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 So the work was mostly comprised of weekly one-hour meetings, interviews and surveys with mathematicians, reading historical documents (like council minutes and older reports) and of course, writing.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.





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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