You May Be Your Black Colleagues’ Amy Cooper – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts related to academia. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Art/poetry welcome. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at]

Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft (@ZanetaMarie) is a social justice scholar and practitioner with over 10 years experience in the field of higher education administration and campus cultural centers. Her day-to-day work consists of cultivating individual, collective, and institutional change to improve sense of belonging, recruitment, retention, and success of historically underrepresented students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni. She also plays a mean ukulele. 

An Amy Cooper Higher Ed Self-Reflective Checklist

  1. Have you ever accused a Black colleague of being aggressive or intimidating when they are passionate about doing what’s right?
  2. Have you ever “picked the brain” of a Black colleague but then went on to take credit for an idea or initiative without acknowledging the partnership? 
  3. Have you ever served on a search committee and centered your critique of BIPOC candidates on “fit?”
  4. Have you ever served on a search committee that did not include a single Black candidate in the pool and honestly tell yourself they were just none out there, rather than reexamine how you wrote the posting, where it was posted, or the lack of employee support networks on your campus? 
  5. Have you ever realized that the higher your organization goes in seniority, diversity becomes less and less existent? Have you ever voiced this concern to those in said leadership hierarchies, or have you only left this to your Black colleagues? 
  6. Have you ever been on a committee or project planning team and not had a single Black person on the team? Perhaps even worse, have you only ever had tokenized Black individuals on your project teams? Perhaps even more worse, is it always the same tokenized Black person asked to serve on special teams because there are so few on the entire staff? 
  7. Have you ever been challenged on your behavior or given critical feedback by a Black colleague and only gotten defensive/focused on your intent instead of changing your behavior? Do you not even realize the risk that Black colleague took to bring the impact of your behavior to your attention? 
  8. Have you ever expected your Black colleagues, and only your Black and BIPOC colleagues to “handle diversity” as opposed to realizing equity work belongs to all of us?
  9. Have you ever been completely silent during a moment of injustice or bias in a work context and forced your Black colleagues to be the only ones to take risk by calling out the discriminatory behavior?
  10. Have you ever labeled yourself a champion of “diversity” in front of your students, while actively undermining the tenure process, authority, or work of your Black colleagues? 
  11. Have you ever used theoretical intersectionality as a way to not have to center and confront racism? 
  12. Have you ever centered your own need to be seen as an advocate by others over the actual lifting up of your Black colleagues’ needs, labor, and voices? 
  13. Have you ever asked your Black colleagues to explain, in detail, why people are so upset about a national happening instead of at least starting with some of your own self education? 
  14. Have you ever continued on your day, during national tragedies, without even asking your Black colleagues how they are coping, feeling, or if they need any support? 
  15. Do you only worry about the state of wellbeing of your Black colleagues and students during intense national tragedy as opposed to when you are writing grants, choosing whose scholarship to highlight in your curriculum, or whom your fundraising efforts support? 

…you may be your Black colleagues’ Amy Cooper. 

I share this list in full snark AND in all seriousness, and hope that it is used for actual changed behavior. For many,  it is easier to show righteous condemnation against systematic and state-sanctioned violence than to realize our own daily complicity in the destruction of Black lives. And I do mean destruction. In the past few days, an incredible twitter conversation blessed our timelines which I think aligns strongly with item seven on this list.  #BlackintheIvory, started by the incredible @DrShardeDavis and @SmileItsJoy, is full of gifts that your Black colleagues and students have taken a risk to share. Read them. Believe them. Thank them. Amplify them. Intervene. Do better. 

I leave you with one more question, and it is one that is painfully important: 

  1. Do you even have Black colleagues? Does the answer ignite a fire inside you?

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


You May Be Your Black Colleagues’ Amy Cooper – #BLM Guest Post — 1 Comment

  1. I remember clearly a recent-graudate in my field asking if my friend, who had multiple interviews at our discipline’s annual conference, was Black. And then attributing her success to her melanin levels. I hope this young woman evolves past her racism. And I hold in my heart her Black and brown students who may be harmed by her prejudice.

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