Pratt MFA Communication Design '15 RISD BFA Illustration '13
Living and making in Brooklyn
"that’s not who riots".
I have been black my whole life. So perhaps offer some insight from that perspective, because there are many similar social issues related to access, to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as in the community of women in a white-male dominated society.
When I look at throughout my life, I’ve known I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old, since my first visit to the Hayden planetarium. I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions.
All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist and an astrophysicist was hands-down the path of most resistance through the forces of nature and forces of society. Any time I expressed this interest, teachers would say, “Don’t you want to be an athlete?” I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of the people in power. Fortunately, my depth of interest in the universe was so deep and so fuel and rich that every one of these curveballs I was thrown, and fences built in front of me and hills that I had to climb, I just reaped for more fuel and kept going. Now here I am, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind me and say, “Where are the others who might have been this?” And they’re not there. I wonder what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive and others did not?
Simply because the forces of society prevented at every turn, to the point where I have security guards following me through department stores, presuming that I’m a thief. I’ve walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off, so they came running to me - I walked through the gate the same time a white male walked through the gate - and that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing they would stop me and not him. That was such an exploitation…what a scam that was.
My life experience tells me you don’t find blacks in science, you don’t find women in sciences. I know that these forces are real, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.