Being Black Faculty at a White College
1. Seeing the president of your college around town and having him ask you where you work every single time, in spite of the fact that there are less than a handful of Black faculty members at your school.
2. Having your president ask you at a retreat, “So where did we get you from?” as if you came from a farm, or a zoo, or a plantation …
3. Sitting in disbelief as the college president disrespects the President of the United States, Barack Obama …
4. Feeling sick that the college president represents me in the community
5. Feeling angry that the college president has the temerity to turn our annual state of the college address into a political message directing us how to vote republican, when he’s a state employee
6. Getting a migraine every year, just before the state of the college address because you know racial slights will abound. It’s not enough for the administration to lord their authority over you, now you are forced to sit through these functions…
7. Feeling furious when a new Black female faculty member is introduced, “You’re gonna remember this one.”
8. At the same function, watching the ONLY Black male administrator, a new promote, introduced as “my man” …
9. Knowing that my credibility will be questioned in ways whites’ will not, even if my credentials are impeccable…
10. Knowing that even my syllabus is a matter of scrutiny
11. Being told to remove my alma mater from my syllabus because it makes white males uncomfortable.
12. Being told by a Vice President, that I take my division chair “out of his comfort zone” and not having any way (or desire) to change it
13. Having students question my credibility, all the while knowing that their attitudes are reflected by those of the administration.
14. Constantly having students, white students, who are confronted by their own racism, complain to my division chair that I am the racist for making them feel uncomfortable.
15. Knowing that the actual definition of racism is not a factor in the discussions held by white students, white faculty, and white administrators as they discuss my presumed racism.
16. Knowing that all of them are uncomfortable confronting their racism, which makes me a perfect scapegoat.
17. Not wanting to be a fly on the wall to hear their discussions about racism, me, or me and racism…
18. Having to walk on egg shells any time I teach anything controversial or provocative … and knowing that my white colleagues do not share in that experience, in fact, some of them take great joy in reminding me of this fact.
19. Hearing from students of color and female students that I am being bad-mouthed by administrators and other faculty.
20. Having students skip the chain of command, refusing to discuss their grievances with me, but going to an administrator who inevitably supports their position…
21. Knowing I better not skip the chain of command.
22. Not having academic freedom, but worse, being constrained to definitions and applications that are expressly wrong in my field. There is no such thing as “reverse racism.”
23. Having to beg white counterparts to do their jobs or having to copy my chair just to get them to do their jobs. Knowing if I worked that way, I would be fired immediately.
24. Having low level white staff, including those on housekeeping, disrespect me because they know they can and they’ve heard it from somewhere that it’s ok to do so. They have gone as far as to walk in the faculty bathroom while I’m in it, opening the door and brushing past me without an apology.
25. Not having privacy in my office or file cabinets, or having it violated.
26. Having my intellectual property shared without my permission. I invested hundreds of hours into my Blackboard online course, and it is given freely to any faculty who want it, without so much as a “by your leave.”
27. Being scrutinized on every level – every single action is questioned and criticized … why does it matter what I have on my door, when it doesn’t matter what others have on their doors?
28. Looking at achievers such as Drs. Melissa Harris-Perry, Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson, and William Gates and seeing their harassment and the mounds of disrespect heaped on them, and realizing that it means my path is even harder, not easier.
29. Seeing the resistance to all my ideas, no matter how creative or sustainable, only because they come from me. There is to be no acceptance of a diversity policy, except, wait a minute, suddenly, quite suddenly, there IS an administrator working on a diversity policy.
30. Reading this quickly produced diversity policy, and realizing, it’s basically a restating of the legal phrases required to cover our institutional behinds.
31. Being called an elitist for achieving a superior education, and then being told you should be humble.
32. Having a division chair spontaneously decide to host a “social” at his elitist, separatist, gated neighborhood social club, requiring many, if not most faculty to drive a considerable distance to be “hosted” by him.
33. Being called “sassy” or some other racially-charged moniker anytime I challenge authority or assert my expertise.
34. Seeing whites chuck it up with administration, making comments that would get me fired.
35. Getting fired.
36. Having no justification for being fired, other than “wrong fit” … whatever that means.
37. Knowing that “wrong fit” means “you don’t know your place”
38. Being told that I should be grateful to even have a job or to be able to speak frankly with administrators, rather than being taken seriously or having my thoughts considered.
39. Having my personal accomplishments minimized because they take administrators out of their comfort zones or might make other faculty look bad if theirs do not compare.
40. Being told I could not include the “with Honors” part of my degree in the faculty listing because it would make others feel uncomfortable
41. Having students tell you to your face that they think you lied about graduating from your alma mater because they googled you and couldn’t find you as an alumnus on the internet
42. Having other administrators bad mouth you to white students and minimize your expertise simply because you’re Black. When you report this behavior, being told it won’t be addressed because the person in question’s boss is the spouse of an elected official …
43. Experiencing intersectional double jeopardy – that is, being both black and female.
44. Knowing that even if you break through the glass ceiling, you’ll never likely penetrate the cement ceiling just beyond it. That ceiling has been fortified with steel beams to ensure you not only don’t know what’s beyond, but that you can’t see it. The cement ceiling, however, somehow allows those above it to see everything you do.
45. Feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
46. Being threatened with disciplinary action by a supervisor who is standing in the middle of a hallway while addressing me while I’m in my office.
47. Having lower ranking administrative staff report any missteps I make to their vice president, who then reports them to my boss’s boss, but knowing white faculty and staff just talk amongst themselves and never put anything in writing if it’s derogatory.
48. Having them write memos about you to your boss, and then having the nerve to copy you on them.
49. Having a vice president publicly call you a disappointment, “not getting what they thought when they hired you”
50. Having that same administrator walk past you without even an acknowledgement whenever on campus, but greeting others in your presence, warmly and even excessively enthusiastically, which is totally out of character for her.
51. Being ignored at the same faculty Christmas party you didn’t want to attend in the first place by the same VP who bristled at the suggestion that you might want to avoid him after being on the receiving end of one of his rants.
52. Receiving annual birthday cards from the president of the institution which impugn your character (Your name reminds me of a character on a television show, who “was not a paragon of moral virtue.”)
53. Having other administrators tell students you don’t know what you’re talking about or dissuade them from taking your class
54. Having students call you by your first name but call their other professors by their title
55. Having students post anonymous comments, racially charged and insulting, on websites that impugn your character and ability, and knowing that your own administration probably agrees, and could be posting the comments themselves to further impugn your reputation
56. Being talked over, down to, and around any time you have anything valuable to contribute
57. Knowing your ideas will not be accepted, not because they hold no value, but because they represent a challenge on some level to those who are incapable of accepting you for your own individuality and intelligence.
58. Seeing the kinds of things white faculty members do and say and knowing you better not even think about it.
59. Having white faculty members present you with “evidence” that their ethnic group is innately more intelligent than yours.
60. Having white faculty members standing in line to tell you how many relatives they have that attended your prestigious alma mater, and because of previous interactions with them, knowing they’re telling you, “You’re not that special.”
61. Knowing that everything you say and everything you do is documented and will be used against you at some point, especially since every administrative person on campus is busy copying your VP with details of your every interaction with them
62. Having a senior VP tell you that one of your students is the wife of another VP, and advising you that you better not do anything to ruffle feathers.
63. Later, having that first senior VP chastise you severely because the wife of the other senior VP felt you were elitist and talked down to them and were too harsh in your syllabus because you were firm, direct, and had the nerve to put your alma mater in it, hence, the ruffling of feathers.
64. Being accused of being elitist or thinking you’re better than your students.
65. Being asked to change your class schedule to accommodate a white faculty member because that member is “a single parent” and this schedule works better for him
66. Being asked to change your class schedule to accommodate a white faculty member because that member has to drive a long distance, and this schedule works better for him
67. Being asked to change your class schedule to accommodate a white faculty member who has a family emergency to contend with and this schedule works better for him
68. Not being accommodated when you are sick, have transportation challenges, or are taking care of sick family members.
69. Having your requests to be respected in your office ignored, but then being chastised when you decide to take action on your own
70. Having to get a white male faculty member tell students to turn off their iPods and stop talking loudly as they’re camped outside your office door, because when you tell them, they know they don’t have to listen
71. Having articles you post on your door mysteriously and continuously “disappear” if they have anything at all to do with race or gender, but students routinely write about being neo-nazis, and can flat out write me a note on a final telling me how awful my class is and how stupid my exam is.
72. Being expected to render an apology without explanation for anything you do wrong, even if unintentional, while never receiving an apology for actual wrongs committed against you.
73. Knowing that no matter how polite and well-spoken you conduct yourself (respectability politics), you will always be scrutinized and judged by the least of your deeds, not the best.
74. Having your mistakes blown out of proportion to those of your white colleagues.
75. Having parents and people in the community call you in your office to object to assignments their students/family members don’t like
76. Having people in the community “report” you to your supervisor for assignments they don’t like
77. Having your white colleagues tell you you’re wrong when you refute their arguments on race.
78. Having white female colleagues try to compare their disrespect to yours (the oppression Olympics).
79. Having to meet with other faculty of color off campus, to minimize the accusations of collusion.
80. Having students make anonymous claims against you and not being able to defend yourself.
81. Being a veteran of the US military, and having a student claim you are unpatriotic or anti-military, then having administrators refuse to defend you or present the obvious factual data to refute the claim.
82. Knowing your opportunities for promotion are in inverse proportion to the “racial conflict” you are perceived to have caused.
83. Being told you “can turn anything into a racial issue.”
84. Sitting on a hiring board and seeing well-qualified minority candidates denied while every other new faculty member is a not-so-well-qualified tall, leggy blonde who lives in the same neighborhood as the administrators, or some cutesy, young, childless white woman who won’t challenge anyone’s sense of superiority.
85. Sitting on a hiring committee and having one of the first conversations be about the “less qualified affirmative action” candidates, and not having administrators clarify the misconception…Feeling as though those administrators actually agree…
86. Understanding why there are so few people of color represented on the faculty.
87. Watching mediocrity be rewarded with promotions, especially when the mediocre are blonde and white.
88. Donating $10,000 to a family scholarship for minority males, but noticing that the recognition plaque is mysteriously missing from the display and being told it was not printed because “there’s a shortage of funds” to do so.
89. Being the only ones on campus who aren’t invited to sit on a faculty committee.
90. Having the minutes of faculty meetings changed to reflect different facts than those which occurred when your contribution ruffles feathers.
91. Dealing daily with a hostile work environment and suffering the health effects that go with it. I actually had low blood pressure for my whole life, low like, 96/65… During the height of the conflicts, my pressure went to 164/121. Now I take 7 pills every day.
92. Having a white male student ask in front of the class if it’s possible to dislike someone who’s done nothing to them while he special delivers the white male gaze …with his arms crossed …
93. Walking into a classroom on the first day of class, and having two white male students look at each other and say aloud, “Oh shit, one of them!”
94. Having a fellow committee member state that she likes you ok, but doesn’t want to be seen socializing with you for fear of losing her job
95. Every semester, having Black female students in my office, behind closed doors, crying about how they are made to feel in the class of a particular white male faculty member, who uses the “n” word because he can, makes up grades, is not accountable for his behavior, and who bad-mouths you to his students in class
96. Knowing this same faculty member is one of the administration’s favorites
97. Having this same faculty member get a choice course to teach in spite of his relative inexperience and the fact that he is unqualified to do so
98. Having your division chair be surprised and upset by your critique of said faculty member, but reminding him that had he not iced you from the hiring committees, he would have known sooner…
99. Having white faculty be mentored by administration in ways to undermine me
100. Having white faculty members taken aside and advised how to get ahead in spite of the fact that they are not qualified to do so
101. Having administrators questions other Black women about any and everything I say about race, such as, “Are things really as bad for minority faculty as she says?”
102. Having administrators brag that they are color blind
103. Having administrators brag about riding someone else’s coattails to get ahead
104. Having an administrator tell you to your face that he and his spouse, who is also an administrator, are going to retire from your institution, but you aren’t …
105. Wondering if he knows something I don’t or if he’s just being an jerk in his assertion/threat
106. Having that same administrator brag that he “has more money than he can spend,” while still acknowledging that our faculty are paid in the 70th percentile in the country.
107. Knowing that a white female colleague overheard the conversation of the previous three points, but that if she were called on it, she would not tell the truth for fear of losing her job…
108. Having faculty in our department jump through hoops to raise over a thousand dollars to give to the new white woman whose child is ill (a worthy cause), but couldn’t be bothered to send a card when your father had a quadruple bypass, or your mother, who was an adjunct in the same department, had two hip replacements and a knee replacement, or when you became a grandparent.
109. Being ignored after being victimized by a hate crime, and then being told that the reason is because, “You’re not one of our stars.”
110. Actually feeling worse as I document the many ways I have been demeaned and disrespected here.