Academy and cultural biases

I am white and of Caucasian race, whatever that might mean today. I was raised in a wealthy Italian family and I should not have any reason of being discriminated or judged by the appearance.I grew up following the dream of being a basketball player; and I managed to become one. I played professionally until I obtained my master degree in theoretical physics and I got deeply influenced by that culture. I did not spend my Summers in the library but in the street playing pick-up games. I do not wear glasses or nerdy t-shirts, I do not like Star Wars and video games. I always wear Jordans on my feet, my body is fully covered with tattoos, my t-shirt two sizes larger than necessary and my earlobes shine with diamonds. And still, I am a physicist, I am a scientist, I have publications in serious scientific journals and I gave more than 50 talks in the best universities in the world

More than once I myself felt like I was being discriminated and prejudged. The first time I went to register the best mark in the class, for the course of QM, the professor asked me an identification to confirm if it was really me. It was indeed me. Later on, visiting USA for a conference I had to stay hours at the immigration control to prove I was a researcher. A researcher, a smart scientist cannot have tattoos, he cannot listen to rap music and he has to fit in those boxes by which we classify people. Another time, I was on my way to give a seminar in a renowned university and the security guard at the entrance did not want to let me in; I do not know what in his mind I was looking like, but certainly not the speaker of that day. I have a tattoo on my arm of a mannequin standing in front of a mirror whose reflection is a dancer, not a mannequin. I have another tattoo of an eye closing. Appearance is very often misleading. I do not believe in sight; I felt too many times the effects of human sight failing again and again. I like to think I am one simple and small example of those failures and I would love to see the world and every university full of those. What should put people together is their curiosity, their passion and their interests, not their gender, their skin color or their sexual preferences. I lived in Spain, I lived in Greece, I lived in Illinois. I ate chicken feet in Vietnam, cocaine leaves in Peru and Hummus in Jerusalem. I do not feel Italian, I do not feel European and I do not think it makes any sense nowadays to try to classify people somehow. We just people. Boxes are for cereals, bottles are for beers, humans are different. You cannot label them, you can just sit, enjoy the common interests and listen to their stories.

I never wanted to complain about this, I actually always liked it. I always thought that being the black sheep was the coolest role. Nonetheless, two very recent events convinced me to speak up. I very recently made an outreach video for the institution i am affiliated, you can see that at Despite the scientific value of the video itself, the comments of people have been extremely interesting. In particular the one shown in fig.\ref{insult}. For those of you who do not speak spanish the translations looks like more or less :
How do they put a such unpresentable person in a such respectable institute to explain something so elevated, superior and worth of respect like physics… bring him back to jail…tattooed everywhere, with earrings and moreover playing cool and being a clown…as we say here in Argentina, a tremendous asshole.
This is an extremely interesting comment, which reveals how the human brain and the modern (modern?) society works. As a second case, today I was just going to work as everyday. I was entering the institute together with some other colleagues. The security guard smiled at them and say loudly ”good morning”; then she stopped me. She asked me ”Where are you going?”. I simply replied the most natural thing that came to my mind: ”To work”. She just said: ”Identification please”. I finally managed to access my office and I felt not so different from the main character I saw in the movie the day before; ”Long Shot”.