No, I Am Not Lost

No, I Am Not Lost

A Black woman’s experience in the Stanford Computer Science Major
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As a Black female CS major at Stanford, I hate walking around the halls of the Gates Computer Science Building.

It’s not because the Gates interior reminds me of 1970 even though it was built in the 1990s. It’s not because of the memories I have of CS107's Heap Allocator turning me into a nocturnal Gates inhabitant. It’s because inevitably, whenever I walk into Gates, I always get hit with the four words every non-tech minority thinks whenever they see an unfamiliar minority in a tech space:

“Hey, are you lost?”

I turn around. Today the culprit is an amicable looking Indian girl I’ve seen from class. Yesterday it was a very concerned white guy. “No, I am not lost.” I know exactly where I am going — to office hours.

Note to self, new start-up idea: sell t-shirts for black folk in tech with the words “No, I am not lost” in bold on the front.

But seriously, sometimes I make it a game for myself: count how many purposeful steps I can take towards my Gates destination before someone questions why I am there.

Elsewhere on campus, the feeling of tech exclusion pronounces itself in less overt but more disturbing ways. Stereotype threat and feelings of isolation are huge obstacles many students of color face in my major. There is still a palpable feeling in computer science here that minorities are inferior, and therefore finding lab and study partners in homogenous computer science classes proves difficult. To deflect against the constant micro-aggressions, my fellow Black female computer science friends and I have learned to align our class schedules so that we always have a lab partner or someone to study with, especially in the CS major's core courses.

These issues are further exacerbated by classes which do not yet understand that tech has a diversity problem. It is no secret that CS107, the introductory “weed out” class of the Stanford computer science major, hemorrhages out computer science hopefuls with abandon. Too often, however, this means that by week six in the ten week quarter system, the class enrollment makeup drops dramatically from being optimistically diverse to being exclusively male, white and Asian.

Being a woman of color who has graduated CS107 is almost like being a unicorn, and that’s pretty f'd up.

Stanford University Computer Science Major Demographics

credit: Jorge Cueto

All that said, I do enjoy being a computer scientist at Stanford. I love learning how to become self-sufficient when it comes to building out my ideas into actual products and apps. In addition, the race and gender demographic for computer science majors here appears to be slightly more balanced compared to peer institutions. And the Stanford name comes with a ridiculous amount of power. It is a luxury to be able to drop it in conversations whenever I need to immediately be taken seriously. It is my hope that, with some of the projects I am working on this summer, I can put that power to good use by creating more spaces for minorities in technology to thrive and feel welcome.

In the mean time though, if you see me in Gates, ask me about the newest javascript framework I'm building an app in or about what I'm teaching my students this week in my CS106a section.

Just don't ask me if I'm lost.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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Sorry Not Sorry, My Parents Paid For My Coachella Trip

No haters are going to bring me down.
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With Coachella officially over, lives can go back to normal and we can all relive Beyonce’s performance online for years to come. Or, if you were like me and actually there, you can replay the experience in your mind for the rest of your life, holding dear to the memories of an epic weekend and a cultural experience like no other on the planet.

And I want to be clear about the Beyonce show: it really was that good.

But with any big event beloved by many, there will always be the haters on the other side. The #nochella’s, the haters of all things ‘Chella fashion. And let me just say this, the flower headbands aren’t cultural appropriation, they’re simply items of clothing used to express the stylistic tendency of a fashion-forward event.

Because yes, the music, and sure, the art, but so much of what Coachella is, really, is about the fashion and what you and your friends are wearing. It's supposed to be fun, not political! Anyway, back to the main point of this.

One of the biggest things people love to hate on about Coachella is the fact that many of the attendees have their tickets bought for them by their parents.

Sorry? It’s not my fault that my parents have enough money to buy their daughter and her friends the gift of going to one of the most amazing melting pots of all things weird and beautiful. It’s not my fault about your life, and it’s none of your business about mine.

All my life, I’ve dealt with people commenting on me, mostly liking, but there are always a few that seem upset about the way I live my life.

One time, I was riding my dolphin out in Turks and Cacaos, (“riding” is the act of holding onto their fin as they swim and you sort of glide next to them. It’s a beautiful, transformative experience between human and animal and I really think, when I looked in my dolphin’s eye, that we made a connection that will last forever) and someone I knew threw shade my way for getting to do it.

Don’t make me be the bad guy.

I felt shame for years after my 16th birthday, where my parents got me an Escalade. People at school made fun of me (especially after I drove into a ditch...oops!) and said I didn’t deserve the things I got in life.

I can think of a lot of people who probably don't deserve the things in life that they get, but you don't hear me hating on them (that's why we vote, people). Well, I’m sick of being made to feel guilty about the luxuries I’m given, because they’ve made me who I am, and I love me.

I’m a good person.

I’m not going to let the Coachella haters bring me down anymore. Did my parents buy my ticket and VIP housing? Yes. Am I sorry about that? Absolutely not.

Sorry, not sorry!

Cover Image Credit: Kaycie Allen

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America's Addiction With Opioids Is An Epidemic We Can End

How opioid addiction has ravaged our nation and what you can do to make a difference.
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"Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids." - National Institute of Drug Abuse

I come from a city where almost everyone knows everyone else through just a few degrees of separation. This means we know each other's lives, who gets married, who stays a townie, who gets a good job in the city and unfortunately, who ends up a dope addict.

I used to share very unique experiences with people talking about the various ways addiction has impacted our lives and relationships, but it seems today this point of relation is all too common. It has come to the point where I don't assume that other people may not understand as much about addicts as I do, instead assuming they likely know it all too well.

Now believe me when I tell you I believe people should be held accountable for their actions, and yes using drugs is absolutely a choice, but that doesn't mean the burden lies solely on the addicts. It should be no secret that pharmaceutical companies have pumped dangerous and addictive pills into our healthcare system as a one fits all approach to pain, and lawmakers have stood idly by and let them.

"Pharmaceutical companies spend far more than any other industry to influence politicians. Drugmakers have poured close to $2.5B into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade." - The Guardian

Pretty gross, huh? If you feel as passionately about this topic as me and many other please take action. Write a letter to your government officials to demand affordable access to treatment options. Demand they stop accepting money and bribes from Big Pharma. We have the capability to be the change we want to see in the world.

Head to the house.gov website to find your representative. Or commoncause.org for a list of all the elected officials who represent you.

I don't care what side of the aisle you sit on, look into your representatives and see where their loyalties lie. 2018 can give Americans the opportunity to create change in our government and I don't just mean by voting in Dems. Let's instead vote in a younger generation whose values reflect our own and get rid of these old men who are easily swayed by money.

To anyone struggling with addiction that is reading this, I want you to know:

You are loved. You are valued. Popping pills is not cool. Opioid addiction is an epidemic. These drugs take away innocent lives. Don't let it be yours.

If you or someone you know has trouble with a life threatening addiction, please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and discover what options for treatment are available.

Cover Image Credit: Joshua Earle

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