I recall once this observation being made by a new hire (at the time) rotational engineer and fellow Aggie I worked with at Motorola:
Him: "We were the 'only black engineers' in that room," my fellow alumni said.
Me: "And, we were and are the best damn engineers IN that room, or any other!" I shot back. "Do you have a problem with that?"
He gave me a grin and an "Aggie Pride" verbal acknowledgement. I reassured his swagger... his end-of-rotation presentation blew them away. I beamed with pride.
Black men are faulted for swagger, even President Obama received grief for it, although I think it largely pivoted on the southern racial parlance of "being uppity." Urban Dictionary defines swagger as: "How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. It can also be shown in the person's walk."
The interaction my younger alumni and I had happened and likely happens quite often. You have to learn the rules of the road rather quickly. Sometimes going to church, or a frat meeting, or a concert, or simply chatting on the phone with a close friend is how you de-stress; unwind.
More often than not, as Paul Lawrence Dunbar eloquently stated (and Dr. Maya Angelou gave her stupendous interpretation) it is a mask. It hides rage and disappointment at ignorant comments made around you, daring you to respond to a shout of "Black Lives Matter," when the discussion - about, you know, work - didn't even CENTER around that (this happened last year, 2016 during the divisive election cycle). When I challenged the individual by simply asking "what did you mean by that?", he slinked away like an Internet troll nervously and quickly changing the subject; suddenly remembering Human Resources exists for a reason. The struggle is no different in complexion or complexity in graduate school, as you are usually "the one," so you better be supremely confident in yourself or convince others you are until you are. Walk with confidence until you're sure you've mastered your situation, putting in the hard work until you do. Don't "fake it till you make it": make it!
Swagger... It covers a multitude of sins that could be committed when you're not in control of your emotions. Thankfully, I have access to a 300 pound heavy bag at my community's gym that takes the abuse instead! At least 37 years of martial arts training and channeled anger keeps me in reasonably good shape.
Swagger... Never let 'em see you sweat unless they see you in the gym!
It's not often that you hear calls for more men to participate in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Advocates consistently beat the drum to find ways to engage more female and minority students in STEM fields, which are still largely dominated by men. But within that group is perhaps one of the most underrepresented demographics: African-American men.
Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the number of black men who earn science and engineering doctorates grew by more than 25 percent in 10 years, according to data from the National Science Foundation. While that appears to be a large growth, the absolute numbers barely budged between 2003 and 2013 – inching up from just 631 of 13,921 recipients to 798 of 16,542 recipients – and the representation has stayed essentially flat, between 4.5 percent and 4.8 percent of all science and engineering doctorates. The number of science and engineering bachelor's degrees awarded to black men increased 45 percent, from 12,484 in 2002 to 18,102 in 2012. But similarly, black men as a proportion of all science and engineering bachelor's degree recipients has remained essentially unchanged, at 6.1 percent in 2002 and 6.2 percent in 2012.
Like women and other minority groups, African-American men are also underrepresented in the workforce. Census data show that in 2010, African-American men made up 6.2 percent of the population between 18 and 64 years old. But in the same year, the NSF reported that black men represented just 3 percent of scientists and engineers working in those fields.
US News: African American Men: The Other STEM Minority, Allie Bidwell