Dear all, today I ( @carlafmfaria) will take over, talk about myself & what I have learned on the way. I am a professor of physics at @UCL working on #attoscience, was born in the Amazon, & I am as mixed as it gets (ca 10 ethnic groups). Hope you enjoy it. Thread will come slowly
1) For those who don't know me, I am also an undercover Black Prof, lumped under “mixed other”. This has to do with not willing to wipe out mom’s Indigenous ancestry with a pen stroke. HR forms reflect British colonization and but my country was invaded by the Portuguese.
2) Being a pardo (Black person of Afro-European phenotype) is not a big deal in the Amazon, b/c we are 70% of the population (German husband is an attraction at the beach). My paleness puts me on top of the racial hierarchy, which shows you that race is a social construct.
3) However, belonging to a mixed family means that my hair was considered “bad”, and my nose compared to Darth Vader’s. In Brazil, because we (pretos and pardos) are 56% of the population, the colonization strategy was to play one against the other and people fall for it.
4) On the other hand, I had a scientis’s hair (thanks to 18th century wigs!) and Darth was cool – strangeness is a blessing. However, one must say that darker people (the pretos) have a worse fate: many are born in slums, get murdered by police & have no access to education.
4) For that reason, if people use the racial slur "afrobeige" against me I am happy to take it on board, but they should be warned that they are playing into the colonizer's game: divide et impera.
5) I was never bullied at school because of race either. No one ever doubted my intellectual capabilities or that I was good at maths. The reason is simple : how many white people do you see below (with our physics teacher)? As a good friend says, we are all Slash!
6) Circumstances however change: b\\c I am ambitious, I went to study physics in the Southeast, where the best Unis are. My next move was Sao Paulo. There, the ethnic makeover is much more European and the culture patriarchal, so I was suddenly Black. Once more, context matters
7) Overall the experience was positive: top of the class, friends for life, fiancee (now husband), etc. However, there were racial slurs by mediocre people. Luckily I had great friends who picked up fights on my behalf and no impostor syndrome due to my posh backgd. This matters
8) I guess in Europe only white people learn certain things by osmosis, but luckily my childhood had equipped me with the necessary tools & cheekiness to keep on going. Still, you can really see me standing out in my graduation picture -- just look at the hall, I am easy to find.
9) Next step -- marriage and Germany for a PhD in Berlin. This was an amazing experience, because the city was being reunited and the institute was brand new. When things are rebuilt hierarchies are still being established, so that it is easier to occupy spaces. That is me below.
10) The Germans are really aware of their own history. They don't sugar coat anything and have "national shame monuments" as warnings: learn from history or see it repeat itself. Here in the UK we are still discussing whether one should topple monuments or not. 🥱💤
11) We spent a decade there & my European identity is German. Many postdocs followed, working with top scientists in my field. We tried to go back to Brazil for permanent positions. Once I gave a keynote talk about the lack of support for the Brazilian community (looong story).
12) We both settled in the UK, with permanent positions, fellowships, etc. I am quite successful although I work really hard, and was not aware of the dire situation with regard to Black profs. The stats are dire, even if there are a few more than the official number.
13) One colleague told me & then I read it in the news. It made me really sad. For that reason, I have decided to help. Also, I was going through similar things as in here: If you have time, read this report -- it is shocking but it is all true.
14) It came out in the same month as my inaugural lecture, and these things (bullying, etc) were happening to me, albeit in a milder form. Promotion was smooth, but I was navigating all the rest, which was trickling down to my research group. It happens if you are a PI 😢.
15) What is most true is the chapter about the white women. Obviously I don't want to generalise, but there are powerful undercurrents that lead them to attack you, and white liberal feminism is quite limited. Imo it tends to focus on the individual instead of the structural.
16) I have seen this in #EDI committees, and have been bullied and boycotted by people who take one diversity course after the other. If you don't want to change, these things will have no effect. It is a question of privilege and power, which no one wants to give away.
17) Still, I am happy, I do what I like & I am hard to kill. I had a (white) aunt who was a literature professor & once said: if you are blazing your own trail you will *have* to make space; this will be painful. She was a great influence, like all the tiger women who raised me
I will close this with a few take home messages: beware of tokenism & admin jobs, look at the bigger picture, focus on your science, don't worry too much if you don't fit in -- that is life, so what? you are not in this world to please people. Attached a few more details.
19) Also, keep an eye on the bigger picture - we have come a long way. It is important to be optimistic and learn from everything that happens to you. This, however, has nothing to do with complacency. The struggle continues & are all a part of history. Have a great weekend!
You can follow @tigerinstemm.
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