We only get a small glimpse into the intricacies of his world view and life, and this is what he has chosen to share. This is the story he is telling.
Ask yourself why someone in this position would tell this story based on years of lived experience. Do you believe him? Or do you believe keyboard warriors in some of the comments under this article diminishing his perspective with "but what about"-ism and the like?
I am black and studied math in school. The 'leaky pipeline' exists to some extent.
Racist people exist even if you, reading this, are not racist.
Not for the sake of argument or anything - I'm genuinely curious.
Yes, racist people exist. No doubt here. As do exist many other nasties: dishonest salesmen, stupid teachers, dumb police officers, incompetent doctors - you name it. They make the headlines, but I firmly believe there's not that many of them and most of people are fully adequate and reasonable.
From the article it sounds like there's a full faculty of racist bigots who see maintaining white supremacy as their primary goal. He's universally hated just for the color of his skin and there are few to no people who treat him as equal.
Is it really that bad?
I have to admit this is not exactly the answer I was looking for.
0) We never agreed on the definition of "judgment biases", so please do not use the phrase "by definition". Your definition differs from mine.
Are you making this claim or is there evidence that supports it? Would be interested to see a study on that
Technically this has nothing to do with racial and ethnic groups, but as an outcome it correlates.
(Edit: Remembering an other detail. The human study was a olfaction test where participants felt more attracted to the sweat of said relativeness. It add to the (in my view) comical aspect of it all).
It doesn't help that West Lafayette is a very racist place in my experience. I'm white and a native speaker of American English. On my first day of teaching at Purdue I introduced myself to the class and a student asked, "Are you an American? Do you speak English?" At the time West Lafayette had a confusing road system for a small town. Lots of 5-way intersections and one way streets. I was late to a dental appointment and apologized to the dentist's secretary. I explained that I had a hard time figuring out how to get to the place. She responded, "Yeah, the road system here was designed by a drunk Indian." I'm certain living in Indiana exacerbated the situation.
White people office workers Japan are of course not the same as black mathematicians in the U.S., but I don't believe that it's not contributing to the problem if it occurs.
Want to learn math but come from a poor neighborhood? Good luck. You’re probably locked in a school system with bad teachers and few if any math courses beyond calculus.
Even if you’re talented you probably know 0 people that can help you. Now your growth is prematurely stunted.
That kid from a better off family that shows talent in math? Probably get recognized for it from an early age and gets tutors and advanced training. Probably already completed proof based courses in analysis, algebra by the time they completed high school. They get into better schools and have ahead start. Even if they are just as talented as you the poor kid.
I've read and listened to a number of accounts about how peers in poor neighborhoods are the biggest barrier to academic achievement.
Or worse, your peers punish you for your ability. In my personal experience, they can even tell you that you are sexually inadequate and somehow less essentially human. This feedback is all the worse, because it is genuinely believed by the one giving it.
There are cultural contexts where children form groups and help each other and offer moral support. Such social interaction seems to be attached to high performance in just about every human endeavor where skill and knowledge are important. One study found that Asian kids were very good at forming such peer groups to study math, and that African American children were much more prone to studying alone. Asian cultures are noteworthy, in that academic achievement is prized even by the poorer segments of society, though I've also known African Americans who are from families with such a subculture which prizes knowledge and academic achievement.
No. My peers told me I was sexually inadequate and less than essentially human. This was also mixed up with my having been molested be a peer in high school. As a result, I was pretty much unable to have a relationship until my late 20's, and even so it was hard to sustain a relationship long term for many years beyond that. (I'm happily married now, however.)
Insults and gaslighting with regards to one's sexuality are a particularly potent psychological weapon, and from what I've seen both as a direct participant and as an observer, some people from poorer backgrounds will actively punish those who are demonstrating academic excellence, or who are cultivating themselves in some other fashion. Such people are likely just a small percentage of the general populace. However, if one "sticks out" then that small percentage tends to find you more easily.
Living in a bad environment definitely does influence your success. Are there exceptions? Yes, plenty of them. But that doesn’t mean that there is no impact for majority of people.
In my case, this kind of discouragement actually helped me pursue a career in STEM, as it was the perfect excuse to leave my city, but I don't thinks this kind of environment is healthy and nurturing for someone's dreams.
This was my experience, and was challenging. At the time I was more inclined to the arts, but the problem is the same. Who can you talk to about the books you're reading (my particular passion)?
I don't doubt there is some personal bias that is at play too. As a PhD who isn't Black but isn't white or Asian, I face it too, but the personal challenges I face paled in comparison to the structural and purely economic challenges I had to overcome.
It's worse than that. You're probably locked in a broken family with bad parent(s). When your parent(s) don't care about your education because they are uneducated themselves, are poor role models (addicts, etc.), THAT sets you up for the failure fast track.
No amount of money going to schools and teachers can fix that at scale unless you basically make the school a boarding school and replace the parents with mentors and role models at said boarding school.
It's far from heart-breaking to hear the privileged grumble about such successes. In the system as it exists, only the extremely talented from poor, or racist, or rural environments stand a chance.
Is this common?
I used to have quite a lot of acne and it really got to my head. It of course did affect how people treated me, especially girls, because acne is not very attractive however after a while I probably read into things way more than I should. That people who were treating me the way they normally would or just happened to treat me badly because they had a bad day did treat me that way because of my acne.
Being the lone black guy in a research institution in a country like the US with that kind of history must be easy to start falling down that hole. Especially if there also exists people who are prejudiced or racist and expresses that as well.
A case mentioned from the article that gave me this vibe:
> “A couple of them were at a board writing something,” he recalled. “I went over and asked, ‘What are you guys working on?’”
> “We’re too far in to catch you up,” he said he was told.
I know personally, I used to feel very "in tune" to how people perceived me. I read a book on body language when I was younger, and would constantly analyze how people moved ("head tilted, they think this is interesting", "arms crossed, they're defensive"), etc. It went further than that - analyzing language etc.
But, there were some cases were I was certain someone was being an asshole to me - but I learned I was wrong. Now I'm much more restrictive in how I pass judgement on someone.
I hope others give me that benefit, because I constantly find myself thinking of how something I said in conversation could be misunderstood, etc. Communication is hard.
When schizophrenia starts, it is common to assume that people's actions are in some way plotting against you. A person does something for a reason unrelated to you (example: bumps you accidentally), and you assume it was intentional.
I recall that there is even an increased chance of illness for math experts. Famously, it hit John Nash.
So his interpretation of other people's actions may be a sign that he is not well.
This thread is full of skeptical comments claiming certainty that not only is there good reason there aren't many black mathematicians, but also that this particular mathematician probably got his position through tokenism. Those comments are worth the kind of snark you mustered. This one wasn't.
I don't think acne is a very good facsimile of racism, and the comment you're replying to didn't say that it was either, so you're doubly out of line here, by hammering on an argument they didn't even make.
There are probably a lot of ways in which the commenter's experience doesn't come close to fully capturing what it's like for a person of color to fight one's way through the ranks of a profession that is overwhelmingly "white". It'd be useful to hear some of those ways! That would have been a productive response.
It does not matter if it is a big thing like racism or something small like how you look. It is also pretty disingenuous to immediately go to accusing me of saying that my experiences is as bad as racism, I never claimed that. Racism as a concept is big and it is obviously something that affects people deeply but it does not have a monopoly when it comes to suffering either.
One young white middle class boy in my school was bullied so badly that one night he hung himself from a soccer goal. I did not know him or the people who bullied him but I suspect that the things he was bullied for was not worse than racism as a whole but I also suspect what he experienced is far worse than any hurt any racism this mathematician has experienced.
I brought in a woman to work on a project once, and it was awful.
Despite her doing objectively better work than what was available before, my partners decided everything she did needed criticism. Never anything substantial, just pretend criticism meant to look like they knew what they were talking about. And one of them wanted veto on all the work, despite knowing very little about it.
They questioned whether she'd have been on the project if she didn't know me, which is pretty out there given she did this for a living for some very well known firms.
Then they called her something offensive in front of her, and when I called them out on it, they pretended it was a joke intended to make her feel like part of the team.
Can you ever conclude what people's true motivations are? Not really. Could someone genuinely have felt that some person's work was substandard, they didn't get the job legitimately, and could they screw up some office banter? Sure.
It took me a long time to think this through, but in the end it misogyny seemed to be the only answer. We'd worked with plenty of incompetents before without saying much, and hired plenty of people (all guys) through the friends network. We'd never had anyone get bullied like that in the office, though.
Story got a whole lot worse later, but that's for another time.
What I remember is that I would always be scolded by my teachers for not doing well. A few of my friends, however, who were black would never be scolded for not doing well at school.
The point I'm trying to get across is that racism can be quite subtle and baked into things we don't even realize, like the expectations we have of other people. I'm not sure how well I would've done in life if people implicitly expected me to fail.
> Runners (3%). Bikers (6%). Furries (2%). Wall Street senior management (2%). Occupy Wall Street protesters (unknown but low, one source says 1.6% but likely an underestimate). BDSM (unknown but low) Tea Party members (1%). American Buddhists (~2%). Bird watchers (4%). Environmentalists (various but universally low). Wikipedia contributors (unknown but low). Atheists (2%). Vegetarian activists (maybe 1-5%). Yoga enthusiasts (unknown but low). College baseball players (5%). Swimmers (2%). Fanfiction readers (2%). Unitarian Universalists (1%).
> Can you see what all of these groups have in common?
> No. No you can’t. If there’s some hidden factor uniting Wall Street senior management and furries, it is way beyond any of our pay grades.
> But what I noticed when I looked up those numbers was that in every case, the people involved have come up with a pat explanation that sounds perfectly plausible right up until you compare it to any other group, at which point it bursts into flame
Excerpt from Black People Less Likely: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/02/11/black-people-less-like...
there are quite a few that don't really match...
The result tends to be flamewar. Flamewars are equal parts dumb and predictable. Also, we're trying for this place not to turn into scorched earth.
The second recapitulates a common racial stereotype about native Americans.
Hope that helped!
The first side is an easy case of racism in most cases, the second side seem more nuanced. In the GP case apparently the person thought of himself as a black token, that is for sure a bad situation... but I cannot wrap my head around "how" it is a bad situation and its implications.
What I pointed out is that not all racism is the same; all of it is bad and all of it should stop, we agree on that, but as most human endeavour it is complex with complex motivation. If you and I want to stop it we should better think about how every situation can be different and how different type of racism require different solutions.
In my case above assuming incompetence and hiring minorities just to have better statistics are very different form of racism led by often different people, often with different motivation. If OP clarifies more I will trust that, but the wording itself was quite ambiguous to me
(also I have the impression some comments have moved around...)
I meant to reply to a comment that only provided as an information that somebody believed to be a token black hire. To this my point was that multiple non trivial interpretation were possible.
Now I realize I commented directly on the article so that I was in practice casting doubt on the content. This was a mistake, to be clear I trust the Edray Goins version of his own story.
A bit late to reply, but I feel it is an important distinction.
What does including Indian add here? If the (alleged) drunk was white would the person have said, "drunk white guy"?
Yes the road system is really fucked up. It's so bad that I can't give a real explanation for it so I jokingly say a drunk Indian had to have done it because that's the only thing that can make sense.
As a nonwhite who actually has been racially bashed and who has seen people overcome bigotry through their basic humanity, I always want to warn everyone that the problem isn't people from a particular place, people of a particular ethnicity, or people grouped by any surface characteristic, chosen, indelible or in between. The problem is groupthink, and the dark emotions that can come about because of it.
The moment you start imputing thoughts, feelings, and emotions to people with scant evidence, you have taken a misstep. (1) You have succumbed to groupthink. If you would fight bigotry, it first behooves you to actively eliminate your own bigotry. It's then your duty not to fall into the very patterns you're supposed to fight.
(1) -- Also, if you start condemning people because you imagine you know what they are thinking and feeling, and you believe they are lying to you, then you set up a situation where no one can prove their innocence, and no one trusts anyone else anymore. We have historical accounts of such times and places. Often, such epistemological catastrophes accompany inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian violence and atrocities.
We have a significant segment of the population that has been historically oppressed and suppressed. After desegregation whites fled the cities. Go look at the population of the top 50 cities in the U.S. in 1960 and compare with their populations in 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000. That white flight had a very bad effect on the school systems in those cities since school funding is largely a product of the tax base. So while from a legal standpoint there is equality (and this is generous given how bail, policing, etc. are done in the U.S.) there is indeed a state of inequality. Western civilization is not in a state of crisis because of attempts to remedy this state of affairs.
I submit the real question is when will people understand the social context in which a significant segment of the population exists and seek ways to remedy the problems. Be part of the solution.
This is not at all what the article is saying. The article argues the low percentage is partially due to a "leaky pipeline" where black students don't have access to the same educational resources, and partially due to an unwelcoming atmosphere. The "So what?", if there is one given, is that we should address those issues, and the only example they give of how to do this is voluntarily setting up and participating in organizations for minorities. Implying the article as asking for lowered standards for black people is a mischaracterization.
I wouldn't even look at the article as an argument for any particular educational policy though. To me it seems like the article is light on the "So?", because its main aim is just to convey what's in the title: "What It's Like to Be a Black Mathematician". If the content of the article just boils down to "it's kinda shitty", it would still be worthwhile and convey valuable information we should care about, even if the implications are left to the reader.
If X% of people are Black, I would expect given no structural impediments that roughly X% of Mathematicians would also be Black.
The how to get there in the quickest and fairest way is a political question.
Instead of stealing someone's thunder by putting them on easy mode, give them the opportunity to kill it.
If 10% of Singaporean men are gay would you expect 10% of male plumbers in Singapore to be gay?
If women are 30% of the workforce in Canada, would you expect Canadian dental assistants to be 70% male?
Disparate outcomes doesn't imply unfair treatment.
I don't expect demographic parity in anything.
> And how does that relate to “blank slate-ism”?
You only expect demographic parity in everything if you think genetics doesn't play a role in what type of careers people choose.
> You seem to be implying that there is some inherent characteristic of black people that prevents them from attaining equal representation in math academia.
Well, for one, it looks like Black students choose Math as a major significantly less often than Asian students do. Blacks having some genetic predisposition to prefer other subjects seems like a pretty decent hypothesis.
I conceded something about the point you made --- that disparate outcomes are not dispositive of structural unfairness --- and you responded to that concession by trying to caricature me. In this exchange, you have not come across as someone trying to discuss a complicated issue in good faith. Try again.
Structural impediments aren't inherently unfair - for example, if gay men simply prefer not to be a plumber for some unknown reason, that is enough to say that there is a structural impediment for gay Singoporean plumbers, and there doesn't have to be anything unfair about that.
On the other hand, sometimes structural impediments are immoral and should be rectified. If a whole bunch of gay singoporean men wanted to be plumbers, but weren't allowed to enter the profession as a result of laws against their sexual orientation, that would be an unfair treatment and action should be taken to fix the unfair treatment.
With this in mind, we KNOW that minority populations have been very negatively affected for MANY generations from legal discrimination, which directly caused poverty. It is also widely accepted that family wealth is strongly correlated with success academically, and it is widely accepted that success academically is strongly correlated with socio-economic mobility.
Thus, the basis for affirmative action is that there is a moral burden to rectify structural impediments that are a legacy of legal racism, and that helping oppressed minorities get an education in spite of their circumstances helps propagate the socio-economic mobility that education enables.
You can disagree with many parts of this chain of logic. Perhaps higher education doesn't really help socio-economic mobility. Perhaps the moral burden should not be on universities to rectify past mistreatments. Perhaps you believe there is no moral burden to take action to rectify the legacy of last generations' (and all previous generations') racism & sexism. Maybe you even believe that the absurd underrepresentation of minorities and women in certain fields that were historically limited to white men is not at all tied to said historical oppression but simply due to preference or other factors considered acceptable.
However, examining underrepresentation is not baseless or unscientific, whether or not you agree with the conclusions.
I can't imagine a good reason why young gay singoporeans wouldn't dream of being plumbers any more than the next kid.
There are impediments that should not be addressed by public policy - for example , if young gay singoporeans are less likely to become plumbers because gay culture looks poorly upon plumbers, that's unfortunate but shouldn't be a matter of public policy.
What makes you assume that? Do you feel the same about the NBA?
If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email email@example.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.
Wow, you sure took that to a great place. Can't imagine why you'd have a hard time having this kind of conversation with people.
>Conservatives and Liberals should openly talk about these issues for the common good
What's difficult to process here is that you lay out a cogent argument--or at least a coherent rationale--for why you oppose affirmative action. Essentially, you believe no race is superior to others. That's great.
But, of course, people can plainly see that you are excluding the actual reason that affirmative action exists--having nothing to do with the inherent features of any race, and everything to do with historical racial inequities. And, it is very difficult to believe that you are unaware of these inequities (or their bases for affirmative action, for that matter).
Now, you can make the argument that you don't believe affirmative action is the appropriate remedy for past racial injustices. But, that's not the argument you're making. Instead, you ignore this salient factor and instead posit some saccharine, red-herring rationale for eliminating it. And, this must be purposeful. I mean, surely you don't earnestly believe that affirmative action is intended to mitigate inherent racial inferiorities (or do you?).
So, given this, it appears that you are not earnestly interested in "talking about these issues for the common good", to say the least.
Of course, I don't. That's not what I've been saying at all!
No matter what it appears to your point of view.
The common good is optimized when the best people, regardless of their skin color, occupy the positions they deserve in all fields of professional activity.
The common good is also optimized by openly and fairly having these discussions, in a way that pushes people to see each other's point of view, hence pushing all sides towards the middle.
It is a way to prevent the election of extremists in high positions of power who then polarize us even further apart.
Right. So, the point is that if you know the purpose of affirmative action is not to mitigate racial inferiorities, yet you make the argument that affirmative action isn't needed because there aren't racial inferiorities, then your argument is obviously disingenuous.
That is, there's something else motivating your distate for affirmative action; something you'd clearly prefer to conceal. But, the rest of your comment offers a clue.
In any case, if you find people unwilling to engage in a discussion with you "for the common good", it's because they see through your transparent attempts at misdirection.
For Edray Goins it is a relatively low number, that's why I used the word "mediocre."
Good question. It's a very hard problem, and requires a lot of thought and self-reflection to even begin to solve. Simple university admission policies will not solve such a broad social issue, as you've noted.
> original meritocratic competitive default mode
Can you explain this? When/where did this meritocratic system exist?
Literally an old boys network where people had to go to the right schools. The civil service is currently working hard to correct years of racist (and sexist, and ableist) hiring practices.
"The study, commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood and the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, found that ethnic minority staff got lower marks in performance reviews, do not always have equal access to promotion, and don’t feel they work for an organisation that is “open, fair and inclusive”. Even black and Asian officials who make it to the senior ranks felt it was largely because “their face did fit” the mould in other ways – like attending Oxbridge or having middle-class parents."
Limited? Weren't universities merely the place were nobility and rich heirs went to study to get back and lead their inherited empires?
Why can't "American" be the right cultural background, or better yet for math nerd kids, "mathematicians who are also musicians" (common), or "mathematicians who like drawing pictures" / "hate drawing pictures" (most depts have both)?
Instead we choose always to emphasise fault lines, and they are proliferating. How many years until it's important to hire enough openly gay (or muslim, or trans, or atheist!) mathematicians, for exactly the same reasoning? The kids likely to become mathematicians may be the people on the planet least interested in these divisions, but they are really really interested in symbols on paper.
Because America consists of multiple strongly-cohesive subcultures that aren't as simple as "American", but go much deeper than hobbies. Of course there are no hard lines, but if we're being reasonable, we can see this to be generally true. It's human nature to compare yourself to those who are strongly similar to you, especially when those similarities take the form of life challenges having been faced.
> Instead we choose always to emphasise fault lines, and they are proliferating. How many years until it's important to hire enough openly gay (or muslim, or trans, or atheist!) mathematicians, for exactly the same reasoning?
Presumably this kind of "emphasis" will settle once things have balanced out - i.e., once diversity in a given field roughly matches diversity in the general population. In the meantime we skew our meritocracy a bit, but it should be a temporary situation.
I'm not suggesting we can eliminate all other subcultures at the stoke of a pen. But do think they can grow or die in strength as a result of our actions.
I have more sympathy for the seeing-someone-like-yourself argument when talking about aspiring pop stars (or politicians) who need to imagine themselves being on TV. But I'm dubious for mathematicians, most of whom apply to grad school because they still like solving problems, not because they imagine themselves in a job.
Are you suggesting it's desirable for them to die off? America is built on its diversity of subcultures. Just because there's some tension between them right now doesn't mean they're bad. These are growing pains.
> I have more sympathy for the seeing-someone-like-yourself argument when talking about aspiring pop stars (or politicians) who need to imagine themselves being on TV. But I'm dubious for mathematicians, most of whom apply to grad school because they still like solving problems, not because they imagine themselves in a job.
Based on what I've heard from friends in academia, it has more in common with being an aspiring pop star than many would like to think
And, I'd support policies to actively discourage aspiring pop stars, of all flavors! But I do mean particularly mathematics here, who are several sigma off the middle of academia.
There's more of an emphasis in Math (and Science?) in Asia. When I was in India, I was a part of a group scavenger hunt and all the girls decided they would work together to solve calculus problems. That blew my mind. In USA, people are able to brush aside math by saying it's hard or math isn't for girls, etc.
I don’t know a good solution to this, but I think it’s something that needs to not be forgotten when discussing “meritocracies”.
Maybe when all race and gender fall under a single label such as human, in all forms of life. But then, that's meritocracy as we know it.
Things need to be fixed systematically, including education from the pre-school level on. Every kid is a potential scientist, it's the ones we nurture that make it there.
The point of the article, if you think about it, is this is exactly what is happening currently and needs to be stopped / reversed.
Doubly when the purpose of the comment is generic ideological battle. That
is unwelcome here, as it is predictable, tedious, and interesting only to zealots.
I would argue that the more apt description is: This is the unintended consequence of hiring and promoting based on aptitude instead of current qualification.
In other words, when you see a 'less-qualified' individual who 'made it due to affirmative action', it may be constructive to remember that they are probably just as 'talented' as their peers, albeit not as 'qualified.
They haven't had the time/resources to capitalize on their god-given talent due to various socio-economic pressures.
In a way, affirmative action is rewarding merit -- it's just a different definition of merit that looks at how much you've excelled in your field in the context of the difficulties you faced along the way.
This a good way to put it, but under this light an income-based affirmative action would maybe make more sense. Even better if based on both the income of you family and the Gini coefficient of you district/city/area.
(I am not an expert on affirmative action, I never heard of this but I don't know if it is already in place)
So, if there is a prestigious position available, we would rather award it to someone who is slightly less capable but had to work much harder to get where he/she is.
This value structure arguably hurts productivity, but it's not inferior in an absolute sense. It all depends on what we value.
It is not about hard work but how exam and unidimensional numbers are a poor way to grade humans when you consider a variety of backgrounds.
The above commenter saw a place where from above there were incentives to hire minorities, it is not impossible to believe that at some point an administrator claimed "we need a diversity hire in the next 6 month" and they hired the only matching one.
Also the bigotry of low expectation is a real thing, where some people treat minorities as essentially stupid by default and then get magically surprised when they are normally competent.
I don't know if I agree with the commenter above, but the incentives of affirmative action and diversity hire are sometimes problematic.
(just for clarity, my personal opinion is to assume that everyone that got a job deserved it. Even if it is obviously false sometimes it is the most stable one, we should keep our culture in a place where that is a reasonable assumption)
The problem with your earlier comment is that it was unsubstantive. Grand claims in unsubstantive comments on inflammatory topics are particularly problematic.
> "How are stories ranked?"
> "The basic algorithm divides points by a power of the time since a story was submitted. Comments in threads are ranked the same way."
> "Other factors affecting rank include user flags, anti-abuse software, software which demotes overheated discussions, and moderator intervention."
From what I've seen, having so many more comments than points is one of the triggers for the "overheated discussions". Probably not the only factor, but probably a significant one.
I know how obvious it seems that the bias is against you, but that's mostly because you (i.e. any of us) are 1000x more likely to notice the cases that feel bad to you.
Edit: To my brigader bot, I am responding directly to a moderator. I want him to read this comment. Flagging it immediately after I post is actually helpful. Downvoting it only helps to prove my point.
If you think we made a mistake in the thread, it'd be more helpful to post (or email us) a link and point out the specific mistake. Rote denunciations don't help us correct anything, and general accusations like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19195885 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19194629 don't add information, because you're simply not working with an accurate picture of what we do. I understand how that happens, but there isn't much in it I can learn from.
I'm not sure what you mean by detaching the thread.
Looking at the folks in my office, many of us are not native speakers of English. The guy sitting next to me is a native speaker, but he's black. The guy next to him is a white native speaker, but he's disabled and has to work from home most of the time. Another guy "ticks all the marks", but he's extremely shy. And so on and so forth.
Look at yourself, at your parents carefully and you'll realize you are a minority in one way or another.
. “I have been the only one in most of the universities I’ve been to — the only student or faculty in the mathematics department.”
“To say that I feel isolated,”
I have always been different looking than other people around me and never identified myself through my race but through my interests and undertakings in life. I find it sad that even people with PhDs think all people of the same race are the same and feel isolated when they re not around same race people while for me being a mathematician surrounded by mathematicians should be the only thing that matters.