走向全面包容的数学专业

The AMS recently published a report on the historical role of the society in racism and exclusion in mathematics. The task force responsible for this report was chaired by Kasso Okoudjou and Francis Su, and the other members were Tasha Inniss, Jim Lewis, Irina Mitrea, Dylan Thurston, and myself, and started this work on July 2020. The description of this work and the full report are availablehere. 在这篇短文中,我想引起大家对这份报告的关注,同时也为我分享一些最大的收获。

The goals of the task force were many: to give a good “lay of the land” regarding the state of racism in our profession; to investigate the role of the AMS in tackling this issue, which necessitated also looking into the history of the society; and to give recommendations for action. So the work was mostly comprised of weekly one-hour meetings, interviews and surveys with mathematicians, reading historical documents (like council minutes and older reports) and of course, writing. The turn-around was six months, and we submitted a draft to the AMS council in January (at the time of the JMM). Our main findings and recommendations are briefly described in the one-pageexecutive summary,fleshed out a little more in Chapter 1, and then described in detail for the rest of the 76 page document. The preface was a little different, but I think did a beautiful job of setting up the tone of the report — it was an account of the story of William Claytor and his poor treatment and exclusion from the mathematics profession. (Another such account is mentioned in a上一个职位!)

I’m not sure I can write about it in much more detail without ending up repeating things that are in the document — so I guess, go read it! Instead, I want to share a few thoughts about this process with you.

First of all, the experience itself was much more emotional than I thought it was going to be (and I thought it was going to be plenty emotional from the offset). I have grown to really love and respect the other members of the task force (some of whom I already loved and respected), and I am so grateful to have spent so much time in the company of these brilliant and kind people. We brought different strengths, experiences, and perspectives to the table, and I can’t remember much disagreement (except for the one topic that shall not be named, and there the disagreement was more about whether we could mention “that one thing” in the report and how much).

It was also emotional because we were interviewing dozens of mathematicians, many of whom recounted some hard and painful experiences caused by their profession and professional society. It was hard to even ask, because the process itself felt extractive — “give us your stories, and we hope someone out there develops some more empathy because of it”. I can only hope that the community and the AMS react how we hope — that these stories will give human context and a face to something we all know is an issue in mathematics, that this community will understand that there is a moral imperative to change.

最后,当然还有抵抗。我很清楚,我们这个行业的很多人都不相信种族主义是数学家必须面对的问题,有些人甚至说数学中没有种族主义(我想,谢谢你,推特)。我惊讶地看到一些数学家的反应(主要是在我们的调查中)说处理这个问题对数学有害。有人说,如果AMS更关心人类,那么我们将更少重视研究。有人说“我们基本上会成为马亚”(真的,有人这么说)。这种错误的二分法一直存在,但它让人感觉更加冷酷无情,因为有人直截了当地说“你在伤害我,这让我的数学更糟”。对一些人来说,读了报告后的结论是“好吧,克莱托受到的待遇很差,但黑人数学家不多的真正原因是白人在数学方面更出色”,同时,他们也称自己不是种族主义者。不管怎样。谢谢你,推特。

第二件真正打动我的事是我们发现了1996年的报告,这是一份由一个与我们非常相似的工作组编写的报告,其目的是处理数学中的种族主义问题。我们读了报告,他们在报告中提出的许多建议与我们正在撰写的建议相似。踢球者:自1996年以来几乎没有什么变化。对我来说,那是一拳。我突然在电影结尾的“20年后”闪影中看到了自己,在这部电影中,另一个特别工作组成立了,我猜是在太空,他们负责详细描述AMS的种族主义历史,我们的报告浮出水面,人们问“这到底发生了什么?为什么什么都没变。当我们发现这份旧报告时,我们都感到震惊,有点沮丧。

但这实际上提供了一个机会——有机会对AMS、成员、领导层和数学家说,更广泛地说,一个工作组和一份文件本身什么也做不了。如果没有责任感,没有改变事物的承诺,世界将保持现状,在很大程度上。

我真的希望,20年后,人们回顾这份文件,会说这是一件好事的开始。

A report on its own will not change the state of equity and inclusion in mathematics, but we’re beginning to dig into the problem.

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