For the last few weeks, I’ve been working for Dr. Jacqueline Mattis researching black siblings and black mothers – and I LOVE it. Both groups of people have been severely underrepresented in past research and when they are studied, the research tends to focus on more negative aspects of their realities (ex: mental health issues, gun violence, poverty, drug abuse, etc.) The work that I’ve been doing, however, has involved digging through literary databases, searching for literature about black siblings and mothers, specifically seeking positive information (ex: care, love, support, and trust in their relationships.) As a black woman and sibling, approaching this research with a positive lens has been incredibly refreshing and much more informative than I believe it would’ve been if I focused on the unfair and often false narrative that spreads this notion of interminable black misery. My research makes me feel like I’m delivering a greater truth and in doing so, I like to think that I’m doing my people justice.
When I started my research, I was aware of researchers’ biases that I may notice as I read through their articles but I quickly learned that these biases were much more popular than I expected. I also learned that positive articles and papers about black siblings and especially black mothers were very rare finds. There were days when I spent hours clicking through databases, reading article after article for drops of information about the altruistic tendencies of a black sibling or the steadfast love of a black mother. I’m consistently shocked by the negativity I find about my people but it only assures me of the importance of my research and makes me love it even more.
Every now and then, I stumble upon a really beautiful, scientific, and ethical article. I read it over and over again and I think to myself, “I wonder how much harder it was to collect data about this topic instead of something like drug abuse,” and I decide that it was just a matter of being interested in a different question and a different perspective of a people. I love working for Dr. Mattis because it’s humbling to be working for someone who noticed the negative trends in research about black people. She followed her instinct to study what she knew was the true heart of her people and she’s asking questions that so many researchers haven’t. For these reasons and so many more, I truly love being a part of her team. Needless to say, I’m very excited for my work that’s to come.