I happen to teach at a great College with qualified faculty and strong student-teacher relationships. Honestly, I never knew that faculty members could be so united. But here, it is very common to find at least 5 faculty hanging out together well after work hours and on weekends. This may sound like a bit much to some, but on such a small campus, strong collegial ties make for a strong power base. In essence, we have each others’ back.
While I’m grateful to have good relationships not only within my home department, but also across disciplines, I’d be remiss not to point out a gaping hole in that social web: lack of faculty of color.
This is of course not a surprise given that so few people who get PhDs are of color and even fewer choose to work at small liberal arts colleges. That said, I am still troubled by the isolation I feel as I walk across campus, eat in the cafeteria, and attend all faculty meetings.
Anyone who has ever been the ‘only’ can cosign on my next point: I am t.i.r.e.d. of representing an entire demographic. This problem is exacerbated in academia because I am not only representing the African American community, but I am viewed as the sole authority on all issues ‘diverse’ and ‘urban’. No matter the discipline, scholars of color are always sought to voice the narrative of ‘oppressed’ and ‘marginalized’ populations. And frankly, I (we) am (are) sick of it.
Yes, my skin is chocolate brown and I have an afro. But my physical appearance does not qualify me to speak on behalf of an entire ethnic group. I can only speak on behalf of myself and my experiences. Is that the information you want? If not, I suggest you read scholarship about issues in minority communities and listen to the narratives of members of minority communities. And for the love of God, STOP STOP STOP trying to ‘help’ by doing week long community service projects wherein you bring YOUR solutions for what you PERCEIVE to be ‘their’ problems. If you want to help, open your mind, educate yourself, and try to think beyond your own experiences.
I digress. My major point here is that every day I struggle. I struggle with the hypocrisy of my course listings. Why, even though my degrees are in Psychology do I teach courses on Urban Education and Diversity and Equity in Education? My efforts to read, listen, and experience have ensured that I am well qualified to teach such courses, and I strongly believe in their importance (especially on a campus where over 70% of the students come from families whose yearly income is higher than $250,000).
But like other scholars of color, I am faced with the lasting question: If I don’t teach it, who will?