A Question on Language and the Mathematicians project

I often feel very odd speaking about this project in the negative:

The project is about not white male mathematicians.

Part of me enjoys the bluntness of calling out the issue as starkly as that, and part of me likes honoring that “not white dudes” is how the student who sparked the whole thing put it.

That said, I can also acknowledge that if I want this project to be open and inviting to as many people as possible that perhaps putting it in a positive sense…

The project consists of mathematicians with an oppressed identity.

…might put less people off. 

(Note: I’m stealing that language from Jonathan Osters. He put together a beautiful write up for his students which you can see here.)

I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this. My goal has never been to prevent my students from learning about white-male mathematicians. It’s just that they will learn about white-male mathematicians if they happen to learn about any mathematicians at all. They will likely not learn about any others unless we make the conscious decision to include them.

Please add any thoughts you have in the comments. Thanks!

One thought on “A Question on Language and the Mathematicians project

  1. As a white male mathematician, I’m totally ok with your name for the project! To me it nicely calls out the fact that most mathematicians people hear about *are* white men and we don’t deserve the forefront position.

    The phrase “opressed identity” doesn’t mean anything to me without having to think about it for a while, but “not white male” is very clear. If you wanted to do a middle ground perhaps you could say “this project tells about mathematicians other than white men”. Slightly less negative, but not full-on negative. Maybe?


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