I have listened to the responses to my post on Tenured Privilege, and I am sorry for the upset and harm that my post caused. It goes without saying that my intention was not to make light of racism or appropriate it through analogy but to identify the operations of power around privilege. However, asking for a focus on my quote-unquote good intentions is one of the most time-honored of #nopologetics tactics, and having articulated those intentions, I am not asking for the focus to be on them. The reactions to my post from many corners–particularly TressieMC, Roopika Risam, and Brittney Cooper– show me the limits of analogy as argument, particularly with respect to race. As Brittney Cooper pointed out on Twitter, the problem in my post is that racism is “marshalled as a discursive vehicle” to move a “bigger” point. Putting race and racism in the service of the so-called larger concerns as articulated by a white person is indeed another permutation of racism. So, I hear my critics, and I am sorry.
I know that academic spaces are deeply inflected by structural racism. A thorough and responsible discussion of race and tenure must also include the fact of racism in sustaining tenure itself, with a particular focus on the racism of the tenured, and the structural racism of the institutions that confer tenure. This piece, to which I was directed by Jonathan W. Gray, shows us some of the ways this racism operates.
I want to affirm that I still strongly believe in the point of my post, that hierarchical power within academia breeds privilege and blindness to the urgent conditions in which graduate students and adjuncts work, and that the onus is on tenured faculty to recognize that privilege, along with its implication in broader questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. I hope that the critique of racism in this case will not operate to excuse tenured readers from critically examining their own practices with regard to adjuncts or to the graduate training that produces them. This is an intervention that needs to happen decisively and soon, regardless of any failures on my part in urging it. But let me reiterate my regret at using an analogy to make my point which was in itself another example of white privilege.