Piper H

October 19, 2021
*awkward time*
me, to me: should i begin?
okay, hi, i'm Piper! and i'd like to thank myself for being absurd
and thank anyone who is here, at any time really.
welcome to my tweetstorm!

~ I don’t know the best way for conversation, feel free to RT/QT/comment ~
~ it’s about a 30min talk if I were talking ~

Hi. There are many of us here who
1) enjoy* math
2) want to learn math
3) believe in sharing knowledge

*for some definition; it can also be painful, that’s okay if it’s okay

4) do not want to oppress others
5) are interested in or willing to teach others
6) do not build self-esteem from the exploitation and/or humiliation of others

And I suppose I should add that we

7) generally agree with @FedericoArdila’s axioms

b/c it’s true but I’m not atm thinking about teaching philosophy.

We are in the math community but the dominant culture and employment opportunities incentivize

1) speed
2) novelty
3) competition
4) hoarding
5) protecting established norms

[and 6) generally run counter to Federico’s axioms]

This is what happens when you value theorems over people.

II) Thanks, I Hate it

How does a group of people decide to value theorems over people?

By being at the top of a hierarchy that protects a select few by exploiting the rest? 🤔🤔🤔

The @amermathsoc has a mission statement that begins with its founding in 1888. The @maanow was established in 1915, but traces its roots to the 1894 founding of the American Mathematical Monthly

What was life like in 1888? Well, for one thing 69 Black Americans were lynched that year.

I am not a historian and don’t want to mischaracterize or erase history, so I will just include a quote from wiki I found which corresponds to the early years of both the AMS and the MAA

“Between 1889 and 1922, as political disenfranchisement and segregation were being established, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) calculates lynchings reached their worst level in history…

Almost 3,500 people fell victim to lynching, almost all of them black men.”

(i think we too often drop founding dates as if being historical just means being old and as if that's cool)

Personal anecdote: when I started grad school, I thought I was going to be with the happiest people on earth.

Princeton’s pure math dept was surely filled w ppl w the capacity to do things to actually help end suffering, but instead decided to pursue their own passions and interests

We were ppl who said instead of curing cancer (or solving climate change maybe these days?) we just wanted to ask and answer questions about made up structures

Why do this if not for sheer joy????


(side note, i'm like floating in anxiety right now lol i thought a thread would be safe 😭😭😭)

Sometimes.... sometimes i wonder if white people are capable of real joy.

i mean, of course they are (hello white friends lol)

But I just can’t explain how it feels to watch people just needlessly inflict misery *from positions of (relative) power.*

If feels like a desperate attempt to hold onto something that is perceived to be threatened.

But when I’m the threat? Like my existence? Is the threat? I’m just like what is WRONG with you??

When the *existence* of trans people is the threat? What is WRONG with you [cis ppl]???

Can people whose sense of self is so wrapped up in the non-existence of others, ever truly feel joy?

I’m getting side-tracked, but it just reminds of all those vile people who act like they care so much about fetuses but treat the humans they become like trash.

If you need to control others, there is something just not right with you. Not right with your heart.

(looking at you, people with kids. though I also know the pressure you’re under to be in control regardless of your heart)

At any rate, my experience leads me to side-eye the successful “geniuses” we tend to praise.

I simply do not trust people in positions of power (whether it’s being a white cishet man or a tenured prof or a famous award winner) who seem to be content with the status quo.

Who think they have earned what they have access to. You don’t *earn* access or opportunity.

Looking at the white men who were the first presidents of AMS, I know that whatever their “contributions” were, they were not right.

Not if there is no record of them fighting for Black inclusion or Indigenous sovereignty.

Something else from 1888: "Congress Grants [sic] Citizenship to Native Americans [sic] Only if They Give Up Tribal Affiliation.”

Also this map

2.30/ map of (the not very many) ...
Also this: “In the meantime, the Dawes Act of 1887 dissolved many Indian reservations. An 1888 report from the Indian Rights Association, The Condition of Affairs in Indian Territory and California, questioned the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans:

‘The whole management of Indians has been abnormal… Everything is controlled by arbitrary laws and regulations, and not by moral, social, or economic principles.’…

The report concluded that opening Oklahoma up to settlers and moving Native Americans farther west ‘would be unjust, cruel and disastrous.’”

(note I’m purposefully excluding white women from my historical searches; I recommend not looking to white women to understand oppression)

So anyway it’s 1888, and a white male grad student at then all-white, all-male Columbia University, has freely visited England whereupon he longs to create a mathematical community at home similar to what he found there.

the @amermathsoc says “Fiske founded the American Mathematical Society in 1888 to foster comradeship and communication among mathematicians.” And I’d like to know exactly wtaf AMS thinks they mean by that

Is AMS willing to admit that it was intended for white men? That was surely the case, and it’s not even interesting. But it does paint a different picture.

This official separation of math from identity happened in a segregated society where only white men were people.



III) Bygones aren't Bygone

And while I’m here, we need to talk about giving ppl moral passes for being historical. Believe it or not, we are all products of our times! me, fighting against the status quo, a product of my time!

You can see this in my language. I say things like cool and nice, I don’t say things like based or poggers (???).

Being a product of time means that you have to get more context to understand the impact of certain language. IT DOESN’T MAKE RACIST LANGUAGE NOT OFFENSIVE.

If you unearthed an old writing of mine in which I referred only to men and women, this was cis-normative even if i didn't know what "cis-normative" meant.

It doesn't tell u if I was actively or passsively transphobic, but certainly my erasure could have hurt anyone struggling w their gender identity,

and it definitely perpetuated struggles, including my own.

I was a product of my times in that I was saying what I had been taught

and if you search mainstream media you will find that being cis-centric was a seemingly unquestioned norm.

Doesn’t make it Not Harmful To Trans People.

Should I be cancelled for past transphobia? If you want?? b/c cancelled isn’t a thing???

But at any rate, if you look into my writing you will find that over time I keep updating my language.

I strive to be better than mainstream media, now that I know that being normal is often not moral.

Being a product of ur time means you can be Harmful w/o being hateful

and you can be Hateful w/o ever needing to express it.

But the point in bringing these things up is always THE HARM CAUSED which is not about social acceptability

Moving on

“who even gets to be a mathematician?” is a common rhetorical question/refrain for those of us who care more about people than theorems.

Neither AMS nor MAA defines who is a mathematician but perusing their websites indicates that you must have learned subjects that a school would call math.

IV) Begin{Interlude}

I get frustrated and discouraged when I try to talk about what math could be.

I was trained in white people’s math or whatever you want to call the math that regardless of origins came to me thru white people.

I am not a historian.

I have no* cultural traditions.

*pls let me have this sentence without correction; dig deep

What I know is that math involves creative play with structures (very loosely defined lol)

And that it is a natural part of life to create structures or patterns and it is natural for us to use, study, or recreate these things.

In my heart I am certain that if math didn’t have to pass the “did a bored man contemplate this question” test we would have so much more.

personal anecdote.

There is a white tenured man prof at the University of Hawaii who both a) routinely teaches the history of mathematics and b) purposefully excludes Native Hawaiians from his material.

I made the mistake of attempting to address this once.

He lectured me and I could do nothing. Maybe it does come down to Federico’s axioms after all.

I know all peoples have done math; how could they not?

Imagine determining some ancient culture didn’t have music b/c you found no pianos.

At the same time I’m not seeking validation? I don’t know that anyone needs AMS to start pretending to value math-adjacent traditional practices?

I just... think of the possibilities if we didn’t think we owned math.

If we didn’t assume that math was ours to define.

What if there were traditional maths you couldn’t have access to unless invited?

What if there were community based maths you couldn’t have access to unless you were welcomed?

Keep in mind, we already have this!!!

But what if it weren’t just for white men and those they were forced to accept?

As always, I’m not here with answers. Just complaints. I want to be able to turn my back on those who gatekeep and I’m trying to understand what that means.

i call this an interlude b/c this is an area i am still confused about and grappling with.

i grappled via google and it didn't help, but i did find one thing i'd like to share.

With apologies for a terrible paraphrase, Spanish colonization violently erased (tried to) traditional Filipino tattoo design/practice and various people are reviving (?) this practice and knowledge.

including the people who run this website: onetribetattoo.com/history/filipi…

The designs are amazing, for example

4.19/ two shots of a shoulder/upp...
but what surprised me was this:

“One Tribe do not tattoo as their primary focus is in the research, study and design of Filipino tattoos”

Are they studying math? Are they not? Does it matter?

Black and Indigenous people have been knowing that what we say doesn’t matter until white people fund white people to study and review it.

I’m not trying to get white approval.

I just think it would be better if Indigenous people were free to explore what math is to and for them, without pressure to assimilate or choose

School math is not the only math.

And it’s okay for us to stick with school math as mathematicians, but as educators I think we really do need to … get over ourselves.

I wish I could talk about / draw from my own community instead, but I’ve never really had one.

(oops! finally missed an endcount that was 4.26/26)
V) End{Interlude} back to AMS and MAA

The two biggest and oldest professional math associations do not answer for perpetuating exclusive notions of who is a mathematician, nor do they answer for perpetuating exclusive notions of what is math.

This makes both AMS and MAA fundamentally racist, forced-assimilationist associations.

Do they want to change?

[pause for audience laughter]

Honestly, I do not think so. I think they would like to get credit for doing good things. That can involve funding Black mathematicians. *Golf claps.*

With all due respect (actually) to the friends I know who were on the AMS Task Force, I suspect that the main purpose of the report is about liability... Maybe not legal liability but some sort of reputation liability.

People don't want to be *seen* as racist.

So, much like Title IX offices or Disability Services, there is a mission to Offer Support (TM).

But the focus is on the institution, or in this case the association.

Title IX offices will look you in the face and say they can’t do anything now but let them know if there’s another victim.

AMS will look you in the face and say we care about you and we’re trying, while continuing to keep all of their dues paying racists comfortable.

I have not interacted as much w MAA but other than being more student oriented, I have no reason to believe they have interrogated their whiteness much more.

Part of writing this talk was me staring at a list of past AMS presidents. I came across John Von Neumann's listing. 1951-1952.

I am one of those non-white non-male mathematicians who dgaf about dead math bros so I only recently learned that JVN worked on the Manhattan project and was responsible for the deaths of many many many people.

Not to mention

5.12/ Dr. Belin Tsinnajinnie @Lob...

5.13/ Dr. Belin Tsinnajinnie @Lob...
Anyway, JVM was AMS pres after that. after. Not before.

Is that part of the story of what it means to value theorems over people? Is that AMS’s legacy?

Reminder again that I do not know history. I just look for things that add to my understanding.

Trying to make sense of Garbage.


(i'm SO SORRY i didn't know it would take LONGER to tweet than to TALK????)

A funny thing happened on my way to calling for a new anti racist math org.

Namely the creation of a new racist math org.

(I will link to @MBarany’s take down at the end)

The tldr of Ass for Math Research is that in the before times, Abigail Thompson (AT) wrote a terrible piece against diversity letters in the AMS Notices (whilst being in various positions of power).

In response there were three letters (not alike in dignity!!):

One in support of diversity and in support of anyone calling AT out for prejudice.

One standing up for AT’s rights to be harmful without facing consequences.

One letter going all in with AT’s anti diversity letter rant.

These letters were analyzed and unshockingly the bad letter(s) signatories skewed tenured and white.

Signatories of the pearl clutching How dare anyone tell students not to go to AT’s school include

Colin Adams, George E. Andrews, James Arthur, Eric M. Friedlander, Susan Friedlander, Robert Ghrist, Rob Kirby, Alex Kontorovich, Sergei Tabachnikov

Some of the signatories on the We Applaud AT letter include:

James Arthur, Susan Friedlander, Eric Friedlander, Alex Kontorovich, Robion Kirby, and Sergei Tabachnikov

(to be clear zero of these people signed the “the math community values a commitment to diversity” letter)

More recently there was an issue in California that I only vaguely was aware of where an open letter was written attempting to make sure K-12 math class only taught “actual math.” AT was a signatory.

Other signatories include:

Eric M. Friedlander, USC; Susan Friedlander, USC, council member AMS; Joel Hass, UC Davis; and Robion C. Kirby, UC Berkeley

The letter they signed accused CA of “politicizing K-12 math” and said “Mathematics is a discipline whose language is universally accessible with good teaching.”

From where did I choose this collection of people who oppose a commitment to diversity?

From the new board of the new math org that just dropped, of course!

6.15/ AMR the Association for Mat...
6.16/ two columns of text.  left ...
And so anyway they would like u to donate to a new math org they’re starting which certainly will not be harmfully politicizing math,

or fretting too much about accessibility,

and goodness knows the diversity and inclusion will only come Naturally as it Should.

It’s amazing how tired of everything I was when I started writing this talk, and how much that has increased since.

Recent things: is it okay for a professor to spout Nazi thoughts and mock anti-racist marginalized mathematicians from an anonymous social media account?

[great news about that today tho!]

Is it okay to criticize a man who likened himself to a wild animal chasing his student through the woods?

In all of these conversations the PREMISE is that I don’t matter. Me personally, most of my friends, most of my followers. We don’t matter. That is the premise.

and we have to have conversations with trolls

and then we have to conversations with hapless allies

and then we get it in our inboxes

every Incident[TM] has fall-out... for SOME of us.



Having read through @MBarany’s thread, maybe I don’t want to start an org? I don’t know. I want a community.

I know I have #MathTwitter but so do they (Kontoronovich has 14.4k followers; Ghrist has 12k followers) and being here isn’t actually safe.

What I am in DESPERATE NEED of, from a Mathematics community is

1) Autonomy
2) Safety
3) Mutually beneficial relationships

What I mean by Autonomy is… I want to be able to decide for myself how I spend my non-teaching related math time.

I want to be able to write math accessibly without risking Status Points

I want to be able to fight with small not-necessarily-open problems (for fun! and growth!) as part of research without having to Prove Myself

I want to be free to mingle with my community without having to *repeatedly justify my humanity*, without having to prove that my feelings are valid and not indicative of a personal flaw or failure

What I mean by Safety is… I don’t want racist mathematicians to have power over my mental health anymore.

At my current institution I am in a racial conflict that will not be resolved in my time here. I am not being penalized or ruled against. But my aggressor is seemingly only going to accumulate more power and credibility.

Nobody in my department has both the ability and the willingness to do anything. And that’s where that story ends.

Meanwhile our professional association is committed to a sloppy performance of inclusion but is still ultimately an all lives matter sort of space.

I want a community where I matter, not as a potential voice to exploit for inclusion credibility, but where I actually matter. Where those who harm me are actually seen as causing harm.

And might I remind you I am an abolitionist and I’m literally never seeking punishment only protection.

I need a space where I matter, and if it’s silly to expect that from a job, then the job needs to stop imposing itself on every aspect of my life's trajectory.

You can’t build and benefit from a system which is anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, anti-land, and anti-ones-own-community and then roll your eyes at me for expecting to have community in the system.

What I mean by Mutually beneficial relationships is that I want to be done with hierarchies.

I want to be in solidarity with students.

One of the best things to happen to me since becoming this persona (hi) is that I am in groups of like... mutual admiration? haha

I love that I can learn from people who can also learn from me. I wasn’t told it could be like this.

I… don’t know how one creates this exactly, but I believe it begins with accepting people’s humanity and goodness knows that is missing from everywhere.

VIII) Epilogue

Thank you for indulging me!! I have no idea if I said anything useful.

I do not know if AMR will allow us to push AMS to re-think itself completely?

(re-think IN THE NOW. i have ZERO interest in incrementalist garbage)

I don’t know if there is any benefit to attempting to be anything more than loosely connected bird app people. (of course, we are missing everyone who is not on twitter!)

I guess I just…. I want to know who is safe. I want to know where is safe. And if I go back to JMM ever, I would love to just find the safe people.

and to just not have to deal with the bad or even the I Don't Mean To Be Bad TM.

i want to spend time with people who put people first

i guess my closing questions are

Anyway, what can we do together and how? How do we organize effectively? How do we stay safe?

THANK YOU!!!!!!!

(Ps okay okay here’s the link

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