This month in Faces of Science Park: Consuela Cambridge. UvA-VU Chemistry graduate, Consuela Cambridge, works at the Faculty of Science as a teacher academic skills and coordinator. In the past year Consuela has committed herself to establish a collaboration of our faculty with the Anton de Kom University of Suriname and the Surinamese Students Abroad (SSA) student association, to aid students from Suriname finding their way to and within our faculty.
Every month, the Faculty Diversity Office (FDO) interviews an employee of the Faculty of Science about something they've read, seen or listened to, that has inspired them on the theme of Diversity. Consuela tells me in an email that personal experiences and interactions with friends and family inspire her the most regarding diversity and inclusivity, but she does have a couple of recommendations up her sleeve.
Everyone who has ever dealt with microaggressions will be grateful for Consuela's first tip. They are a difficult thing to expose or rebute and this video captures it perfectly:
For those who aren't in the know; microaggressions are seemingly innocent remarks that reveal underlying (un)conscious bias. A microaggression can even sound like a compliment but in fact be hurtful, demeaning, and biased. No one is without unconscious bias and the same is probably true for expressing microaggressions.
During the interview I became painfully aware of my own uncomfortable remarks like 'so cool you're a chemistry major' (did I mean for a girl?) and 'do you think everyone has experienced discrimination?' (in this conversation it’s beside the point what others experience).
'The thing is', Consuela explains, 'these microaggressions add up and sometimes a remark can be like the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, and it's nearly impossible to let the other person know that, without them feeling attacked. Before you know it, you're stereotyped or misjudged.' Consuela recalls the recent misdirected media attention on black female politicians, taking the focus away from their message.
Another must-watch is the documentary White is also a color by Sunny Bergman. 'What stayed with me the most was when they put people in a circle, and some were asked to share their daily experiences with racism with the other half of the group. The stories weren't exactly met with understanding or empathy, but with defensiveness. And this is telling; In society we should move from it’s a their-problem to an our-problem. In order to address our experiences safely and work towards betterment, allyship is important.'
Our conversation that followed dove deep into the repercussions of semantics ("minority" is a derogatory term) and the effects of what happened in the past. Most people aren't educated on or aware of black history and it's multigenerational trauma that ties into it, besides white fragility is another thing that doesn't help our problem. Take for instance the naivety about the historical connotations of racist tropes, our history of slavery, human zoos, these things affect people and families for generations, even now. This is best explained by Dr. Joy DeGruy in this video:
Similarly, there are positive and empowering stories that weren't shared either. Until now; a good example of one that was recently told is the biographical movie Hidden Figures. It recollects the vital contributions made by female African American mathematicians at NASA. These make me question how many black role-models have been overshadowed by systemic racism.
Finally, we talk about the interview with writer/actor/comedian/musician Donald Glover. Who released the song This is America in 2018. In the interview Donald Glover is asked if he can explain what's happening in the video (it's filled with symbolism, historical and cultural references) and he refuses politely.
I ask Consuela if she wants to share her thoughts and I know what she's going to say. But she will say this: 'Don't ask us to explain it to you after we already shown you. It's like teaching, you provide students with an introduction to the material and then it's up to them to deepen their knowledge. Educate yourself. Use the internet, it’s bountiful.'
So, if you are looking to educate yourself on black history, Keti Koti is a good occasion to start. This might help: Keti Koti Tafel.