Inclusion and Isolation
October 15, 2017
Inclusion and Isolation
I attended the University of Scranton for undergraduate, a university that is, according to Forbes, 79.4% white. And I felt it. While I only dealt with one incident with an aggressive form of racism, I spent my entire four years dealing with racist comments and microaggressions. These incidents made me feel so lonely because I couldn’t even talk to anyone. Especially with microaggressions, people think you’re just being oversensitive. I had an incident where a professor I didn’t know told me I spoke English well for someone who grew up in a house of immigrants. This hurt. A lot. It wasn’t the first time I had heard this but it was the first time a university professor had said something of this nature to me. But when I tried sharing my story with other people, they thought it was funny and laughed. But I didn’t think it was funny. It made me insecure. It made me feel lonely. Was my English that different from an “American” or native speaker (I am essentially a native speaker) that people always had to comment on it? I’ve always had a fear of public speaking because of these comments. I’m afraid, will people think my English is bad? What if I mis-pronounce a word, will people judge me more harshly?
I am an IMSD (Initiative for Maximizing Student Development) fellow, which is a training grant from the NIH meant to “increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in biomedical research who complete Ph.D. degrees in these fields.” I’m grateful for this opportunity because it gave me a community, a community of other underrepresented individuals who could understand the difficulties we can face as minorities. Something I didn’t have at Scranton. However, not all programs are like this. Committees will have an iniative to increase diversity, hire a minority, and leave them to fend for themselves. They’re given no support and face the spurn of their colleagues that believe they only got the position due to their minority status. They internalize the idea that they’re only successful due to being a minority as well. There’s no help to integrate people together. And any failures they face? It becomes representative of whatever group they are a part of.
I want to be involved in making academia more inclusive and increasing diversity. But how do we do it? As mentioned in Phillips’ piece, there’s been multiple studies that show diversity has helped businesses be more successful. But we can’t simply increase diversity, we need to work on keeping them in the system and improving retention rates. We need to work on building a community that promotes the idea that they belong because they were good enough, not just because of the company wanted some more color in their staff.
I don’t know, I’m rambly and bitter. I want change but don’t know how to go about it and it is frustrating.