“Why am I black?” My 5-year-old daughter asked me this question. I paused, and I made a joke – “You are black because your momma is black and your daddy is black.”
This question made me realize a greater discussion that is surrounding her. We have been speaking about black and white in politics that has made it appear that one race is better than the other. As much as I believed I have shielded her from race, especially since her best friend is Asian, the reality is that race has been discussed as a binary – black is problematic and white is perfect.
I am not a member of Black Lives Matter, nor All Lives Matter groups, so this discussion does not enter into my home. Yet, the issues still permeate – as a 2 year old, she sat in the back seat of our Mercedes as the cops pulled my husband over without a citation issued. Yet, this officer still felt it was necessary to shine a bright light into the face of a sleeping two-year old little girl while my husband could only say, “yes, sir, and no, sir.” As a 4-year-old, I was pulled over in our family car, and my daughter reached for the camera. I thought, why would she even think of reaching for a camera? I don’t reach for a camera.
My little girl is involved in my academic triumphs and failures. I have been on countless interviews and heard her tell me, “Good Luck”, which has landed me countless adjunct positions and no full time positions. There are even some campuses that have yet to hire an African American in the last 5 to 10 years. In the midst of these dismal numbers, she knows that her mother continues to persist.
As I keep moving forward, she witnesses the continual obstacles my husband continues to encounter as a black golfer at a predominately white institution. The coach continues to throw racial slurs, doesn’t let him know when the team is to meet, and allows anyone besides him to continue to play him over and over for his spot on the team. Yet, my daughter witnesses him work harder and longer than anyone else on the team because he has a goal and persisting does not mean that he is weak.
Then, we witnessed Charlottesville, Virginia. The Saturday protest is not what disturbed me the most. It was the Friday night, in which individuals carrying tiki torches came on the campus of the University of Virginia. I was one of a few that were not surprised because higher education is littered with racists and sexists. In 2017, there are still college campuses that are the center of their towns. This has created a great deal of strife between the campus and the community. College signals progression and that society continues to move forward, but the community is not included in this progression. There is an economic disparity that is occurring. In the midst of this, there are still some racial and sexist ideas that continue to permeate within the higher education society.
Look around, and you will see the lack of diversity in higher education. As we continue to make strides, the hiring committees are still not as comfortable hiring a great deal of diverse candidates. We don’t give up in applying and we don’t leave academia, we just innovate and diversify our employment options. We really do not like to discuss race because we (especially me) want to be seen based on my talent and not my complexion.
Yet, I know we must discuss race and gender because we can’t continue to live in silence, as if we are okay with being treated as second-class citizens. We need to discuss how we do not want to be singled out in meetings because we are discussing minority issues. We need to discuss that we do not want to be called ‘girl’ or ‘boy’ since we haven’t been girls or boys for some time. We want to be comfortable in researching ideas pertaining to race or gender and not hide our true selves until we achieve tenure. We will work continuously while pregnant, after pregnancy, and with our family commitments.
We want to be valued in your actions and not just in your words.