Six black chemists, ten little Indians, and a partridge in a pear tree

Chemical and Engineering News jumped on the nigger history month bandwagon:

As she worked her way through college and graduate school in the 1990s, Sibrina Collins was struck by what was missing in her chemistry education: people who looked like her. A young Black woman, fascinated by inorganic chemistry, and all the faces and names in her textbooks were White.

After getting her PhD, Collins told herself that when she became a professor, she would change that. So, while teaching first-year students at the College of Wooster about bonds, valences, and the myriad other introductory chemistry topics, she peppered in stories of chemists like the ingenious Alice Ball, the fruitful Percy Julian, and the groundbreaking St. Elmo Brady. Chemists who looked like her. Chemists who were rarely mentioned in textbooks.

“My goal was really to broaden the image of a chemist in the classroom for all my students to see,” she tells C&EN. “I really do think that chemists, scientists, we are historians. We just tell the stories through the molecules and systems that we study.”
What C&EN never bothered asking, of course, is "hey are whites really really really overrepresented in chemistry departments? Probably not: their participation in the faculty is pretty closely matched to the proportion of white students. In fact, looking at the University of Alberta Chemistry Department it's whiter today than when I was a student, which means if nothing else the endless push for "diversity" is (thankfully) just empty words. One area I was particularly interested in though was "lab coordinators" and with good reason. When I was there, the lab coordinators weren't very diverse.

Today general chemistry and inorganic chemistry are both run by white men (Dr. Yoram Apelblat & Dr. Jason Cooke). Organic chemistry is run by one asian of indeterminate sex (big surprise) and one photoless person with a white name. Analytical chem is handled by some negro, analytical chem by an Arab. Contast this with how things used to be: the lab coordinators for general and both organic and inorganic chemistry were all Chinese.

I remember this because it was one of those whispered things that everybody saw but nobody was given a forum to say...unless you could put it on the MIDI file your Geocities page opened with. You see, the lab coordinators were all Chinese, and by a totally amazing coincidence all of the grad students who were there to help undergraduates in their chemistry labs were also Chinese.

Was it totally a coincidence, or was there an implicit bias that caused the Chinese lab coordinators to pick Chinese grad students, or was it straight up nepotism. The coincidence theory didn't carry much weight with us then and doesn't today either: the reason every student was keenly aware that the grad students in our chem labs were Chinese was because we couldn't understand a goddamned word out of their mouths. Between the horrible accents, the broken English, and that gasoline smell that all asians' breath inexplicably smells of, trying to understand why your titration wasn't getting the desired results or confirming that you are using the correct reagent was essentially impossible. It was a huge source of frustration to students who had nowhere to turn: after all, every lab coordinator was also asian.

When will C&EN get around to discussing how this system didn't "broaden the image of a chemist" beyond that of the asian chick in glasses who you spend half the semester thinking is talking about "diapers" when she means to say "dipole"? After all, in an English language instruction university getting a lot of white people at least (usually) means you can understand them. Start "diversifying" the faculty and you start taking labs with Asian grad students who can't pronounce "covalent", or math courses with black guys who have difficulty even speaking letters of the alphabet. 

But I'm supposed to be proud of the substandard education he gives me. After all, he doesn't look anything like me but vaguely resembles Sibrina Collins (if she gained 150 pounds).