Race in Grad School
Would my #PhD journey be different if I wasn’t a POC? Am I hypersensitive to certain things because I am a black graduate student at a PWI? I have contemplated these questions throughout my PhD experience, however, given recent events, including being called Latoya by our grad secretary who has been working w/us for a year and having to school a professor about the invisibility of black phd students, I have reflected on them more recently. I have relived key moments of my PhD journey and compared them to my white peers’. There’s some notable contrast. First, there are differences in opportunity. For ex., almost all of the grad students in my department who study health have had an opportunity to TA a course abroad. When I asked about just attending a course, one professor expressed concerns about my “energy.” The course was changed and was offered to just undergrads. The professor explained this way, in the event I didn’t get selected for the trip, I could not say it was for reasons other than merit. There are differences in treatment, the academic environment feels less inviting. I’ve been called lazy in public and even though this is egregious, my former advisor said what I believe a lot of non-poc academics think. Before one professor would work with me, I had to “prove” I was serious about getting a PhD. Similarly when selecting members for projects, I often felt a sense of hesitation from classmates. There seems to be a skepticism about the quality of work done by the black student, thus I pull my weight and a lot more on group projects. Doing more work, getting the same credit, and less recognition. There’s a difference in self-care recommendations. Mental health is important, but when I’ve expressed difficulties, I’m typically asked first, “Have you been to our black cultural center?” There’s a difference in conflict management, in mentorship, in awards, funding, hiring. There is a difference…For #BlackHistoryMonth, we’re going to explore race in grad school. It’ll get uncomfortable, but as budding scientists I hope we can talk about this honestly and learn from one another so #academia and #science are more inclusive for all.