The Curious Conundrum of the Code-Switching Tokenized Teacher


Note: I’m changing it up a little bit, and writing about some non-sciencey stuff: race and tokenism in America. I was inspired by a marvelous piece I read recently about astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. It made me think about my own experiences as a minority in science and engineering, the obligation I feel to my culture and the internal conflicts it can engender, and how I’ve learned to switch seamlessly in and out of those worlds. So without further intro, the essay is below. -L



A student raises her hand in a political science lecture, and confidently proclaims: “If people are to be treated equally under the law, then policies that single out minorities for special advantages are not only unfair and unnecessary, but are unconstitutional. President Obama is evidence that class is what determines your success in America, not race.”

People of color who have attended elite academic institutions might be able to identify with the following, oft reflexed, 3-step stream of consciousness:

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Here’s some excellent archival research by NPR’s Code Switch team (with help from NPR librarian Katie Daugert) on blacks passing as East Indian or using “exotica” to navigate the Jim Crow South. This perspective complicates the conversations trending on the Internet about cultural appropriation. 

"I was Jim Crowed here, Jim Crowed there, Jim Crowed all over the place. And I didn’t like being Jim Crowed." —- Jesse Routté, who pulled off what historian Paul Kramer calls the “turban trick.”

At the time, ideas of race in America were quite literally black and white. But a few meters of cloth changed the way some people of color were treated.

Well this is very interesting.