BikeMonkey PostNo, not what you might be thinking. This is not about any disproportional rate of feeling like an imposter on the part of people who are underrepresented in science. (I'm sure that is a reality, btw.) This is going to be about people who feel like they are impersonating an underrepresented class. To the extent that it bothers them to be fulfilling any sort of role where they are expected to be, overtly, a member of that class. I'll let Namnezia explain:
I mean, yea, I'm a minority and I do science, I have not much to say beyond that. What bothers me about these panels is that they imply that if you are somehow different then this difference permeates your every thought all the time, as if every time you walk into the lab you think "Oh I wonder which minority/gay/female/disabled issues I'll be facing today through my unique set of circumstances". I mean no, I'm thinking more along the lines of "I wonder what science will bring today". Or, "my kids were a pain in the ass this morning". Or "I have to pee". To me, being a minority is pretty much a non-issue during my everyday work.
Yeah, pretty much. For most people who are underrepresented and are in a halfway decent workplace. Just like this is the case for most people who are seemingly underrepresented in their other walks of life- perhaps because of the neighborhood they live in, the town or the state. Their socio-economic status. Perhaps because of where their kids go to school or where their spouse works. Or who their family is...or their spouse's family.
Most folks I know of in such situations just bloody go about the business of their lives.
It isn't like shit gets real 24/7.
But sometimes it does. Sometimes.
The fact that one does not have to be on constant alert at all moments of every day for some sort of negative event that is relevant to one's underrepresented class or status does not mean that one will never experience a negative event. The value as a mentor and role model is not dictated by how much adversity one has suffered*. The value is that one has succeeded. After all, the trainees are not seeking advice on how to suffer so much discrimination that they fail...they are looking to succeed.
The fact that there may be some blessed someones out there who are of underrepresented class or status and will never, ever experience any sort of insult, detriment or other noticeable event because of their class or status does not make those people imposters either. In fact this latter may be highly relevant. After all, if such people exist perhaps others do as well. And they are wondering if they are an imposter and/or what sort of loony world they live in which is discrimination free. So you can mentor them, if you feel this way.
Namnezia's comment was made to a post by GertyZ who was pondering whether she should volunteer to lead a roundtable for GLBT issues at a scientific meeting. The post and commentary circle around the notion that it is possible for many GLBT types to "pass". To operate undetected within a majority culture assumption which one does not seemingly fit. Everyone** passes to some degree or other. Passes for majority class and passes for any of a host of minority classes at other times. Rarely** does anyone inhabit a perfect storm of privilege and rarely does anyone inhabit a perfect storm of the lack thereof.
Given this, who is more authentic? Nobody is. We all just live our lives as they unfold. We gain experiences painful or joyous. We get along and get by. We work, we play, we raise our children.
Diverse as we are, our experiences may help others who come behind us along various pathways. Mentoring is, at the very root, using our experiences to help smooth the path for those followers. There is no obligation that I am aware of for the mentee to fit precisely into the footprints of the mentor for this process to be effective.
*Although people who are motivated to dismiss and overlook subtle discrimination are fond of playing this sort of Oppression Olympics and implying that if you've never been jumped in an alley by epithet shouting skinheads that all is peachy-keen. Very fond.
**Well, not white educated librul elite uppermiddle class heteronormative jockosporto hailfellowellmet white doods in science, but you take my point.