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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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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To The Generation That Might Not Care, A Green New Deal Is Crucial

Take care of our planet and our future.

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The reality of climate change and method to address the issue has been a source of contention in the United States for far too long. While Republicans trail behind Democrats a great deal in the percentage who believe long-term, irreversible climate change is a real problem, an equally if not more important gap to acknowledge is that between generations.

A universally taught science concept in elementary school is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day condition of the atmosphere — rainy, sunny, etc. Climate is the weather of a particular geographic location over a long period of time. The weather in an area may be snowy on a particular January day but might overall have a warm climate (Trump has yet to learn this concept).

The gap between generational support for not only believing in the reality of climate change but if the government should take steps to prevent further harm on our planet is apparent. A few reasons that older generations may not support aggressive climate change policies are that many are not going to see the lasting impact of their harmful actions, may not want to acknowledge that their way of life for a majority of their life was detrimental to the environment, or that they simply do not think it is the government's role to further regulate current practices and lifestyles in the name of the environment (an argument supported by many conservatives).

Data For Progress

The "Green New Deal," proposed earlier this month by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey is mainly a list of ideas and goals rather than a carefully laid-out plan, though aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions through the creation of millions of jobs in the renewable energy industry, moving toward public ownership (a major source of disagreement among Republicans and Democrats), and much more. This plan is a comprehensive overview of many sources of environmental degradation that our nation has not addressed, despite the majority of the nation believing the climate change is a real issue.

There will undoubtedly be a major shift in the operations of many companies due to aggressive climate change policies, which could have been avoided at a drastic level if our nation had chosen to make climate change prevention a priority. Unfortunately, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperatures will rise to an irreversible level in 12 years if the United States and other countries that greatly contribute to rising temperatures do not take action. A sense of urgency has been lacking for far too long is crucial.

Written into the recently proposed Green New Deal is a section detailing how it will attempt to remedy the inequality of those most directly impacted by climate change. Vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color, are not seeing an equitable distribution in disaster funding to prevent damage inflicted by the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters that have resulted as an increase in rising global temperatures — Which, regardless of your age, should be a glaring flaw in our current system.

I personally doubt that the entirety of the recently proposed Green New Deal will be enacted, however, I believe that anyone who values the quality of human life, clean air, clean water, food sources, for not just those in the United States, but around the world, should be supportive of a Green New Deal.

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