The Burden of Being the Only One in the Room – #BLM Guest Post

Chase Moore is a former college football player at The University of Texas and current Master’s Student in Educational Policy at the University of Texas Austin.

My identity has been forced to be negotiated in a multitude of ways throughout life, and especially thus far in my Graduate School experience. First and foremost, if one were to even slightly examine the classmates that make up my cohort, they would notice that it reeks of homogeneity. The majority of my cohort is made up of women, and the racial makeup lacks diversity too since the majority are white females, with only two Latinas, one black woman, and me being the only black male.

The conversations that are persistent throughout my graduate school experience are led mostly by white female faculty, staff, and graduate students who fail to recognize various identities. Topics that deserve greater importance lack depth, which makes my cohort’s integrity to maintain the tenants of critical policy analysis and critical race theory impossible.

An example of how there was a complete lack of cultural consciousness occurred last semester in one of my white female professors’ classes. My professor began class with an anecdote of the “Funny Names” of some of her previous students when she was a K-12 teacher in an inner-city area. My classmates found this as an opportunity to express other “Funny Names” that they’ve heard over the years of also teaching inner-city black students. Everyone but me and the other black woman was amused. I wrestled hard with the duality of knowing that as the only black male in the class that I needed to speak up and utilize this as a teaching moment to my white peers, while also refusing to speak up in fear of receiving a bad grade in the course.

Aside from my white dominated graduate class and cohort experience, I do not struggle in speaking up in opportunities when I am called to speak. I understand that many who come from humble beginnings like myself do not have access to the number of resources and education that I do have, so I use every opportunity available to speak truth to power. For example, I testified in front of the Texas State Board of Education in November, where I advocated on behalf of adding comprehensive African American studies to the K-12 curriculum in the entire state of Texas, which has since been approved. After posting the experience online, the Public Testimony Video went viral. I believe it speaks towards my efficacy in speaking truth to power.

The most profound aspect that I believe helped the video gain so much traction was the mere factor that my passion did not match my appearance. I am a black male with dreadlocks who grew up around Compton critically speaking about dismantling systems and circumventing the matrices of power. What made the experience even more dynamic was that I mentioned that I played college football for the Texas Longhorns and how I realized very early on in my career that there was no utility in basking in my own success on the football field if I cannot inspire the people that need me the most: inner-city youth. After that exchange, I believe that I sucked the air out of the room.

I now am completely convinced that my positionality is empowering since I had the opportunity to touch millions of people. I was extremely surprised because I didn’t intend to post the video in the first place. I was debating whether or not people would perceive me advocating for African American studies as important, but everyone’s response indicates that these issues are very important, so since the very first week of January, I will be posting a video about Educational Policy on all major Social Media platforms every single week for the next year to see what happens.

I have an unrelenting conviction to see change, so I now fully use my platform to discuss pertinent educational and Black issues. I want to see if my videos can help legislation like the African American studies curriculum can pass in other states, who it inspires, who can learn from what I’m learning, and any other positive externalities. My videos will highlight Personal Stories, Interview Educational Policy Experts, Educational Policy issues, Current Educational Policy Wins and losses, and also pertinent events that speak of the Black experience. 

Working to manifest my convictions and commitments to see educational policy change with my connections makes for a very bright future. I am currently a Graduate Assistant with the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence under the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. I work directly with Dr. Ryan Sutton in the Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males and am a Teacher’s Assistant for the Race in the Age of Trump class with Dr. Leonard Moore. With this leadership position, I am responsible for assisting in meaningful initiatives that enhance the educational experiences of the Black males of UT, who make up less than 2 percent of UT Austin’s 51,832 students, and teach first-generation and minority students.

I am fully convinced that my desire to ameliorate educational inequities for inner-city youth does not have to begin 10 years from now, it begins now. We always hear the phrase: be the change youwant to see. Well, I take heed of these words and refuse to ever hold back from speaking up again. 

Dear Fellow Scientists: Being “Objective” IS NOT ANTI-RACIST! – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Art is also welcome. Due to overwhelming response new submissions will go up in Aug-Sept. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]

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This writer, ODE, chooses to share only their initials. They are a PHD student in Earth and Environmental Sciences. 2nd generation Black Feminist geographer.  They study critical theory, migration, racialization, labor, political ecology, and Black Geographies of the Global South

The author wrote me to propose a piece that called out “objective truths/attitudes that harbor an epistemological divide in a department that includes both physical scientists and social scientists – and yet still evade constructive arguments around empathy, concern and public scholarship which should include or at least contribute to anti racist and decarceral work as rigorous and worthwhile knowledge.” Knowing this all too well from my years in Anthro departments, I said: YES PLEASE.

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Last week, at the height of the George Floyd uprisings, I decided to check the Facebook of white folks that I grew up with in suburban Texas. With no surprise, many of my hometown former classmates were adamant about the “destructive chaos” that Black Lives Matter uprisings caused to their communities. As I scrolled through the pleas to protect the current administration, cries about burned private property, one of my elementary school friends decided to be a renegade and critique 45ths response to this crisis. He proclaimed, as a self-proclaimed white conservative upper middle class male with ‘advanced education’ he could see ‘both’ sides.  A call from him to admonish the current administration is a call to simply just a call to maintain a society with respected conservative values.

Similarly, I too have ‘advanced education’ and felt the call to continue my education to nuance and complicate how we think about our world and our role as part of it.

Fortunately, my program has given space for me to do this. However, through the struggle of formulating a solidarity letter, I have come to realize this is not the prerogative of some of my fellow colleagues. 

My department includes both physical and social scientists- and some that champion both titles. I assume my department is not unique in that it struggles to keep all scholars abreast and interested in each other’s work.  What I can say, though, is that as an Environmental Science program, we all stand firmly in our desire to fight against global warming.  Climate change, and largely, environmental degradation as a political and social concern, works as a common language between us as a community.

Yet, when addressing additional pressing societal issues, especially ones that have caught the public’s interest- there at times seems to be less scholarly or social interest from physical scientists compared to the social scientists.

So, as you can imagine, similar to academic departments all of the country, the mission of signing a solidarity statement for Black Lives Matter and the call to decarceration was contentious. However, instead of a conversation that revolved around the actual physical AND social science contributions that could or should highlight the societal polemic that supports a world with militaristic policing, or colorblind racial liberalism, the debate became a space of semantics obscuring the age-old epistemological debate that enforces binaries within the field.

To the credit of our bold and brave faculty, we all have learned from our foundational courses that science is political, and there is, indeed, racist science. This stance deconstructs the idea of an ‘objective truth’ western trained scientists are encouraged to advance to validate their research as rigorous.  Epistemologically, the procedure of scientific method originates in colonial western enlightenment ideals and it prides itself on replication. From the little I remember from AP Environmental Science, experiments were valid if they could be replicated- but even then I questioned the accessibility of tools and ability to make assigned experiments replicable and relevant for those who had fewer resources than us. Scholars like Dorothy Roberts, Ruha Benjamin, Sylvia Wynter, and countless others have related experiences like mine toward larger critiques around anti-blackness and social stratification as at minimum relational to western science production. It is important to note that the intellectual trajectory we understand to be Earth and Environmental Sciences would not exist without the environmentalism of 1960’s. This particular social movement opened a pathway for prolific research that required the use of various cross discipline methods and skillsets to understand world around us, as formed and into formation.

Nevertheless, it appears that lived situated experience as a technology for rich knowledge production is somewhat still ignored. I contemplate if lack of diversity is a factor. 

According to an article published by National GeoScience, “Race and Racism in the Geosciences”, 90 percent of PHD holders in Earth Sciences are White, and less than 5 percent of tenured professors in the field are people of color. The article explains that by acknowledging that there are attitudes from white colleagues that advance oblivious bias- i.e. conditioning bias around a lack of general interest or an absolute “apolitical” agenda of Earth Sciences is an explanation for the lack of diversity in the field. 

Unfortunately, outside of the work in Critical Physical Geography (and outliers who are committed to critical scholarship), this bias affects the accessibility and applicability of their work in a world that is in dire need of knowledge to be the catalyst to social change we need. 

So, a way to address state oppression, experienced by any member of your (institutional) community, could be answered with –“How can we measure the impact of state sanctioned racial violence and carceral logic with our wide range of tools?”  in the name of collectively producing the best knowledge we can.

But instead, for many of my colleagues, the response is sheer unenergetic indifference because of perceived ‘subjective politics’.  

To be frank, a lot of what I have mentioned is ambitious to tackle in a solidarity letter. Even if these ideas are acknowledged without concrete action- is it useful? To direct some of these difficult conversations, I suggest for folks to encourage their department to create the conditions that can produce someone like Zelma Jackson-Maine, an Afro-Indigenous hydrogeologist and a lifelong anti-nuclear activist. For her, scientific inquiry began with the teaching of her grandmother’s traditional ecological knowledge, which as a midwife, supported their Gullah Geechee community. 

I know that experience motivates many who embark on careers in our field, yet for some, structural racism and campus indifference create barriers for those who want to center their experience as the “why” for their research. Maybe one strategy toward dismantling some of these barriers I mentioned is a centering of diverse experiences as justification for further scientific inquiry.

Otherwise, a demand that they retain BIPOC faculty and offer full time positions for BIPOC adjuncts might suffice. Although this will result in additional labor for our BIPOC community, at least there will be designated attempt to foster safe space for scientific inquiry that benefits everyone in the classroom.

Taking Action as a Young Professional during Straining Times – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Artistic work also welcome. Due to overwhelming response new submissions will go up Aug-Sept. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]

André Fuqua is a doctoral student in Infrastructure Materials Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests are centered on civil engineering materials, sustainability, race, and resource management. André is a Gates Millennium Scholar and Vice President of the Black Graduate Student Association at the University of Texas at Austin. Connect with André on LinkedIn

By: André Fuqua

I love being Black more than most people. I wouldn’t trade this melanin for anything. My people are innovative, cutting edge, soulful, intellectual, passionate, powerful, beautiful, resilient beings. We are constantly redefining ourselves, breaking barriers, and adapting to new norms, all while simultaneously navigating the battlefields of American life. Black bodies have been under attack since this country’s inception. No matter where we lie on the socioeconomic spectrum, life ain’t no crystal stair as a Black person living in America. 

Systemic racism is real. 

Police brutality is real. 

White supremacy is American terrorism.

James Baldwin said it best, “To be [Black] in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time”. I got the right to be mad. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired; of having to explain and put value to on my existence time and time again. The postmemory of the oppression of my ancestors bleeds through my veins and seeps out the seams of American society. I see racism in everything, because racism built this country. What a pill to swallow. 

The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have shaken me at my core. Here we are… again. It’s been comforting, nonetheless, to see the global response against racism and police brutality, and the protests that have sparked in cities across the world. It gives me hope to see so many people of different nationalities, backgrounds, and creeds showing solidarity with Black America during this time. My colleagues and university officials have flooded my inbox with “Racism is wrong” and “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know” and “I hope you are safe” messages in reaction to the times. Unfortunately, unlike many of my colleagues, peers, and counterparts, this time is no different from any time before. Nowhere has ever been safe for me. Whether I’m in jeans and a white tee or a suit and tie, I’m still a target. This is an uncomfortable truth. Combating racism is not a trend to be celebrated this week and pushed into the shadows the next. Racism is part of my everyday walk because unfortunately, it has to be. I can never forget that I am a Black man. This country wouldn’t let me if I tried. 

As a doctoral student and university professional, it has been challenging to move smoothly through my work and academic tasks while also sustaining my mental health and covering my family and community. A revolution is rising in the midst of a ravaging global pandemic. What a time to be alive? Remote working and shelter-in-place orders per the pandemic brought me back to my second home of Chicago, IL. The city erupted upon news of George Floyd’s killing. Protestors took to the streets with strong force. Curfews were put into place, grocery stores and gas stations closed their doors and boarded their windows, and things began to feel like a warzone overnight. However, my work from the university remained consistent.

I am the only black person in my office. I was at my computer responding to emails when I thought I should be in the streets marching for justice. I was still expected to show up to our regularly scheduled Zoom meetings, lead a few calls, and then was asked to contribute to crafting a staff solidarity response. I felt guilty for not participating in protests, but realized that maybe my action would look different.

By the end of the week, my cabin fever got the best of me and I decided to get out of my apartment and serve. I turned off my notifications and shutdown my laptop in an act of rebellion. I made my way to a local art gallery that was passing out meals and supplies to Black folks on the Southside of Chicago. I distributed masks and PPE, passed out 200+ grocery bags of food, water, baby care, and feminine care products to residents in the streets, and even spearheaded an impromptu block clean up. I was not on the front lines of the protests, but I was on the front lines of community outreach.  

These times are a call for action. We each have a role to play in the fight against racism and police brutality in America. It is important to understand that action looks different for each of us. To any young Black professionals grappling with guilt for focusing on self care, mental health, or Black joy during these times of heightened tension, shake your self-condemnations. Liberation takes many forms. For others who are participating in the movement by supporting efforts off the streets, thank you. The people need your internal encouragement. To those out on the streets using your bodies as weapons, your efforts are admirable. I stand with you and am wishing for your strong health and safety. To everyone, never forget your power. 

You matter. 

We matter. 

Black Lives Matter. 

Special thanks to Dr. Raissa Ferron for her continued support and encouragement. I feel lucky to be working with her as my research advisor and mentor. 

Teaching Race During Global Crisis – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Poetry/art also welcome. Due to overwhelming response, new posts will go up August/September. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]

Aundrey Jones is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. His research is focused on the cultural politics of war in Black Southern California since the 1940s. He is also an active member of Pillars of the Community – San Diego.

As we can all agree, this spring semester has been unlike anything ever experienced before. As a PhD candidate who adjuncts across different campuses across the city, merging both the semester and quarter systems, I have had to juggle multiple student rosters and have them translated into a functioning remote learning environment without much department supervision. Three and a half weeks into quarantine, around early April, I can say that I may have finally bounced back and fully reconnected with the students I once shared a classroom with. It felt good. I actually missed them. 

A few weeks after the spring semester ended for my Africana Studies course at San Diego State University titled “Black Political Participation in America,” I began to receive emails from students expressing not only their gratitude and appreciation for the semester, but more specifically how the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd (and the subsequent responses to their murders) “make sense” given the nature of our course. Many of these emails were from my non-Black students, who now felt equipped to comprehend the uprisings and convey the message effectively to their families and friends. Some of them even went out to protest. It was refreshing, to say the absolute least. Especially after having spent all week devastated.

Fast forward a week later, at UC San Diego, my home institution, where I teach freshman writing. As the quarter winds down, final projects have been excused and lighter assignments have been put in place to speak to the local protests occurring across the nation.

Week 10 arrives and my inbox is filled with emails from students asking for me to cancel the final project (which I’m all for) but with the imperative of doing so to demand that I, the instructor, “demonstrate [my] allyship to the Black community and support for UC San Diego students by using your position of power in this academic setting and taking action now.” I do not have any Black students in this course. And I wonder if they had forgotten I was Black when deciding to send me this email. 

These are just two small examples of how my interactions with students, varying by course, signify my relationship as a Black doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies to the university – both materially and in the abstract. Yes, I am usually one of the only (if not the only) Black male instructor in my immediate settings, and as imagined, the go-to designate when it comes to explaining matters concerning anti-Black racism to my non-Black peers. For the record, I’ve been called everything from “violent” and “sexist” to “cool” and “funny.” Whether it was in graduate seminar, where I often wondered why I never had a syllabus that assigned W.E.B. Du Bois or Ida B. Wells and the like, or the skin crawling effects after having to explain the difference between “people of color” and “colored people,” my academic surroundings have never ceased to remind me of the usefulness of my Blackness. I will never forget the day after Trump was elected and how many of my crying white colleagues gave me hugs asking what they can do for me to fight racism.  

San Diego is an interesting place to witness the intersections between teaching, living, and researching the anti-Black world in which we inhabit. San Diego is the most militarized city in the country, with the largest active duty/retired population living alongside a monumental terrain of military weapons manufacturing, research, and development. With UC San Diego being 32 miles from the U.S. – Mexico border and San Diego State being 4 miles west of La Mesa, where a 59 year-old Black woman named Leslie Furcron was shot in the head by a rubber bullet while participating in the weekend protests, San Diego comes with its own set of dangers that highlight the permanence of anti-Black and anti-immigrant discourse. Often appearing to operate in the shadow of whatever Los Angeles is doing, San Diego still has its long, precarious history of racial violence and exclusion, but not to be forgotten alongside its equally long and fortifying history of Black and Brown unity, resistance, and belonging.

This also edges onto how I have come to understand the similar yet competing climates between teaching at an R1 university (UCSD) and an R2 (SDSU), on top of writing my dissertation and entering the job market in the fall (God willing). Thinking and talking about racial Blackness at UCSD has been akin to pulling teeth, both in undergraduate and graduate settings. While I wouldn’t necessarily say the exact opposite applies to my space at SDSU, I will say that it does represent a kind of terrain that best highlights how the university utilizes its Black academics: too much at the wrong time or not at all.

And again we are witnessing a time like no other: COVID-19 and the widening call to abolish policing. With the staggering numbers of Black people dying from the virus while being killed by the police, anti-Blackness is showcasing itself to be at the center of a world we hope to either navigate or destroy, as many are seeing for the first time what Black people have known for centuries. What we also know is that explaining everything does not stop with our students and colleagues, but largely for the entirety of all non-Black people we must live with and around: friends and family. 

Years of these experiences brought me to both seek therapy and deep isolation. So in the meantime, I’ve urged folks to find their own means of protest. Keep the Black people in your life safe at all times and help construct a world where Black people don’t have to keep dying and having to explain why they die so much. Have these conversations before your kids experience their first and only Black teacher/professor. It would really help.

Black people, let’s continue to always show up for each other whether in the streets or the academy.

As-salaam alaikum.

Silenced By My Peers – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome; art/poetry/video also welcome. Due to overwhelming response, new submissions will go up Aug-Sept. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]


This author chooses to remain anonymous, but shared a photo.

As a black woman I am used to occupying spaces where I would be the only black person in the classroom. This reality did not scare or deter me, however, it made me much bolder in the classroom. By bolder, I mean less afraid to speak my mind, even if I knew I would be isolated. Being in a PhD program, I believed that some of the issues of racism and implicit bias would be less, or better checked in academic spaces. I was primed by advisers throughout my undergraduate studies that racism was still very much part of academia, often sheltered and protected by its supporters who upheld academia as a space of “free thought” and a space to “challenge” each other. This may have been true, but not for students of color. 

I thought I was strong – I was not.

The second year of my doctoral studies, I took a course focused on the prominent theories and principles of my field – public administration and policy – and was frequently engaged in civil discourse with my classmates. We had just finished readings on a core theory to the field – representative bureaucracy theory. The theory states, simply, that the demographic of an organization should mirror the demographic of the community it serves. The theory provides many examples of people of color providing better services and positive policy change for their communities through roles such as teachers, social workers, and other “street-level bureaucrats” who have frequent contact with the community. 

However, like any scholar, I had issues with the theory. 

I voiced these concerns in the classroom, citing the assumptions the scholars made regarding a minorities perceived identity about themselves and how that influences their decision-making process. More importantly, I did not agree with the theory’s assumptions about organizational culture and diversity in hiring practices. Though I was only in my second year, I felt my opinions regarding the theory were just as important as my colleagues. 

It was clear, this was not the case.

I received prompt backlash from other students in the class for disagreeing with the core tenets of the theory. I understand that we were all junior scholars at the time, but instead of engaging with me on this theory, I was almost scolded into believing that my understanding and opinions were baseless. My predominantly white colleagues, who an hour before were speaking with me collegially and friendly, had turned on me. I was not sure why. Was it because they wanted to show their own understanding of the theory? Did they want to impress the professor? Or did they honestly think I was wrong? Nevertheless, after about a fifteen-minute debate – near dehumanization – I stopped. I was done speaking for the day and remained quiet through the remainder of the class.

We had submitted an essay on the theory a few days before. My only reprieve that day, what helped me sleep at night, was that I scored an A on the paper. I knew I wasn’t crazy! I knew my opinions were valid! 

I vividly remember this story as a prime example of how being Black in academic spaces means that I am often the only one. I used this example in job interviews and discussions with other academics or administrators to emphasize the challenges black students go through in their classrooms. I carried this experience throughout my PhD coursework and later involvement in university initiatives on diversity and inclusion. I wanted people to know what happened to me, but I also wanted them to know that this was not an isolated event. Stories from other black academics confirmed my feelings and experiences. Tenure-track faculty had the same experiences I had. This trauma of isolation in spaces that are supposed to be welcoming and inclusive often kept many black academics from engaging with their colleagues and departments.

The long-term gains from that day have been in my favor. The professor who taught the course became my advisor and strongest advocate, helping me to publish papers and connect with scholars in the field. She remains a great resource to this day. I also am submitting a paper for publication, stating my exact issues with the theory that I iterated in class that day. Prior reviews of the paper have confirmed that these insights are critical to the field. Representative bureaucracy theory has also become a major research interest of mine and has led me to my current work of diversity, inclusion, and Human Resources. 

When I see other black academics being silenced, it is not surprising. This silencing often happens during the early stages of study and continues through an academic’s career. It is times like this, that I feel that black academics are valued as a statistic – a number- but not as a voice. 

I will continue to work towards justice for all black people in their respective spaces. While I am hopeful the situation changes, I am remain vigilant and active in the work. 

Personal Trauma and Black Linked Fate on the Tenure Track – #BLM Guest Post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Art/poetry welcome. Please see the wondrous #BLM content already published here. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]

Dr. Ana Ndumu is an Assistant Professor at the UMD, College Park College of Information. Her research and teaching center on the role of libraries and information in the lives of Black, immigrant, or underserved communities. Her forthcoming edited book is entitled, “Borders and belonging: Critical examinations of library approaches toward immigrants. She hopes her journey empowers someone and is happy to keep this conversation going at andumu@umd.edu or @AnaNdumu.

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By Dr. Ana Ndumu

I joined my current institution in 2018 as a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, a program designed to strengthen faculty diversity at research-intensive universities. Serendipitously, I was also offered an assistant professor position at the same institution. I felt fortunate on many fronts. The job market in my field remains fraught and, generally speaking, there is seldom guarantee of permanence when it comes to postdoctoral positions. Though fully aware of problems at the institutional level – for example, the racist, on-campus murder of Lt. Richard Collins III – I joined a college that embraces social justice-oriented scholarship. I dove into my research while acclimating to the campus and enjoyed a fruitful, studious year.

Transitioning to being a first-year assistant professor was an altogether different matter. What is typically a year of considerable protections – reduced course load, light committee work, and ample mentorship – rapidly escalated to a time of phenomenal overwhelm. In early August, my dad faced a medical emergency and was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I ended up making five trips to be with family in Miami before the semester ended. It was a blessing to be instructing an asynchronous online master’s course that allowed some flexibility. However, I was also running a grant-funded project to promote census participation among immigrants. The last day of a project-related event, which happened to be my birthday, brought tremendous relief. Worn out, I briefly called dad and promised to see him in a few weeks during Thanksgiving break. He said he understood and wished me a happy birthday. He passed away a few hours later. The weight of grief was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

Spring semester turned out to be equally difficult as a result of COVID-19. Though I taught another online graduate course, I along with most of my students struggled to adjust to sweeping changes. I also recognized my vulnerability in that I live with lupus. Even then, as airports emptied I flew down to Miami during Spring Break to care for my mom after she injured herself. At the time, I was the only one among my siblings who could telework and, thereby, care for mom. I again felt incredibly grateful to be in a profession that affords reasonable flexibility.

I plowed through all of these emergencies with the resilience I learned from my no-nonsense, fiery mom and the practicality of my consistent and sanguine dad. None of the disruptions felt inherently unfair. The loss and care of elderly parents is often a part of adult life. The pandemic is a once-in-a-century plague. I have lived with lupus for several years. And I knew exactly how stressful being a professor would be. I signed up for this. University policies are in place to assist with personal setbacks. Grief therapy, my supportive spouse, compassionate colleagues, along with a loving network of sister scholars were available to help me persist until the summer.

By the time that nationwide shelter-in-place orders were enforced and our university moved to a completely virtual environment, I was already burned out. In April, a family friend and fellow lupus warrior died of COVID-19. President Trump casually touted hydroxychloroquine as a remedy. Those of us who live with autoimmune disorders can attest that it is a brutal medicine. Tangential to this, the racial and socioeconomic disparities associated with COVID-19 fatalities started to become apparent. The chronicles painted a grim picture of a social caste system. 

As a librarian, demographer, and professor, I know the power of substantiated information and large-scale population statistics when presenting a narrative. Credible data continues to bear witness. Across the U.S., Black communities are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19. Queens, New York – one of the country’s poorest and most ethnically diverse congressional districts comprised of remarkably hard-to-count census tracts – became the virus epicenter. Nationwide, seventy-five percent of exposed frontline service workers are people of color. This is unadulterated, staggering truth-telling. 

Among Black diasporic immigrants, the specific segment of the population that I research and identify with, many are disadvantaged by acculturative stress and allostatic load which catalyze disease, a phenomenon widely understood as the immigrant health paradox. This reality coupled with poor medical care, underemployment, and subsequent reliance on survival jobs points to social barriers. Black immigrants predominantly belong to a category of newcomers who arrive with prior vocational training (in health fields, particularly) and are native English-language speakers. Yet, bureaucracy prevents many immigrant professionals from integrating and re-credentialing, especially when it comes to the 314,000 highly-skilled, medically trained refugees who could have helped our communities during the pandemic.

Then Ahmaud Arbery’s racist homicide occurred in Brunswick, Georgia.

And Breonna Taylor’s slaying in Louisville, Kentucky.

And Christian Cooper’s racist encounter in New York City’s Central Park.

And George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I understand what drives the very people who are most susceptible to a deadly virus to eschew social distancing practices in order to protest: exhaustion.

Unlike the personal crises I faced, witnessing racist violent acts feels wholly unfair.

I, too, had long been on edge and am now simply exhausted. I find myself disgusted and drained by being in constant conversation about race. I am tired enough that I will no longer excuse unawareness. Feeling exhausted means being cynical that Whites in power will ever adopt a new mental model. It is knowing that a seismic shift is happening but being too depleted to offer any substantive or positive idea at this moment. It is questioning whether the phrase “equity, diversity, and inclusion” is just as platitudinal as “thoughts and prayers.” Exhaustion is attempting to preserve my peace by resigning from activities that are not truly challenging the status quo. Without question, it manifests as chronic fatigue attached to meeting the demands of a higher education landscape built on patriarchy and white supremacy. Professional autonomy aside, the academy was not intended for faculty like me. Exhaustion is shunning plasticity, optics, and anything less than that which is rooted in racial realism. It means resisting the notion that my peers need my help with unlearning biased conditioning and polishing statements in response to the current uprising. Unless an effort deals with systematizing the advancement of marginalized groups and reframing EDI as liberative and anti-hegemonic practice, I remain uninterested. 

Social science theory presents us with the concept of Black linked fate, or the belief that a fellow community members’ racial experiences inevitably impact us. Though there is no evidence to suggest that I am correct, I like to think that the idea of Black linked fate is inspired by the African ethic of Ubuntuism, a philosophy that posits I am because we are. Black linked fate is what makes racism feel deeply personal. My desire is to educate, write, and speak on the role of information in the well-being of Black, immigrant, and other subjugated communities. However, the constancy, predictability, and damage of racialized structural inequities leaves little confidence that this line of work actually works. Instead of being inspired, I am exhausted. The scary part is that I am only one year into the professoriate.

5 Anti-Racist Practices White Scholars Can Adopt Today – #BLM Guest Post

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

Marius Kothor is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Yale University. She has broad research interests in 20th century African history, gender, and Black Internationalism. Her dissertation research has been funded by the Fulbright Program and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Kothor has published essays in a number of periodicals, including The New York Times, Black Perspectives and The History News Network. 

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By Marius Kothor

We are facing a historic moment of reckoning. The violent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited a movement that has engulfed the entire country. As people demand companies and organizations to account for their complicity in systemic racism, Black scholars are shedding new light on the anti-Blackness embedded within academic institutions. 

Black scholars such as Dr. Shardé M. Davis and Joy Melody Woods, for example, have started the #BlackintheIvory to bring renewed attention to the Micro and Macro level racism Black scholars experience in academia. A number of white scholars, on the other hand, are using this moment as an opportunity for hollow virtue signaling. Many have taken to social media to publicly declare that they are allies of Black people. It is unclear, however, if these performances of “woke-ness” will translate into efforts to address the systemic racism embedded in their departments and universities. From my experiences as a graduate student, it is unlikely that it will. Yet, for white scholars who are genuinely interested in using this moment to begin the process of unlearning the racist practices common in academia, there are a few practical steps that they can take. 

Below is a list of 5 things I think white scholars can do to begin to address racism in their day-to-day encounters with Black scholars. 

  1. Publicly Articulate Solidarity with Black Scholars 

I have been in countless meetings where I was the only Black person. When conversations in these meetings touched on topics of race and racism, I was often the only person speaking up about how certain policies or actions impacted Black people. These encounters often leave me feeling alone and vulnerable because no one speaks up in support of my positions. Inevitably, however, a white graduate student or professor will send me an email, or corner me in the hallway to express how much they agreed with my points and how “sorry” they are about the way I was treated. This behavior is not only unhelpful, it is a betrayal. It presents solidarity with Black people as a secret, something that has to be whispered in the corner of hallways and private email exchanges. Solidarity is not solidarity when it is hidden. Show your support in the meeting; publicly stand in solidarity with Black scholars when the stakes are high. You may lose friends and professional allies in this process. Anti-racism work has real material costs. 

  1.  Stop Calling the Black People in Your Institution by the Wrong Name

I recently learned from one of my colleagues that white people in our institution confuse her with me and another Black woman. I could go on about how we look nothing alike, but it’s not about that. It is about the fact that when people see us, all they see is our Blackness. As psychologist Kareem Johnson explained in a 2017 article in The Atlantic, “if we just identify someone as a ‘Black person,’ then that is how we are going to see them.” Black people often laugh about this. My friends and I joke that we could go to meetings in each other’s place and no one would notice the difference. All jokes aside, the frequency of these events indicate that white scholars do not take the time to see us as individuals. Constantly mistaking one Black person for another communicates to them that all you see when you look at them is their skin color. This is toxic and demeaning behavior that can easily be stopped by making an effort to get to know your Black peers, staff, and students as individuals.

  1. Do Not Talk to Black People as if You Know their Realities Better than They do

As an African and a scholar of African history, I have had white scholars explain the history of my community to me in condescending ways. They assume that they know something about me because they know these histories. To be sure, white scholars can be experts on a certain moment in Black history, or know a specific set of facts about certain Black communities, but it is quite literally impossible for them to be an expert on the lived experiences of Black people. Like any other group, we are made up of individuals who navigate the world within the context of our lived experiences. Positioning yourself as an expert on a Black person’s lived experiences because you know a set of facts about their communities is a colonial way of understanding knowledge. 

  1.  Cite Black Scholars in the Body of Your work, Not Just in the Footnotes 

Citation practices are political statements. The choices scholars make about who and how to cite reflect their attitudes about whose work is worth serious intellectual engagement. Over the years, initiatives like  #citeblackwomen have highlighted the ways in which white scholars marginalize their Black peers, particularly Black women scholars, by not citing their work. Yet, the ways in which white scholars cite their Black peers is just as important as whether they cite them at all. Too often, the work of Black scholars is buried in the footnotes instead of being highlighted in the body of the text. Citations are a matter of equity. It is important to read and engage with the intellectual labor of your colleagues instead of relegating them to the margins of your text.

  1. Don’t Try to Get Black Scholars to Validate Your Problematic Project 

Sometimes, white scholars feel uncomfortable with the work they are doing in Black communities. Instead of interrogating their discomfort, however, they look to Black scholars to validate their projects. The violence of this behavior cannot be overstated. Black scholars already face numerous institutional challenges to their very existence, making them do the additional labor of soothing your anxieties and discomforts is unbelievably corrosive. If a white scholar thinks their work is problematic, it probably is. Instead of burdening their Black peers with that emotional labor, they should rethink the project itself.  

No Peeing In Missouri: A Video of My Journey to Grad School – #BLM Guest Post

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

Maya Edwards is a PhD candidate in Spanish Literature at Texas Tech University. Her primary research is focused on nineteenth-century Spanish Peninsular literature, centering on intersections of gender, mobility, and affect. Other research interests include cultural studies, social justice, digital literacies, and study abroad.

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By Maya Edwards.

My story, while a personal narrative, is but a single piece of a much larger historical narrative that has not been spoken about often enough in our country. It underlines issues of race that persist, and speaks to the different (almost liminal) human experiences in common spaces. It speaks to the weight of fear and trauma carried into new experiences, invisible to many people occupying the same space. My story speaks of navigating a world with an ever-present fear of the possibility of confronting police violence and other threats, and a rehearsal of what to do in case it happens to you. These days we hear a lot about “the talk” that black families have with their children to prepare them for such situations in order to survive. 

There is another talk: one about education. This other talk is intended to prepare black children for the inevitable moments ahead when people will question their worthiness to take up space. It begins something like this: “to be successful, to make it in school and in life, you’ll have to work twice as hard just for it to be noted that you’ve completed your task.” We are prepared to engage with people along our educational journey who are surprised that we occupy the space we are in. And yes, it continues into graduate school. 

The iterations look something like this:

    -“You’re so articulate!” (I’m surprised that you are eloquent and well-spoken.)

    -It’s “the look” when you mention that you are presenting at a conference, or that I’m researching…

    -It’s “the look” when it is known that you are the Spanish teacher. I’ve not seen my white (also non-native) peers get the same look…

    -It’s having been told by a superior that to be successful, I should not wear my hair as it naturally grows from my head. 

    -It’s discovering massive salary disparities that do not align with experience and preparation. 

    -It’s being one of few, often times the only, in a space of academics. 

I do not share this to paint myself as a victim. This is not to say that I consider my graduate school experience to be negative. Truly, I’m surrounded by and supported by incredible people, for whom I will always be grateful. I do share this to acknowledge a facet of my life experiences that I’ve internalized and do not often discuss. Experiences have made me stronger and even more determined to be part of the change I’d like to see in the world. Indeed, as a black woman in graduate school and in life, I carry fears, frustrations, and trauma that others don’t see. Nonetheless, as stated in my digital story: I am bold. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m an agent for change on a journey about education: “the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela.

A College Degree is Nice, But It Won’t Protect You From Police Violence – #BLM Guest post

[We continue to solicit #BLM guest posts. We pay $150 for accepted posts. 1000 words ballpark; profanity welcome. Poetry/art/video/song welcome. Please send a draft or query/pitch to Karen at gettenure@gmail.com]

Nehemiah Bester received his bachelor’s degree in media studies with a minor in political science from Radford University in Radford, Virginia. He received his master’s degree in Journalism from the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Nehemiah has worked within his graduate program as a graduate assistant for Morgan State University. He has produced content for radio stations in WHCE 91.1 FM in Richmond, VA and WEAA 88.9 FM in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, he has worked as a fellow for the Wall Street Journal Journalism Exchange Program, a video and audio producer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, a columnist for Colors VA Magazine, a consultant for OVP Management Consulting Incorporated, a communications specialist at the Corporate Headquarters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., contributor to the Sphinx Magazine, and directed and produced 4 mini documentaries. Nehemiah currently lives in Maryland. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @_nehhemiahh and he can be reached for inquiries at Nehemiah.elijah.2014@gmail.com.

by Nehemiah Bester

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I recently graduated with a master’s degree, so what? What should have been a celebratory moment is now a somber one. To be honest, it has been difficult wanting to celebrate and it’s not because of quarantine, but because whenever I look at the news and see that someone who looks like me has been murdered or accosted by those who wish to dim the light of our brilliance and existence, I don’t see anything to celebrate about. While I was tremendously grateful for this moment, to me it means nothing if people who share my phenotype, culture, and history continue to be the victims of systemic racism and police violence. This is more important than a piece of paper in formatted in old English; this to me is personal.

I have known since I was 18 years old that no matter how intelligent you think you are, or what you have planned for your life, they can use privilege, power, and terror to destroy it in an instant. As proud as I thought I would be knowing that I have 2 degrees at 24, I also know that won’t save me if I’m confronted in the wrong space at the wrong time, by the wrong individual. A 4.0 won’t save me, a graduation assistantship won’t save me, a fellowship wouldn’t save me, a new career won’t save me. It’s scary to think about but this is the world we live in today and it’s not-so-distant relationship with the past. No matter how many degrees I or anyone who looks like me obtains in their lifetime, it will not help us escape the harsh and unfair reality of being Black in America. We are often told that education is the way out of trouble with the law and while education is critical in dismantling a racist environment, our black lives are just as vulnerable and important as those afford higher education. That at any moment any of us can be taken from our families, a degree isn’t stopping a bullet, chokehold, or a knee.

I perfectly comprehend the desire to break a stereotype, but I promise it doesn’t matter how ordinary you are or how extraordinary you appear, they don’t care. To them, it doesn’t make a difference because before anything we are Black first. Black men and women are dying just to breathe. Our ability to breather should never be up for debate. Then they wonder why there is lawlessness in the streets. They question and minimize the rage we feel and act immediately to quell its quaking. The very reason there is lawlessness in the streets is because there is lawlessness within the police. A police system whose origins evolved from vigilante slave catching and made into federal law by way of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Police brutality is not a new phenomenon in the black community, it just wears a different badge.

To put it into perspective, Michael Brown and I would have been the same age. We were the same age when he was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. We even graduated from high school mere months apart. The only difference is that after high school I got to go to college while Michael Brown who was set to go to Vatterott College, died at the hands of a trigger-happy cop. I do not know Mike personally, but his passing is something I have taken personally. A tall, Black, 18-year-old who had dreams of furthering his education, yeah that’s me. I looked at the newspapers, and the reports on tv, I said to myself “That’s me.” Looking at his face, his dark eyes, with his red stole overtop his turtle green high school cap and gown with his chin held up as he clutches his high school diploma, “yeah that’s me.”

Seeing his face and eyes looking back and me, I didn’t see anyone threatening or scary, how can anyone look at this young man and see danger? Mike looked like we could have been friends like somehow I knew him, but instead, I only knew him in death. And I couldn’t stop this sudden pain in my heart or the tears that ran down my face because of it. I have never found relief for that hurt or the rage that came after when the St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Wilson and the U.S Department of Justice’s decision that Wilson shot Michael in self-defense. He was an 18-year-old who deserved to go to school, he deserved to live his life but was robbed the same way some of these young boys and men who looked like me were robbed of opportunity and a freedom called life.

When I see the riots and protests happening across the country, I understand the frustration. I get why people are angry and want to express that pain. For 400 years Black people in this country have been subjugated and oppressed by a system that perpetually refuses to give us the same rights, liberties, and freedom that America was founded on. Since 1619, we have been tired, and as Fannie Lou Hamer put it, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The rage Black Americans, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, and White allies and others feel right now comes from centuries of disenfranchisement and the intentional violence that is chronically brought upon Black lives. Black Lives Matter, and because for so long this nation has created legislation and modern-day black codes that would appear to say otherwise, our anger in this movement needs no explanation. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others deserved life, and because their lives were cut short, we will continue to say their names, so the world won’t forget what happened as we persist in the fight for what’s right and dispel all that is wrong. That is our hope, and that is the solidarity and love for one another the world can never take away.

I didn’t cry for graduation this year, I cried for those we lost. We cry because we care. We cry because as we experience this pain, we cannot hope to imagine the pain our brothers and our sisters felt as they were slain. I take every Black life lost to police violence extremely personal and have since the passing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin two years before him. It was that moment that I realized I will never be immune to this plague as long as it exists, there is no vaccine.

So, what can I do, and what can we do to see this reoccurring nightmare’s conclusion? Defunding the police is one, along with the removal of statues honoring Confederate statues and slavers, economic and educational investment in Black and Brown communities, reformation in our prison and criminal justice system, restorative justice, and reparations for the land that was stolen from indigenous people and reparations for the descendants of the 12.5 million Africans that build this nation, that would be a reasonable start.

It’s 2020 and racism still maintains its relevance. Imagine being in your 20’s and witnessing enough trauma and generational damage upon people that look like you to last a lifetime. That’s what my generation is currently dealing with. So as I take a moment to acknowledge the accomplishment of a master’s degree, which by the way does nothing to define me and won’t protect me from police violence, I hold it in solidarity with those we have lost and use it as a proxy to do what I can to make this world better for people who look like me and for those who share an all too similar and scary existence.  

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 gettenure@gmail.com]

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?