview with @MsMagazine: "For instance, why is it that quantum chromodynamics is sometimes called colored physics? Would a black scientist have used that language?"
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