This post was sent to me by Olufemi O. Taiwo and is signed by #TheUndercommons (UCLA).
Stop me if you've heard this one.
An adjunct. She’s Black, which she must remember when her colleagues and students recoil at her perceived anger, but forget if she’s brave enough to openly question these reactions. Which colleagues remember when assessing her work – especially should she make the mistake of mentioning her race, or worse, researching in ways that make it salient – but forget when defending these assessments. Fellow marginal colleagues and students seek her for advice and support. She helps.
Not familiar? How about: your department’s sole Black professor. A status that is noticed for committee assignments and the occasional “diversity” course offering (festive!). By students huddled in his office, often strays from departments that have no version of him, seeking -- what? Guidance, maybe. Someone to entertain the quiet thoughts they jot in the margins of their class notes, next to the ones they are actually willing to articulate. He rarely asks. He just listens. Teaches. When queried about his unsatisfactory productivity at his tenure review, he makes shit up. Win some, lose some.
Or: a Black student, sitting in a class. Maybe yours. They can feel that something is off, left unsaid, that there are maneuvers to be made that the course material is not gymnastic enough to allow. That the person in front of them isn’t the person to ask.
They find a Black instructor.