Real talk? The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton and I consider ourselves to be pretty smart people—but scientifically minded, we are not. So when we received a pitch to review and speak with cosmologist Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein on her first book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, we were both intrigued and intimidated.
You see, not only is Prescod-Weinstein both an assistant professor of physics and Astronomy and a core faculty member in women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire, but she is one of very few Black women to reach that level in the field. Despite science’s reputation for breaking boundaries and expanding our understanding of the universe, as she illustrates alongside quantum physics in The Disordered Cosmos, the field remains largely male, white, and heteronormative due to the same biases and marginalization and barriers to entry plaguing other industries and fields of study.
“[One] of the things that drove me as I was writing the book—and the book is a different book than I thought it was going to be when I started writing it...what it transformed into while I was actually doing it was thinking about what was a 17-year-old Chanda in need of when she was starting university?” Prescod-Weinstein explains during this week’s episode of The Root Presents: It’s Lit! “And so really thinking about what does a young Black person of any gender identity, but particularly someone who’s maybe femme-leaning, what could be useful to say like, ‘Yeah, cosmology is cool. Yeah, cosmology is Black—it’s Blackity-Black,’
“But also to do the things that the the Carl Sagan the Stephen Hawking books weren’t doing for me,” she continued. “Which is say like, ‘Look, there is a social side to this: Your Blackness is also going to be touched on in these ways and you need support in that. Let me be honest with you. Let me be real with you.’ And there wasn’t a book that did that. And I think that I could have benefited from that. And so my hope is on some fundamental level, that this is something that we can put in the hands of folks and say, look, just because it’s going to be challenging doesn’t mean you can’t do it. And just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it—and you belong, even if there are all these things telling you you don’t,” she concluded.
It’s just one of many teachable moments the out-of-this-world Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares in Episode 28 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Exploring the Disordered Cosmos, With Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public.