Doing Physics While Black\ish!

25th June 2017
Jessica and dad

So I started watching this new show by Viola Davis called American Koko and the term Angry Black Woman Syndrome (ABWS) has been thrown around and it resonated with me. I am guilty of having a resting *ish face on the regular but not because I'm angry but because it's my thinking face! Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm always laughing, being silly and cracking the stupidest dad jokes you've ever heard!

I always see the good in people and pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve. So why would ABWS resonate so much with me? I was born and raised in a small town in South Texas where there is a predominately Hispanic community. From my name you can guess I have some Mexican flair in me! I'm half Black, half Latina and was raised in a Mexican household, hence the term black\ish. There were some instances in which I felt othered growing up, but for the most part, people in South Texas saw me as just a darker Mexicana!

So any instances of micro-aggressions I faced as a child/teenager I was able to explain away: "They're not following me around the store it's just coincidence or it's cause I'm young and they're wondering where my mom is." It wasn't until I moved up north that these micro-aggressions were happening way more frequently and it was becoming harder and harder for me to ignore or explain away. On top of that I kept telling myself don't get mad, you don't want to be an angry black woman, just take it with grace, don't give them something to talk about.

I've always tried to be the model minority in all aspects of my life; Model Black Mexican Lesbian Female Physicist (that feels like it needs an acronym, MBMLFP). The responsibility of that is very heavy and my mom always tells me, ‘Who died and made you queen of all these communities?!’ Carrying all that weight on top of trying to perform in this field is too much for one to carry.

Being a model minority is ridiculous and suppressing anger for fear of falling into a stereotype is absurd and unhealthy! In this political climate especially I should be allowed to be angry with the mistreatment of ALL of the communities I belong to! I should be able to express my feelings without the fear of someone telling me "WOAH CHILL OUT GURL." It's very aggravating that I feel the need to be a model minority! Because of the intersections of race, gender, class, and sex, I am NOT the queen of all these communities and honestly, people should not look to me to be the diversity barometer for each community separately OR together! I understand the importance of representation in my field and being visible and I strive to do my part in the communities I represent by doing outreach; I love doing it because I get the opportunity to give confidence to young bright minds that see themselves in me, but I always qualify my answers to questions with the fact that these are my experiences and have always recognized the privileges I have that some following or ahead of my path weren't afforded.

I think it's important to recognize that just because I'm "Diverse" does not mean that I know everything there is to know about diversity or that I represent all of the diverse community boxes I can check off. This has been something I've been battling with for a while, giving myself the freedom of messing up when it comes to research (hello I'm not Einstein! I need help sometimes!), of being "messy" with my emotions (yes I do in fact get angry and yes my tear ducts do work), of just being human! It has been really fun writing these blogs for ya'll and if you take away anything from these 4 posts I hope that it's the following:

  1. Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do.
  2. Find mentors and people to ground you and help you through the process of getting your Ph.D.
  3. Set work-life boundaries for your mental sanity.
  4. Be Human! Don't try and carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Ask for help and don't be scared to FEEL!