I’ve taught in university classrooms, at academic conferences, at institutes, at bootcamps, through creation of resources like the sourcecaster, and tutorials shared via my website. Command line, text analysis, network analysis, image analysis, moving image analysis, web scraping, data curation, and on and on and on. I’ve attained the hard fought technical and conceptual breakthrough many times but more often I’ve found myself lost in the wilds, given to a wandering. As a teacher and a community builder, I would like to make that wandering better, particularly for those that feel unwelcome and unwanted in the places their wandering takes them. Recent developments in the United States and beyond make this all the more urgent. Many are afraid.
I hone my craft in environments that have a high propensity for intimidation, shaming, and fear. “Technical” spaces, both physical and virtual are well documented sites of struggle for marginalized groups. In spite of my work advocating for diversity in my profession I’ve become too comfortable plying familiar routes. I forget history and a bit of myself in the process.
Contrary to common origin stories for folks who like working with computers, I harbored no early interest in them. I didn’t grow up with them all around. My parents were not engineers or academics — proudly, one was an autoworker and the other was a manager of a warehouse. When I started using computers I wasn’t enchanted by them, nor was I particularly good with them. I am terrible at math.
My mother is Caucasian, my father is Mexican-American. I am heterosexual. More often than not I am perceived as White, though this varies based on where I am. White folks as well as latino folks directly question my racial identity in personal and professional contexts, frequently. Each explicit or implicit question bears with it, a special pain. These questions tend to work toward enforcing racial filiation or present a direct critique of the racial privilege that my skin and my way of presenting myself in the world bestow on me. It’s a liminal way to be.
I used to experience this identity like a millstone around my neck, but more and more it feels like a talisman that bestows membership in a community bound by difference, united by an empathic propensity for sharing the strain of alienation experienced by those made to feel out of place, different, and disoriented in their way of being and wandering through this life.
Alterity is often most keenly felt in environments that attempt to denature it. Difference is detached from personal identity, reaffixed to a matter of opinion cleansed of personal influence, projected in a firmament of objective “fact”. Critiques of these communities tend to engender a response from said communities that call for “proof” on the same normative terms of engagement that are being critiqued in the first place. It can be a maddening, dissonant, hurtful process to engage in.
For all the wanderers out there, you are not alone in your struggle to be seen, to be heard, to be valued. I see you. I hear you. I value you — and I will always work to stand with you.