Olmec head discovered 1946 San Lorenzo, Mexico
Victorian Women Of Color - These Photographs Were Taken During The Victorian Era, Mainly From The Years Of 1860-1901.
"Photos of Women of Color from this era are hard to come by, especially “family" photographs. Sadly these beautiful and touching images go unnamed. A couple of these photos were taken when there was still slavery in the United States. We are honored to present these images as part of our dedication to the photographic history of our country". - Don Noyes-More Ph.D.,Editor in Chief.
Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When thats your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.
Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.
For the white students who escalated their discomfort to the administration at MCTC, what seemed to upset them most is the concept of structural racism. As a teacher, I find that all students struggle with the idea of structure. The American myth of rugged individualism is alive and well. We love to believe that nothing determines our life’s chances but our capacity to dream and work hard, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. For most students, my class is the first time they have ever talked seriously about capitalism or had a black woman as an authority figure. And when the structure in question is racism and someone who looks like me is leading the discussion, white students struggle particularly hard. How can something be racist if they do not intend it to be racist? Andwhy should they listen to me?Sociologists like Joe Faegin and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva have dismantled our post-racial delusions, showinghow racism happens without racists.
Take white flight, for example. Few white homebuyers request only to be shown houses in white neighborhoods. But real estate agents consider thisscreening part of their jobs. And when neighborhoods get too diverse, white families start selling, sparking a downward spiral of declining home values and tax bases that affects resources such as schools. If you’re the brown and black kids in one of those schools, it doesn’t matter if anyone intended to be racist. For those kids and their life chances, structural racism is real regardless of intent. Gibney’s class discussions sound solidly grounded in mainstream research. A white student may feel discomfort when it’s pointed out to him how he has benefited from structural racism, but to compare that discomfort to discrimination is a false equivalency. Hurt feelings hurt, but it is not oppression.
But hurt feelings can be bad for business. And a lot of powerful people think colleges should act more like businesses. When they do, students act more like customers. And our likely customers might not be amicable to discussions about structural racism. If the customer is always right, then the majority share of customers is more right than the minority. While blacks and Hispanics have increased their college participation—and they are projected to continue to do so—61 percent of all college studentsare still white. A survey from researchers at Tufts and Harvard found that “whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.” A sizable number of male voters seem to believe that men are still morenaturallysuited to be president of the United States. Young people think racist and sexist slurs are wrong, but “they don’t take much personal offense.”
If I want to piss off the majority of higher education’s customers, then defying the natural superiority of men by being a female authority figure, countering white oppression beliefs by appealing to structural racism, and making young people feel the emotions of being offended would seem like a good way to go. If, like Gibney, I were a professor hired to teach diaspora studies, doing so would be my job.
Teaching what people would rather not learn is especially tough if you are a woman or a minority professor. Research shows that our customers rate Asian-American, Hispanic, black, and women professors lower than white male professors across all subjects. Most disturbingly, student evaluations of women of color are harshest when customers are told that the results will be “communicated to a third party for the purposes of evaluation.” Our customers are not only disinclined to like tough subjects; they’re also inclined to take their discomfort out on minority professors,who are the least likelyto have the protection of tenure or support from university administration.
Learning is—should often be—uncomfortable for individuals. When universities have a mission to serve the public good, they balance the needs of individuals with benefits to society and the power of the majority against the humanity of the minority. Calls to “unbundle” the university never talk about what happens to that mission when we only learn what makes us comfortable—what it means for minority students and professors or the counternarratives they produce. The promise of market models of higher education like massive open online courses is that student-customers can build their own degree from a buffet of choices. But the buffet is heavy on science and math classes, and light on courses like humanities and social science where structural racism, sexism, and classism are taught. It is easy to imagine that in a college buffet, students who make nooses as a team-building exercise won’t take courses that might make them uncomfortable about doing so. Studentswantingthat choice make sense. Universitiesgivingthem the choice to make a few dollars does not make sense. Visionaries who sell us on these buffets allude to a future meritocratic economy. The implication is that the future does not need gatekeepers, leaders, or citizens who understand why making a noose in the student newsroom might be bad for morale.
Of course, nooses in the newsroom are only bad for the morale of some members of the team—the members least likely to make it to the newsroom because structural racism and sexism makes it harder for them to get there. And should they swim upstream to make it to the hallowed halls of higher education, the newsroom, or the technocratic future, we need not worry about their comfort, because profit margins chase market share. In the higher education market, we’re being sold “the customer is king.” That means a college’s highest purpose is co-creating a future that looks a lot like our past: educated but still unequal. That makes me very uncomfortable.
An incredibly well penned follow up to the very popular story last week from Slate.com
A Litany for Survival
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
This morning my daughter, who is nearly four, saw the stretch marks on my hips and stomach. She ran her hands over them and asked what they were.
“I got them when I grew up,” I said, “and a few more when I had you.” I grinned down at her. “They’re my stripes. You’ll get stripes too when you grow up.”
She was overjoyed. “Really?”
I think she’s in her room now, pretending to be a tiger.
This is what we need to teach.