Life as a black mathematician

From Jonathan Farley in the Guardian:

My third story is not that in 2002, after I wrote an article about Confederate remembrance, supporters of the Ku Klux Klan sent me death threats, forcing me to leave my home and my permanent job at Vanderbilt University. Others, such as Barrett Brown in the Guardian and in his book Hot, Fat, and Clouded, have recounted how little support I got from the university authorities during this ordeal.

The last tale is not either that, when I was a professor there, police at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology detained me on suspicion of being a bank robber.

No, my final story is that, in 2009, I was an invited speaker at the Counterterrorism Research Lab (CRL), along with US president Barack Obama’s soon-to-be cybersecurity tsar, Howard Schmidt. At one point, a fellow American brought up the civil war, and said – angrily – that the pro-black-slavery Confederacy had the right to secede. I objected as politely as I could. The man exploded, firing off a chain of expletives in front of the 80-person audience. I was blamed for his outburst, and a job offer that had been previously discussed disappeared (it had happened before, when prospective employers withdrew offers after hearing about the Klan attacks). Along the same lines, a senior officer of the National Academies ceased communication with me when he saw my essay in the Guardian about racism.

Before I was 30, I had solved decades-old problems posed by the world-renowned Richard Stanley at MIT. At 32, the Klan attack sidetracked me. I probably never would have won, but one must be under 40 to win a Fields, and I have not had time to focus on Fields medal-worthy pursuits. Other black people fared likewise.

Via New APPS.

One thought on “Life as a black mathematician

  1. Pro-Confederacy views being expressed at the Counterterrorism Research Lab (CRL)? No surprise there.

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