Sunday, November 28, 2010
University Teaching Experiences by People of Color
compiled by Deborah A. Miranda
Washington and Lee University
Although he writes specifically about professors of color in law schools, Victor Essien captures the essence of the minority professor’s experience in his article about the visible and invisible barriers to the incorporation of faculty of color in the academy. Essien summarizes his work as that which “explores the extent to which limited institutional support in law school environments cripples the chances of faculty of color in their efforts to succeed.” Yet it is not enough simply to chronicle our struggles in the academy; we must create the most productive environment possible for our success as scholars and professors of color, and the success of those behind us. One of the most powerful ways to create that environment is to communicate clearly with our allies, and those who might become allies: in other words, our colleagues and administrators. Dr. Omi Osun Joni Jones of the University of Texas lists six crucial “rules” for allies of people of color which revolve around openness, honesty, and risk. A brief summary of her rules are:
1. Allies must be willing to be warriors for the freedom of quality, and risk the support of institutions in our joint move toward deep liberation, rather than soldiers of the status quo.
2. Speaking up means being willing to relinquish some piece of privilege in order to create justice. Allies step up. They do the work that has left others weary and depleted.
3. Allies do not tell anyone in an oppressed group to be ‘patient.’ Patience is not a political strategy. However, planning while waiting or appearing to wait IS a strategy. Allies plan with us.
4. Allies know how to spot oppression and support others as they reveal their wounds. Allies train themselves to spot oppression, and to support others as they reveal their wounds.
5. Allies want to know when they have contributed to the very oppressions they have opposed. Allies know they are not above reproach.
6. Because allies believe the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, allies seriously consider, support, and take part in, the transgressive power that exists in alternative academic possibilities and teaching methodologies.
Finally, Jones concludes, “This list of rules requires that allies get to know one another. It also suggests that everyone in the room has the opportunity to BE an ally. Those of us who are people with experiences of oppression must also examine those times when OUR privileges insist that we abide by these very rules. For me, my class privilege and my nationality are markers that position me in this role of ally.” Jones recognizes that as a professor, as a citizen of one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States, “I also must practice these six rules … these rules are for everyone.” In other words, we are all allies, one way or another, to those who are targets of multiple and varying levels of oppression, and so we all have work to do.
This bibliography has its beginnings in requests from colleagues for information about experiences of minority professors in academe that enables, rather than cripples, their support of junior minority faculty. This bibliography is also steeped in conversations with other scholars of color in the academy who are determined and passionate about sharing information and creating an environment that nurtures all human beings in the pursuit of knowledge. As a Native woman attempting to negotiate my way to tenure while teaching at two predominantly white universities, I turned to the documented experiences and research of others scholars of color for support, and as a way to help educate my white colleagues who so clearly wanted information but often did not know where to look. This material validated my own experiences, provided hard data to work with, diluted my sense of isolation, and, when I attempted to articulate the “invisible barriers” - an experience inside or out of the classroom which struck me as a road block most white professors did not have to hurdle – to my white colleagues, this material provided concrete resources for their own ongoing self-education. This last benefit was invaluable in preparing and enabling my colleagues to support me in my bid for tenure.
As you might suspect, this bibliography is not complete. I expect the publication of more books and articles on this topic to continue to increase in number and in diversity, as well as the development of more online and video sources. But when a white colleague asks me, “Why can’t we find a minority person to fill this position?” or “Why are tenure rates for Native professors so much lower than any other minority professor?” or “Why are your student evaluations consistently so low?” this bibliography serves in two ways: first, as an immediate way to engage in an important and much larger conversation with many concerned and thoughtful voices; and secondly, as a strong tool in the training and encouragement of allies with the power and inclination to help effect change. Likewise, when a professor of color shares with me a story of oppression or gatekeeping, I am able to listen, strategize, and console, but I can also share this bibliography as a document which provides a solid foot-in-the-door for that professor to start conversations with his or her peers, colleagues and administrators.
The recent MLA data sets on minority graduation rates, advanced degrees, and tenured positions (or lack thereof) is a powerful and eye-opening tool to bring into this larger discussion; the deeper context of how race, ethnicity and sexual orientation affect the minority professor in the classroom, in tenure track, and in quality of living, is an absolutely crucial part of understanding that data. By making these resources more widely and conveniently known to administrators, colleagues and ourselves, we set up a more favorable climate in which to create profound improvements for all those involved in a University education: professors, students, administrators alike. This bibliography is an additional tool which I hope will be distributed, used, and developed by scholars of color and allies alike.
- Deborah A. Miranda
BOOKS AND ARTICLES
Aguirre, Adalberto Jr. Women and Minority Faculty in the Academic Workplace : recruitment,
retention, and academic culture. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
Despite their increased numbers, women and minority faculty remain underrepresented in higher education. This report compares and contrasts the workplace experiences of female, Latino, Black, Asian, and Native American faculty. Aguirre examines the organizational features of the academic workplace and explores the challenges of professional socialization.
Alex-Assensoh, Yvette. “Race in the academy: Moving beyond diversity and toward
the incorporation of faculty of color in predominately white colleges and universities.”
Journal of Black Studies, Special Issue, (34)1:2003. All of the articles included in this special issue are united in their thematic critique of diversity, as it is commonly implemented in predominately White institutions. However, the research is diverse in its identification of the factors at institutional and individual levels, which undermine the ability of faculty of color to succeed in predominately White institutions. This special issue is divided into three parts: (1) articles exploring how individual-level factors affect the ability of faculty of color to be incorporated; (2) articles addressing the institutional contexts of incorporation; and (3) critiques of the concept of incorporation as a useful tool in the analyses of faculty of color in higher education.
Anderson, Kristin and Gabriel Smith. "Students' Perceptions of Professors: Benefits and
Barriers According to Ethnicity and Gender," Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Studies 27, 2005:184-201.
antonio, a. l. “Faculty of Color and Scholarship Transformed: New Arguments For
Diversifying Faculty.” Diverse Digest, 3(2), 2000:6-7. This study looks at the value of scholarship in higher education by faculty of color. Using the 1995 Faculty Survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 33,986 full-time faculty from 384 higher education institutions across the country responses were analyzed in terms of faculty work behaviors, uses of different types of pedagogy, personal goals, professional goals, and goals faculty hold for undergraduate education. Findings reveal that faculty of color can be differentiated from white faculty in terms of their lower publication record with respect to journal articles and books, higher commitment to research activities, somewhat more frequent use of student-centered pedagogical methods, stronger support for educational goals that encompass the affective, moral, and civic development of students, and in the more explicit connection they make between the work of their profession and service to society.
_______. “Faculty of color reconsidered: Reassessing contributions to scholarship.” The
Journal of Higher Education, 2002:582-602. Examined the role of faculty of color in expanding notions of scholarship in academe. Found that the value orientation that faculty of color bring to the academy distinguishes their greater involvement in, and support of, activities reflective of Boyer's scholarship of discovery, teaching, integration, and application.
Baez, B. “Outsiders Within?: Ethnic labels empower and disempower Latino faculty. Life in the
borderlands of the academic community means living with new dilemmas and paradoxes.” Academe. July/August, 2003. This article challenges the title “outsiders within,” a name representing the particular dilemmas, experiences, and concerns of faculty of color. Such faculty are “outsiders” because they are not white, yet are “within” academe. The author suggests that this term is not quite right as a descriptor of racial and ethnic dynamics in higher education. It implies the logic of whiteness, making others conform to an ideal that no one can live up to. It suggests a universality and unity that do not exist. The author suggests moving beyond and letting go of the inside-outside dichotomy, and realize the importance of movement between inside to outside as a source of becoming changed and different. The author particularly reflects on how Latinos often have to negotiate racial, gender, class, and sexual barriers, as well as ethnic, linguistic, and national ones. The author believes that the understanding of Latino faculty is limited by the politics of racial and ethnic identity, which marks/labels individuals in absolute racial and ethnic terms and, in so doing, defines them by those marks/labels. Such resistance to these markings/labeling is displayed in the attempt to understand how dynamics of race and ethnicity shape one’s sense of being in the academy, and also from questioning the power of the very marks/labels.
Barnhardt, Ray. “Domestication of the Ivory Tower: Institutional Adaptation to Cultural
Distance.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 33(2) 2002: 238-249. Native students trying to survive in the university environment (an institution that is a virtual embodiment of modern consciousness) must acquire and accept a new form of consciousness, an orientation which not only displaces, but often devalues the world views they bring with them. For many, this is a greater sacrifice than they are willing to make, so they withdraw and go home, branded a failure. Those who do survive in the academic environment for four or more years often find themselves caught between different worlds, neither of which can fully satisfy their acquired tastes and aspirations, and thus they enter into a struggle to reconcile their conflicting forms of consciousness. The recent articulation of the emic dimensions of this struggle from multiple indigenous perspectives has opened up intriguing avenues for re-defining both the uses of knowledge and the associated ways of knowing
Bernal, D. D., & Villalpando, O. “An apartheid of knowledge in academia: The struggle over
the ‘legitimate’ knowledge of faculty of color.” Equity & Excellence in Education, vol. 35, 2002:169-180. Using critical race theory, analyzes how an apartheid in knowledge that marginalizes and devalues the scholarship, epistemologies, and cultural resources of minority faculty is embedded in higher education, questioning claims of objectivity, meritocracy, and individuality in society. Affirms the importance of using experiential knowledge in people and communities of color.
Berry, Theodorea Regina and Nathalie Mizelle, eds. From Oppression to Grace: Women of
Color and Their Dilemmas within the Academy. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2006.
This book gives voice to the experiences of women of color--women of African, Native American, Latina, East Indian, Korean and Japanese descent--as students pursuing terminal degrees and as faculty members navigating the Academy, grappling with the dilemmas encountered by others and themselves as they exist at the intersections of their work and identities. Women of color are frequently relegated--on account both of race and womanhood--into monolithic categories that perpetuate oppression, subdue and suppress conflict, and silence voices. This book uses critical race feminism (CRF) to place women of color in the center, rather than the margins, of the discussion, theorizing, research and praxis of their lives as they co-exist in the dominant culture. The first part of the book addresses the issues faced on the way to achieving a terminal degree: the struggles encountered and the lessons learned along the way. Part Two, "Pride and Prejudice: Finding Your Place After the Degree" describes the complexity of lives of women with multiple identities as scholars with family, friends, and lives at home and at work. The book concludes with the voices of senior faculty sharing their journeys and their paths to growth as scholars and individuals.
Benjamin, Lois. (Editor) Black Women in the Academy: Promises and Perils. Gainsville:
University Press of Florida, 1997. In provocative essays exploring the themes of identity, power, and change, thirty-three black woman academics and administrators from around the country discuss their experiences of life in America’s institutions of higher education.
Often inspiring, these accounts serve collectively both as a handbook for today’s black female academics, administrators, graduate students, and junior faculty and as a call to the nation’s academies to respond to the voice of black women. It is also a fascinating insiders’ guide to what is going on in the halls of higher learning today.
Butner, B. K., Burley, H., & Marbley, A. F. ”Coping with the unexpected: Black faculty at
predominantly white institutions.” Journal of Black Studies, 30, 2000: 453-462. Studied the ways in which three black faculty members at a predominantly white college in Texas coped with day-to-day frustrations associated with being a small racial minority among faculty members. Identified collaboration, collegiality, and community as major contributors to personal satisfaction and professional advancement.
Castellanos, J., & Jones, L. Eds.The Majority In The Minority: Expanding The
Representation Of Latina/O Faculty, Administrators And Students In Higher Education. Herndon,VA: Stylus Publishing, 2003. This collection discusses various aspects of increasing the representation of Latinas and Latinos in U.S. higher education. The selections provide historical background, review issues of access and achievement, and present problems of status and barriers to success. The book is divided into four sections: (1) undergraduate experiences and retention, (2) student voices, (3) Latina/o administrators’ experiences and retention, and (4) Latina/o faculty experiences and retention.
Chait, R. P., & Trower, C. A. “Faculty diversity: Too little for too long.” 2002.
The authors state that in the past 30 years the numbers and minority and women faculty, especially the former, have had minimal increase when compared to students of color at research universities. Chait and Trower find that minority faculty are: (1) in less prestigious fields, (2) less prestigious institutions, (3) receive lower pay, and (4) are more likely to be non-tenured. They state that faculty diversification is slow at research universities because institutions claim that there are not enough qualified candidates for their positions. This is true for minorities, but not women. It's not a pipeline problem, but barriers, even though the pipeline is leaking. And socialization that undercuts diversity: (1) hierarchy of disciplines, (2) gender and race-based stereotypes, (3) single-minded devotion to professional pursuits, (4) research is better than teaching, (5) quantitative is better than qualitative, (6) some journals are better than others. Emergent academic views by Chait and Trower by which academia should organize around: (1) transparency in the review process, (2) cooperation rather than competition, (3) teaching and advising should be rewarded, (4) personal life should be part of the balance, (5) collaborative research is important and should be valued.
_______. “Professors at the color line.” New York Times 11 Sept. 2001:A23.
Christian-Smith, Linda and Kristine Kellor. Everyday Knowledge and Uncommon Truths: Life
Writings and Women's Experiences in and Outside the Academy. Boulder: Westview Press Inc, 1998. Lately, there has been considerable interest by women in the academy in a discernment process involving an examination of the historically, politically and culturally situated nature of their knowledge of the world, their work in the academy and other activities in which they engage. These examinations, especially in the form of narrative inquiry, life histories and deconstructive language practices such as discourse analysis, figure prominently in breaking silences and giving voice to the many tensions that women experience in the academic workplace and other settings.Everyday Knowledge and Uncommon Truths: Women of the Academy is a thirteen chapter volume which draws on the life experience and varied backgrounds of academic women from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Offering diverse perspectives on women’s experiences of being and knowing in and outside the academy, contributors draw on a range of critical approaches derived from feminism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, critical education theory, discourse theory and analysis, narrative inquiry and life histories. Topics examined include: the ways home and domestic matters impinge on academic life; the constraints on women becoming educated; the contradictions surrounding teaching and teaching practices; the background factors that shape research and writing; and women’s activism within and beyond the academy.
Cleveland, Darrell. When "minorities are strongly encouraged to apply" : diversity and
affirmative action in higher education. New York : Peter Lang, 2009. Each year, graduates of Ph.D. programs and faculty across the country prepare to enter positions at universities across the country. Included in many job announcements is the phrase "Minorities are strongly encouraged to apply." In this phrase, the question for many individuals is, "Who/what is considered a minority?" In most cases, the term "minority" only means people of color. This book highlights the experiences of various minority doctoral students pursuing Ph.D.s and junior faculty members across the country who have successfully navigated the academy by securing employment, tenure, and promotion despite the hurdles that cause many to avoid or leave academia altogether. This book will help administrators and faculty face the challenge of recruiting and retaining minority students and faculty as they complete their Ph.D.s and gain tenure.
Cooper, Joanee and Dannelle Stevens (editors). Tenure in the Sacred Grove: Issues and
Strategies for Women and Minority Faculty. State University of New York Press, 2002.
Designed to help women and minority faculty navigate a path to tenure in academe, this book looks at the political, scholarly, personal and interpersonal issues. Filled with the experiences and advice of those who have navigated this terrain successfully, despite obstacles and setbacks, it includes considerations for women, faculty of color, and gay/lesbian/bisexual faculty, addressing racism, sexism and ageism in the academy. The contributors provide guidance in a multitude of areas such as coping with feelings of fraudulence, making a persuasive tenure case, balancing work and family, as well as practical advice on teaching, research and publication, and the scholarship of outreach. Contributors include tenured faculty, journal editors, department chairs, campus promotion and tenure chairs, and university presidents.
Cooper, Tuesday L. The Sista' Network: African-American Women Faculty Successfully
Negotiating the Road to Tenure. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, 2006. Tuesday L. Cooper creates a unique methodological framework that uses the feminist lens of personal experience, Black feminist thought, and semi-fictional and ethnographic theory that weaves the narratives of nine African American women into a roundtable discussion. Cooper's methodology sharply illuminates the various ways the women faculty confront the tenure process at their respective institutions. Within this framework, Cooper skillfully demonstrates the impact that intersecting systems of race, gender, and class have on African American women in the academy and why "The Sista' Network" is crucial. By "Sista' Network," she means the relationships between and among African American women faculty that enable them to assist one another in negotiating the road to tenure. Cooper first addresses the difficulties African American female faculty face while pursuing tenure, including being both overworked and simultaneously invisible. (excerpt)
Earl, Thomas. “Higher Education's Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Minority Faculty.” The
Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education (back cover unpaginated) 14 August, 2006.
Essien, Victor. “Visible and Invisible Barriers to the Incorporation of Faculty of Color in
Predominantly White Law Schools.” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2003: 63-71. Despite efforts to diversify faculty in predominantly White institutions, most law schools remain predominantly male and Caucasian. Based heavily on aspects of Law Professor Derrick Bell’s work and research, the author, a lawyer by training, explores the extent to which limited institutional support in law school environments cripples the chances of faculty of color in their efforts to succeed. The author also points out the mechanisms that scholars of color in law schools have used in an effort to combat racial and gender discrimination.
Fenelon, James. “Race, Research, and Tenure: Institutional Credibility and the Incorporation of
African, Latino, and American Indian Faculty.” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2003:87-100. Examines literature on the power of race to demonstrate how some universities use tenure and promotion committees to show that private universities are more susceptible to the interests of alumni and thus are sometimes less interested in safeguarding the interests of faculty of color involved in controversial research on racial issues. This suggests that institutions vary in willingness or ability to facilitate incorporation among faculty of color.
Garcia, Mildred. Succeeding in an Academic Career: A Guide for Faculty of Color. Westport:
Greenwood Press, 2000. Faculty of color are entering the academy at a time when colleges and universities are undergoing significant transformations. Demographic shifts promise the most diverse student body in the history of higher education. The technology explosion is transforming the way we experience teaching and learning. Public expectations that higher education institutions put students at the center of learning have never been higher. Administrators and faculty throughout the country proclaim that they want to diversify their faculty in order to be able to meet these new challenges. When they are successful, they hire faculty of color who bring an abundance of talent. Armed with the new knowledge they acquired in their life experiences and in pursuit of their advanced degrees, these faculty members not only promote diversity, but also offer different ways of knowing their field and different lenses through which to examine their disciplines. Yet, when faculty of color enter the academy, they all too often receive little guidance about what it takes to carve out a career in higher education. The present volume is a collection of success stories contributed by faculty of color that share their lessons of survival. It offers thoughtful analyses, multiple blueprints, and specific strategies for shaping a successful and satisfying academic career.
Garcia, Joseph and Karen Hoelscher. Managing Diversity Flashpoints in Higher Education.
Westport: Praeger, 2007. Covering a timely topic, which is more and more frequently in the news, this book offers vignettes that will sharpen the reader's ability to recognize and respond to difficult situations sparked by identity differences among faculty, staff, and students in college and university settings. The authors provide a systematic guide to addressing interpersonal conflicts that arise out of issues of identity difference, both for individuals and for campus work teams who provide direct service to students. Managing Diversity Flashpoints in Higher Education empowers readers to diagnose diversity flashpoint situations and positively address them without creating defensiveness and barriers to dialogue. The authors include an overview of the changing ethnic, racial, and gender composition of students in higher education in the United States and the major trends in campus responses to the changing student population. They offer an approach to creating higher education environments that welcome people of all cultural characteristics and promote civility on campus. The book is founded on the authors' research on diversity flashpoints in higher education for which they interviewed a national sample of student affairs professionals. The authors identified uncomfortable interpersonal situations with faculty members in which the discomfort arose from student identity difference. This process led to the formulation of strategies for using vignettes (resulting from interviews) in professional development sessions.
Hamilton, K. “Mission Possible.” Black Issues in Higher Education, 20(18), 2003:24-28.
This article looks at three higher educational institutions’ aggressive moves in jump starting their faculty diversity recruitment and retention programs. The three schools showcased are Rochester 15 Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA), and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC).
Harlow, Roxana. "'Race Doesn't Matter, But...': The Effect of Race on Professors'
Experiences and Emotion Management in the Undergraduate College Classroom," Social Psychology Quarterly 66, 2003:348-363.
Hendrix, Katherine Grace. "Student Perceptions of the Influence of Race on Professor
Credibility," Journal of Black Studies 28:6 1998:738-763. Education and communication researchers have not explored sufficiently teacher credibility or the classroom communication and experiences of teachers and professors of color, in particular, teachers and professors belonging to subordinate minority groups. As a result, there are gaps in the literature due to its incomplete status. Qualitative case studies of six professors, three Black and three White, are used to examine the relationship of race and student perceptions of credibility. The findings from interviews with 28 undergraduate students, enrolled in one of 6 courses, indicate that the classroom presents particular challenges for Black professors teaching at a predominantly White post-secondary institution. The findings from these student participants suggest that: (1) the Black professors are held to more stringent credibility standards than White professors; (2) that the challenges to credibility are exacerbated when Black professors teach subject matter that cannot be directly connected with their race; (3) that students possess favorable/fair attitudes toward Black professors once they have successfully established their credibility; and (4) that Black professors are perceived to have worked harder than White professors to earn their educational and professional status. (Contains 3 notes and 35 references; survey forms and questions are attached.)
Hune, S. Asian Pacific American women in higher education: Claiming visibility and
voice. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1998.
This report examines the literature on the status of Asian Pacific American (APA) women and is based on a review of research studies, campus climate and diversity reports, focus group and individual interviews representing a range of colleges and universities, and the author's own observations in academe over two decades. The report finds that APA women have demonstrated significant increases in bachelor's, master's, and first-professional degrees over the past decade but continue to lag behind male counterparts. The report also finds that APA women are underrepresented in many fields of study at all degree levels, in doctoral studies, as faculty, and at higher levels of academic administration; that many APA women find an inhospitable campus climate; that they are evaluated differently and lack a sense of community with their colleagues;
and that APA professional staff cite invisibility and marginalization. The report notes that the "model minority" stereotype penalizes APA women by assuming they do not need academic or professional guidance and support, and that class and cultural biases reinforce APA women as "outsiders" in academe. Part 1 of this report presents an "Overview of Asian Pacific Americans";Part 2 considers "Stereotypes, Biases, and Obstacles; and Part 3 focuses on "Asian Pacific American Women and the Academy."
Jones, L. (Ed.). (2002). Making it on broken promises: Leading African American male scholars
confront the culture in higher education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. 2002. Sixteen of America's leading scholars offer an uncompromising critique of the academy from
their perspective as African American men. They challenge dominant majority assumptions about the culture of higher education, most particularly its claims of openness to diversity and divergent traditions. They take issue with the processes that determine what is legitimized as scholarship, as well as who wields the power to authenticate it. They describe the debilitating pressures to subordinate Black identity to a supposedly universal but hegemonic Eurocentric culture. They question the academy's valuing of individuality and its privileging of dichotomy over their cultural styles of community, humanism and synthesis. They also range over such issues as culturally mediated styles of cognition, the misuse of standardized testing, the disproportionate burden of service placed on African American faculty and a reward system that discounts it.
Justice, Daniel Heath and Debra S. Barker. “Deep Surveillance: Tenure and Promotion
Strategies for Scholars of Color.” Profession. (2007): 174–180. Given the myriad difficulties faced by scholars of color in the academy, there is clearly no single strategy for success in achieving tenure and promotion, as much depends on the specific strengths of the individual scholar, the particular home department, and the larger institution. Com-mon to all situations, however, and the proactive focus of this essay, is the importance of an emphasis on informed participation. Many of the struggles faced by scholars on the tenure track involve unspoken or as¬sumed knowledge on the part of the department or institution and expec¬tations of full transparency on the part of the faculty member. Toward that end, the “deep surveillance” suggestions be¬low are intended to help tenure-track scholars of color better inform themselves about institutional expectations, their professional and personal relation¬ships, and their priorities to ensure, as much as possible, a clear-eyed and empowering understanding of what is still too often a rather esoteric system.
Lim, Shirley Geok-lin and Maria Herrera-Sobek. Power, Race, and Gender in Academe:
Strangers in the Tower? New York: The Modern Language Association, 2000. Individual African Americans, Chicano and Chicana, Native American, Asian American, gay and lesbian, and white females recount their experiences in academe at a variety of levels along a variety of career paths. Their 11 essays explore such topics as marginalization and alienation, obstacles to careers and strategies to overcome them, the backlash against affirmative action, and power in the classroom.
Ludwig, Jeanette M., and John A. Meacham. “Teaching Controversial Courses: Stu¬dent
Evaluations of Instructors and Content.” Educational Research Quarterly 21.1 (1997): 27–38. The impacts of instructor gender and race on student evaluations of teaching effectiveness, particularly when courses contained controversial content, were studied with 190 undergraduates. No support was found for the hypothesis that students would rate women and minority instructors lower, but the same material was thought to be more controversial when taught by women and minorities.
Mabokela, Reitumetse and Anna L. Green (editors). Sisters of the Academy: Emergent Black
Women Scholars in Higher Education. Westport:Stylus Publishing, 2001. The fifteen scholars who contribute to this volume trace the trajectory of Black women in education, with a particular focus on higher education. These scholars combine research and personal narratives to explore educational issues ranging from historical accounts of Black female teachers in the nineteenth century, to the challenges and triumphs of being an activist researcher at the turn of the twenty-first century. The essays in this volume address specific historical, social, cultural, political, and academic issues that affect Black women in the academy, and provide readers with tangible examples of how these scholars have transcended some of the challenges in their pursuit of academic excellence.
Medina, C., & Luna, G. (2000). “Narratives from Latina professors in higher education.”
Anthropology & Education Quarterly. 31(1) 2000:47-66. Interviews with three Latina college faculty members reveal that their daily personal and professional experiences reflect tokenism in the academy, varying levels of support, and perceived burdens and expectations. All three women see knowledge as contextual and often rely on feelings and intuition to describe and assess their lives in the academy. Recommendations for change within the academy are offered.
Mihesuah, Devon. Ed. “Native Experiences in the Ivory Tower.” American Indian Quarterly.,
Special Issue Vol. 27 2003. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. 2003
Miranda, Deborah A. “Teaching on Stolen Ground.” Placing the Academy: Essays on
Landscape, Work and Identity. eds. Jennifer Sinor and Rona Kaufman. Utah State University Press: Logan, 2007. Essay examining the experience of being a minority (Native American) professor in a predominantly white small, liberal arts college. Includes typical challenges by students along with the professor’s pedagogical and personal responses.
_______. “’What’s Wrong with a Little Fantasy?’ Storytelling from the
(Still) Ivory Tower,” in Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Analouise Keating, eds, This Bridge we Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. New York: Routledge, 2002. An Indian grad student’s exploration of racist (specifically, anti-Native American) rhetoric and harassment as experienced at a major research institution.
Nast, Heidi J. “‘Sex,’ ‘Race,’ and Multiculturalism: Critical Consumption and the Politics of
Course Evaluations.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 23.1 (1999): 102–15. Calls attention to the difficulties of broaching issues of "race" and "sex" in the classroom context of nationwide calls for multiculturalism. Discusses the current politics surrounding the importance of student course evaluations, and presents strategies for making evaluations more useful in the context of courses that include controversial material.
Omofolasade Kosoko-Lasaki; Roberta E. Sonnino; and Mary Lou Voytko. “Mentoring for
Women and Underrepresented Minority Faculty and Students: Experience at Two Institutions of Higher Education” Women and minority faculty and students are seriously underrepresented in university and academic healthcare institutions. The role of mentoring has been identified as one of the significant factors in addressing this underrepresentation. We have described the mentoring efforts at two institutions of higher learning in assisting women and minority students and faculty in being accomplished in their academic pursuits. One-hundred-thirty students and >50 women and minority faculty have participated in the mentoring programs described. The number of participants has increased dramatically over the years and continues to evolve positively. These programs appear to be quite successful in the short term. Further evaluation of measurable outcomes will be necessary to fully determine their true impact. The mentoring models for women and underrepresented minority faculty and students at Creighton University Health Sciences Schools and Wake Forest University School of Medicine will serve as a guide for other Health Sciences Schools.
Rockquemore, Kerry Ann and Tracey Laszloffy, eds. The Black Academic's Guide to Winning
Tenure--Without Losing Your Soul , Boulder:Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008. For an African American scholar, who may be the lone minority in a department, navigating the tenure minefield can be a particularly harrowing process. Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy go beyond standard professional resources to serve up practical advice for black faculty intent on playing - and winning - the tenure game.Addressing head-on how power and the thorny politics of race converge in the academy, "The Black Academic's Guide" is full of invaluable tips and hard-earned wisdom. It is an essential handbook that will help black faculty survive and thrive in academia without losing their voices, or their integrity.It goes beyond standard professional resources to serve up practical advice for black faculty intent on playing - and winning - the tenure game. The authors cofounded www.BlackAcademic.com, a website for minority scholars.
Rodriguez, Juana Maria. “The Affirmative Activism Project.” Profession. (2007): 156–167.
This essay reviews the history and mission of the MLA Committee for Literature by People of Color and focuses on the challenges of narrating and responding to the varied ways that race and ethnicity inform our work in the academy. It goes on to offer broad-ranging suggestions on graduate student mentoring and professionalization, the evaluation of scholars working in emerging fields, and the role of service in the profession. Rodriguez situates these interpretations and interventions in the larger project of the ongoing work of the MLA and the CLPC in order to foreground how race and ethnicity inflect the findings of various existing MLA reports and recommendations and to urge members of the profession to deploy these resources in their efforts to transform institutional cultures.
Sadao, K. C. (2003). Living in two worlds: Success and the bicultural faculty of color. Review of
Higher Education, 26(4), 2003:397-418. This qualitative study examined the career histories of 19 faculty of color from a research university in the western United States and analyzed the variables influencing their career choices and success in academe. It offers a model of the development of bicultural skills in successful faculty.
Segura, D. A. (2003). “Navigating between two worlds: The labyrinth of Chicana intellectual
production in the academy.” Journal of Black Studies, 34(1), 2003:28-51. Examines cultural, institutional, and individual factors that affect how Chicanas fare in academia, noting structural and interpersonal barriers they encounter. Uncovers strategies Chicanas employ to wrest an empowered self from environments historically vested in a Eurocentric, male normative ordering of work, productivity, and merit. Results reveal that Chicana faculty are academic "others" who view themselves as agents of social change fighting for sustainable intellectual agendas.
Springer, A. D. How To Diversify Faculty: The Current Legal Landscape. 2004.
http://www.aaup.org/Legal/infooutlines/legaa.htm. This article is presented in three sections: Benefits of Diversifying; Law on Diversifying Faculty; and How to Diversify.
Stanley, Christin A. Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and
Universities. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, 2006. Combining an overview of current research literature and 23 engaging narratives, Faculty of Color invites deeper dialogue on the experiences of faculty of color teaching in predominantly white institutions. By raising issues for commentary and investigation, the book challenges its readers to adopt effective strategies for the recruitment and retention of faculty of color in higher education. The authors represent a variety of disciplines and share firsthand experiences that range from teaching, recruitment, research, mentoring, institutional climate, and administration, to relationships with colleagues as well as students. Faculty of Color is intended for senior administrators and policymakers, faculty development professionals, current faculty, and future faculty of color who are contemplating academia.
Stein, Wayne. “Survival of American Indian faculty in four-year institutions.” Thought and
Action: NEA Higher Education Journal, 10 (1), 1994: 101-114. Based on a survey of American Indian four-year college faculty, recommendations are made for colleges to enhance the environment for and retain this population. The following issues are discussed: the need for institutional commitment to hiring of American Indians; mentoring; and perceptions of research by American Indians.
Taylor, Vera Smoot. “Why Do Faculty Leave? Reasons for Attrition of Women and Minority
Faculty from a Medical School: Four-Year Results.” Journal of Women's Health 18(2)2009: 273-273. This article contains materials well worth reading by any faculty of color, as most of the reasons cited are applicable to most faculty of color.
Thurman, Tammy. “Are We There Yet? Retaining Faculty Of Color.” Black Issues in Higher
Education. August 15, 2002. Examines the conditions for the retention of African American faculty in predominantly white universities and colleges in the U.S.
Turner, C. S. V. “Women Of Color In Academe: Living With Multiple Marginality.” The
Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 2002:74-93. Analysis of interviews and recent literature revealed that faculty women of color experience multiple marginality, characterized by lived contradiction and ambiguous empowerment. Their lives are often invisible, hidden within studies that either examine experiences of women faculty of faculty of color.
TuSmith, Bonnie and Maureen T. Reddy. eds. Race in the college classroom : pedagogy and
politics. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 2002. How does the issue of race affect how one teaches, what one teaches, whom one teaches, and whom one is taught by? To address these questions, editors TuSmith (Northeastern Univ.) and Reddy (Rhode Island Coll.) have assembled a collection of personal essays by faculty members who have attempted to confront racism in the classroom and the curriculum. The contributors, who represent a variety of disciplines, are guided by three core concerns: how the race of an instructor (or her decision to address race as a subject of study) affects her authority in the classroom, what effects the decision to address this "uncomfortable" topic has on one's teaching evaluations and future prospects in the academy, and what models are available for faculty wishing to pursue an "antiracist pedagogy" in the classroom. The book has some drawbacks: there is some repetition among its 25 essays, and readers must accept certain controversial "givens," e.g., that race is a fundamentally more significant means of discussing conflict in American society than is gender, class, or religion. But this book provides valuable insight into the personal and professional struggles of academics who have chosen to address race in their classrooms. Certainly a useful addition to any collection that includes a focus on multicultural education, diverse teachers and learners, or debates over affirmative action or political correctness in higher education, it is recommended for academic libraries. Scott Walter, Washington State Univ. Lib.
Vargas, Lucila. Ed. Women Faculty of Color in the White Classroom. New York: Peter Lang,
2002. This book compiles narratives by women professors of color who examine their classroom experiences in predominantly white U.S. campuses, focusing on the impact of their social positions upon their classroom practices and teaching-learning selves.
Watson, Lemuel, et al. How Minority Students Experience College: Implications for Planning
and Policy. Westport:Stylus Publishing, 2002. Have three decades of integration and multicultural initiatives in higher education delivered a better education to all students? Are majority and minority students reaping similar benefits, specifically in predominantly white colleges? Do we know what a multicultural campus should look like, and how to design one that is welcoming to all students and promotes a learning environment? Through a unique qualitative study involving seven colleges and universities considered national models of commitment to diversity, this book presents the views and voices of minority students on what has been achieved and what remains to be done. The direct quotations that form the core of this book give voice to Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and bi-racial students. They offer in their own words their perceptions of their campus cultures and practices, the tensions they encounter and what works for them. Rather than elaborating or recommending specific models or solutions, this book aims to provide insights that will enable the reader better to understand and articulate the issues that need to be addressed to achieve a well-adapted multicultural campus.
Williams, Brian and Sheneka Williams. “Perceptions of African American Male Junior Faculty
on Promotion and Tenure: Implications for Community Building and Social Capital.” Teachers College Record 2 Nov. 2006: 287-315.
A qualitative online individual interviewing approach was used to explore the perceptions of 32 African American male junior faculty at predominantly White institutions (PWIs) on how to improve support systems and structures to navigate promotion and tenure. The findings from this study revealed that, beyond the political and financial capital needed to build, support, and maintain institutions of higher education, social (campus) capital is needed to further develop gemeinschaft campus communities and the development of all its members. Hence, an approach more centered on (academic) community building is suggested to better foster the sense of ownership and belonging for African American male junior faculty and other faculty of color.
Williams, Dana A. “Examining the Relation between Race and Student Evaluations of Faculty
Members: A Literature Review.” Profession. (2007): 168–173. A brief and useful review of the articles by Nast, Harlow, Anderson and Smith, Ludwig and Meacham listed in this bibliography. http://www.mlajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1632/prof.2007.2007.1.168?cookieSet=1
Through My Lens. (1999). Video. Produced and directed by the Women of Color in the
Academy Project. 15 min. The University of Michigan: Center for the Education of Women. http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=2698 15 minutes. This video describes the experiences, challenges, and strategies of women of color faculty at the University of Michigan. Target audience: administrators and university leaders. Goal: to define and document experiences of women of color, building upon the positive and seeking to eliminate the negative. Explores institutional climate, isolation, lack of community, and maintaining balance between career and family. Describes successful strategies for effective recruitment, support, and retention for faculty women of color. Contact Information: The Women of Color in the Academy Project, sponsored by the Center for the Education of Women and the Women's Studies Program, The University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women Gloria D. Thomas Email: email@example.com
Shattering the Silences: Minority Professors Break Into The Ivory Tower. Video, 90 minutes.
California Newsreel. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.pbs.org/shattering/shattering2.html Eight scholars describe how they transformed and were transformed by their respective disciplines and institutions, with a focus on intellectual rigor, academic honesty, and racial justice. Demonstrates the educational benefits of faculty diversity but also describes the challenges and pressures faced by faculty of color at predominately white institutions.
An excellent introductory resource is “Keeping Our Faculties: Addressing the Recruitment and
Retention of Faculty of Color” which includes the proceedings of a 2002 conference at the University of Minnesota http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/higher-education/Keeping-Our-Faculties-of-Color.asp The conference is generally held yearly at U of Minnesota, Minneapolis (cancelled this year due to economic difficulties). This organization also has a listserve. For more information, contact Sara Van Essendelft E-mail: email@example.com
Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) http://www.sistersoftheacademy.org/index.htm
Emerging Scholars Interdisciplinary Network: http://emergingscholars.net/ The Emerging
Scholars Interdisciplinary Network (ESIN) was created in 2000 to provide an interdisciplinary setting for the dissemination of knowledge and information about research and career development resources to early-career (maximum of 8 years post graduate school) nontenured social, behavioral, and natural scientists related to issues affecting people of color. ESIN provides invaluable resources for emerging scholars, including vital mentorship with mid-level and senior scholars, access to a databank of meaningful research opportunities, as well as a thoughtful, well-organized forum for addressing a broad range of issues that are relevant to the professional development of junior investigators.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
don’t cry -
ka neme mashaipa nish efe?
are you hungry my friend?
pretty older sister
call your companions
come with me
I dream of you
your black eyes
nemex alaki shawa asanax
your black tears
mute ka iw’sin watin
sihapa malpa hano imita
make gossip in the sky
kakun, shekesipsha, shewker
chickenhawk, sparrowhawk, red tailed hawk
sihapa-lala panantonak oi siawa
will make jealous cries
let ampa-la la powapisi
we will eat wind
Nemulam let ma’ali nenilala
we will not go back
let asumpa-lala, mefpayisi
we will fly, dancing
ike mefpayisi. Ike.
yes dancing. Yes.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I am of the seventh generation since my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, Fructuoso Cholom and Yginina Yunisyunis, emerged from Mission San Carlos de Borromeo in Carmel, California in the mid-1830's. I am half white, half Indian, mixed with Mexican and Jewish tribes. When I look at all that has passed since Fructuoso Cholom and Yginia Yunisyunis were emancipated, I wonder if they dreamed that their descendants would still be struggling to free ourselves, seven generations later.
When I look toward the next seven generations, I imagine this is the kind of story that my descendants will tell, seven generations from now, in the future mythology of the Mestiza Nation.
Once there was a girl without a mother.
She’d never had a mother, even though she called the woman who gave birth to her Mama. This woman kept leaving her daughter behind at relative’s homes or forgetting her in stores. It wasn’t entirely Mama’s fault; often when she thought her arms were full of little girl, or that the little girl was safely clutching Mama’s hand, it was really the ghost of a daughter Mama had lost years ago.
So when Mama felt the weight of a child heavy against her hip or tugging at her arm, she didn’t know it was actually the pull of persistent sorrow distracting her from the real child. Sometimes the real little girl caught sight of her dead sister, hungrily wrapping her chubby arms around Mama’s neck as they went out the door together, leaving the little girl once again. Sometimes the little girl’s father followed them.
Her father was why the little girl was different from her older sister and brother. They were light-skinned, with clear blue eyes and hair the color of cornflakes. But the girl without a mother was cinnamon-colored, with thick dark hair, vivid against her family. When the girl without a mother held hands with her brother or sister to cross the street, their long slender fingers seem to tangle up with her wide flat palms and short fingers. At the park, no one listened to the little girl when she claimed her brother and sister, not even when the big sister yelled at the bullies trying to push her off the swing.
The girl without a mother began to understand that she was invisible. She wondered if this was why her Ghost Sister had become a ghost in the first place; if she herself were becoming a less and less real, too.
Eventually the woman who gave birth to the little girl went away and didn’t come back. Secretly, the girl thought perhaps her mother was looking for the girl’s father, who had been missing for some time now. The big sister didn’t tell anyone, but bathed her little brother and sister each night, fed them cereal each morning, dropped the little girl off at a babysitter’s, rode the bus with the little brother to school. In the evenings, the big sister brushed the little girl’s hair, and helped the little brother with his homework, but one day, the food ran out. The big sister, who was only eleven years old, had to call a grown-up. The older brother and sister were taken to a foster home, a place for children without parents. But the home only had space for older children. Bring the little one back in the fall, said the people in charge. We might have room then.
That is how the girl without a mother came to stay with her mother’s parents for one short season.
Her mother’s parents were light-skinned and blue-eyed as well, but in those days it was common for such people to settle in the very land from which the little girl’s father and his people had emerged. The girl loved her grandmother’s house in the dry Tehachapi Mountains; she spent the summer playing with lizards and horned toads, sleeping between cool cotton sheets, watching the glimmer of hummingbirds come to her grandmother’s feeder very early in the morning. Her dark eyes feasted on the sagebrush dotting the brown hills, and she spoke regularly with a black bird perched in the manzanita behind the house. She ran barefoot whenever she could, her feet finding joy in the dust. Once, she sat down on some ants who were busy with their own matters, and was badly bitten. Later, after apologizing to the ants, the little girl watched them work for hours, at a distance.
Every evening the grandmother bathed the girl in a deep shiny white tub, but no matter how hard the woman scrubbed, the colors wrought by soil and sun would not be cleansed from the girl’s knees and cheeks.
“More like that man every day,” the grandfather muttered to himself, shaking his head. “The sooner they have room for her at Mrs. Samm’s the better.”
But the grandmother saw her own lost daughter in this little girl’s movements, and wished for a chance to correct her mistakes as a mother. The grandmother let the girl without a mother sow corn in the small fenced flower garden, where the green stalks were watered generously each evening along with the morning glories, petunias, pansies, tall daisies and brilliant orange poppies.
When the corn reached the girl’s waist, the foster family called: they still had no room for the girl without a mother. The grandfather silenced the grandmother’s look with a curt, “No.” The grandmother turned away.
No one asked the girl where she would like to live. She would have chosen to stay and see the corn grow past her head. But one day before the sun was up, her grandmother came to wake her for a trip to a yet another place.
The girl without a mother stood on the steps of her grandmother’s house. Behind her rose a mountain, dark and seemingly still. Before her rose the sky, arched black and brilliant with stars, and the cleft of a long valley. The air was dry, cool, gently opening.
From her grandmother’s garden came the smooth slippery surge of petunias, snapdragons, poppies. The happy leaves of the corn plants shivered with pleasure as they grew upwards in their slow spiral. The girl without a mother stood alone, huddled in a soft sweater, wearing only a sundress underneath because it would be hot later. Inside the house, her grandmother packed sandwiches and thermoses of coffee and milk. The grandmother cried as she tightened the lids of containers.
No person saw this; only the grandmother’s heart knew this grief that she would not speak of until she was a very old woman, many thousands of miles away from this place, dying, and asking forgiveness. In the garage, the grandfather loaded up the truck that would take the girl without a mother away. He would start the motor any minute.
But for one moment before dawn the world was humming with quiet power, and the girl without a mother heard a funny sound.
Thump and pause. Thump and pause. Scraps of a song wandered in between the sounds. It almost seemed to be asking a question, a question the girl couldn’t quite hear all the words to, but that she wanted to answer. Thump, pause. Thump, pause, song.
The girl went quickly down the wooden steps and around the back of the house, stepping carefully around the gopher traps she’d watched her grandfather set. Thump, pause. Song, song, song. The girl wandered into a dry streambed, followed the stones. The rocks were washed and smooth and she could see where to put her feet better and more easily the longer she climbed; the sun was following behind her.
She climbed and climbed. When the girl without a mother got tired, a woman came to meet her, and took her through the side of the mountain. Come here, this way, the woman said; she picked up her grinding stone and basket, pushed aside a curtain of dried grasses and sticks. We are little rabbits looking for our nest, she smiled, we are fawns, called to our mother’s side in the warm grass. And the girl without a mother followed the song of the woman who came out of a mountain.
Inside the opening was a cool, sandy tunnel. The darkness seemed soft, like a light blanket, not frightening at all. After only a few steps, the two came out into another place, a land with a stream full of big silver fish swimming lazily in from the sea, seemingly straight into the nets and hands of laughing men; oak trees covered thick green hills. Under the heavy branches, families with baskets gathered acorns, children played while they worked, women were easy with their voices. The girl without a mother noticed right away that some of the people were darker than her, and some of them were lighter.
The woman who came out of a mountain gestured to the new place. See, this is where you will live now.
Are you going to be my mother? asked the girl without a mother, taking off her blue sweater and letting it slide to the ground.
No, I’m just an old woman, laughed the woman who came out of a mountain. Not many children here have mothers. But you’ll be cared for. This is getting to be a big family. We’re busy just now – acorns, salmon, islay are good this year. You’ll have to help.
By now the little girl had stripped off her sundress, and her black patent leather shoes that squished her toes, and the white slippery socks that made her feet sweat. She stood in itchy underwear that got caught in all the wrong places but had been her secret armor against the dark. Hardly anyone here wore clothes except for pretty, she noticed; but most girls her age had a rustly skirt. Can I have one of those? she asked, pointing to two girls running by with empty baskets in their arms. And a basket like that for working?
The woman who came out of a mountain reached out and stopped the other children. This is the girl I went to find, explained the woman. Help her make a skirt, and give her a basket. She’ll work with you.
The three girls looked at each other. The girl without a mother was astonished. One of the girls had a dark, serious face much like her own – short nose, arched eyebrows, thin lips – but freckles washed across her cheeks. Her eyes sparkled black and made the girl rise on her tiptoes with a laugh. Her hair was shiny black and thick, like the little girl’s, too.
The second girl stood light and alive, as if she could hardly keep from dancing away; her skin was the color of sand in the river, and her eyes glimmered brown and green like water over deep rocks. Yet her hair had the same still darkness as her companion’s.
The girl without a mother knew with a certainty that here were others who had not matched their families.
Suddenly both girls smiled, and the girl without a mother, who had no brothers or sisters who looked the way she did, felt a grin blossom on her own face. Some scar sealed shut in her chest opened; warm, strong, blood rushed in.
The first girl held out a round basket, revealing her wide flat palm and short strong fingers.
It was all a long time ago, longer than anyone remembers. On the other side of the tunnel, people searched for the girl without a mother. They had dogs who tracked her faint scent up a rocky streambed, farther than anyone believed she could have walked. But even the dogs couldn’t find any sign past a place where the arroyo curved sharply around a big hill dense with sagebrush and rabbit holes.
Long after the little girl’s corn had ripened, taller than the grandmother and heavy with fat ears, the grandparents ceased looking. The foster family didn’t have room for the many other children in that place without mothers, anyway. People slowly forgot about the girl without a mother, though her grandmother came out before dawn and listened hard for music she was almost afraid to hear.
Every once in awhile the woman who came out of a mountain went back, pushed aside the curtain of sagebrush and manzanita, and looked out. She could see a long, long way from her hill; clearly, too.
Sometimes her sharp eyes caught sight of a certain kind of child. Then the woman who came out of a mountain would take her grinding stones and basket, sit by the entrance, and sing. If the child were very small, the woman would walk quietly down the streambed to meet him. If the child were older, the woman sang soothing songs to encourage her.
None of the children who came to her ever arrived unharmed, but the woman who came out of a mountain always took them home with her anyway.
This is the song she sang:
Ah hey way lo lo, hey way
lo lo, hey way lo-lo;
Lo lo, hey-hey, ah hey way
lo lo, hey way lo-lo;
A hey way lo lo, hey way
lo lo, hey way lo-lo
lo lo hey hey
hey way lo lo
hey way lo lo
lo lo hey hey
ah hey way lo lo
hey way lo lo
hey way lo lo . . .
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Was driving down Brynteg Lane, near the Butterfly Cafe (where the butterflies hang out at a little seep in the road) when I caught sight of the tattered skin of some animal - bunny? squirrel? - it has been around for a few days, mostly eaten by something with claws and teeth and hunger; I'd since seen the crows and turkey vultures taking turns. Their hard work had dragged that poor carcass all over this section of the road. This time, though, the carrion birds were all gone; they'd done all they could with beaks and claws. In their place: Butterflies. Black butterflies with iridescent blues, yellow butterflies with stark black patterns. Antennae quivering.
I thought: I want to end up like this: eaten by butterflies. But since butterflies have no teeth, it is more like being licked and sucked by them. And the feel of their tiny feet, and the beating of their wings, veins pumped full of my own blood and moisture.
If I were brave, that's the last experience I'd like my carcass to know on this earth. Courage is required, because it is a giving up, a faith, and because being a gift is much harder than receiving a gift.
So I've been thinking about that anonymous carcass, those butterflies. Who imagines butterflies as carrion-feeders, in the same profession as vultures and flies and maggots and beetles? Yet here they were, doing their best work, helping another dead being recycle itself.
Helping themselves to the released blood, fecal matter, urine, pulling it into their black insect bodies. For them, this death is life; not just their own, but the life of the eggs they will lay, or fertilize; the next generation. I hope someday my own carcass can at least do that. If I were brave, it would be like that, my body left outside for the recyclers.
But I am chicken-shit, so I plan to be cremated, my ashes scattered on our land, perhaps at Carmel and Santa Ynez as well. Although the distances sound odd. Still, all three places are home.
The most important thing is that I am allowed to return to the earth and the water. Being trapped in a box of any kind would be the cruelest possible fate. Poor Ishi - I am so glad his brain was finally returned, and his ashes finally taken home and released. I'm sure Ishi had been at peace for some time, but the earth herself needed his ashes returned.
Of course, in the end, all of us will go there, either by plan or by natural disaster. This culture's cemeteries and mausoleums can't stand forever. Eventually, in earth's time, we all return, even those wealthy souls shot into orbit around the planet will fall homeward one day, and although none of us will be around to see it, the earth will still be here, accepting the gift.
I don't know why I'm writing about death on this beautiful morning, sitting on the banks of the lush San Antonio River, watching white egrets forage for breakfast, gliding in, taking off with their long elegant legs; strange ducks with rooster combs waddle through the grass, and in the oak tree above my head, a mockingbird makes a half-hearted attempt at imitating a car alarm. Cars speed over the concrete bridge behind me, Our Lady of the Lake University slowly comes awake to my left.
But I've been wanting to write about those butterflies for days. And I've been conversing with dead people - relatives, ancestors - for so long. Perhaps I'm trying to put them to rest. Perhaps I'm finally ready to bury my own dead, to release them. Back into the care of the earth, where they will not be alone, or lonely, or afraid. They are not abandoned, unfinished, forgotten, silenced. They've just gone home.
Gone to butterflies! Maybe that's why this spring and summer have been so full of wings.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Yet I struggle with the way Harrington regarded his Native "informants" as his personal possessions, demanding that they not work with anyone else; the way many Native people felt used or cheated by him, valuable only until he'd squeezed every last Indian word or story out of them; and the manipulative twists Harrington used to get information out of reluctant consultants. For every story about Harrington treating consultants well there is a story for his callousness or racism or obsessive collection without regard for Native sensibilities. A truly psychological obsession with collecting Native information drove Harrington to treat himself, his family, and his consultants as inconsequential compared to the acquisition of Native languages, cultural materials, stories, etc. I've long suspected that he was a very high-functioning Asperger's case, and after reading his ex-wife Carobeth Laird's memoir about their life together, my suspicions are confirmed (I suggest Encounter With an Angry God: Recollections of My Life With John Peabody Harrington as an essential read for anyone using Harrington's notes).
And yet, these are the very behaviors which have preserved stories and people near and dear to me. How to reconcile this?
Maybe someday I'll find the right words to describe or talk about this man whose life's work has given me insight into some of my ancestors' lives, even as he exploited their suffering. For now, I've constructed a collage out of found material about both Harrington and the mythological being he has always invoked for me. It's hard to read as is; for a larger version, click on the collage. After that, you can also make the picture larger (E8: lower left-hand corner; FireFox, ctrl+).
One thing Harrington has done for me is bring into focus the truly paradoxical proportions of Coyote-energy!
Monday, May 31, 2010
3000 Miles From Home I Find My Relatives In Traffic Court
I was doing 38 in a 25, just past the VMI Pit. School was out, all the students gone away, and the road, for once, was clear. I wasn’t a professor of English that morning: I was on a mission to find birthday goodies for my beloved, and a little too free with the accelerator. I saw the dark blue cop car coming towards me and swore. Slowed down. But in my rear view mirror, I saw him flip a U-turn and come after me. I had time to crank onto a side street and lose him, but I was a good Indian and didn’t.
He caught up with me at the onramp to 11, flashed his lights, and I pulled onto the gravelly grass.
“Driver’s license and registration.”
Officer Smith, a nice rotund man, wrote me up very respectfully, and didn’t joke about my last name. “Are you on your way to an emergency or something, ma’am?”
No, just errands. Just happy. So sue me.
Officer Smith walked back to his fort on wheels to complete the paperwork and radio in, make sure I’m not on the lam or one of those Mirandas. By the side of the road, windows down, I rested my head against the back of the seat and inhaled the scent of honeysuckle from the tangle of plants climbing the rocks nearby. Watched the light blue and dark orange butterflies dance from one creamy blossom to another. Thought about birthday wrapping paper and lactose-free ice cream. Thought about my beloved’s dark eyes laughing as she opened her presents the next day.
He returned, boots heavy on the gravel, with his clipboard and bright yellow NCR paper. I signed my name by the red X, and oddly enough, said, “Thank you.”
He didn't respond.
I hit my left blinker, looked back, caught him nod me toward the road, and pulled away. I won't let this ruin my day, I told myself.
Later, when I looked up my ticket online to pay it, I found myself in good company: Fernando, Juan, Lourdes, Rosina, Marcelle, Henry and Richard Miranda all owe the County of Rockbridge, too. Huh! 3000 miles from home, and I thought I was the only Miranda in Lexington, VA.
Now I remember I’ve seen them in Walmart, the Dollar Store, on the half-peeled roof of Newcomb Hall outside my office window. Indian like me, they speak Spanish, say they’re Mexican, but I’m not fooled. Indios, right down to the bone. Right down to the wrong side of the law. Right down to the unpaid moving violations – no operating license, no inspection sticker, failure to observe traffic sign – that’s us: Mirandas, children of coyote and Franciscans or Jesuits. Far from home because the border tells us so, and still breaking the rules as we go.
For me, this ticket is an inconvenience. Something else to add to my Visa bill that I'll be able to pay off in a few months. Thanks to luck, sacrifice, a few good teachers, student loans, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, violently imposed borders and some undefined, unknowable twist of karma, this ticket is just a momentary frustration for me.
For Fernando, Juan, Lourdes, and the others, I fear it was a week’s wages or more. The possibility of losing a license or car: livelihood. Jail time. Deportation. Separation from children. Disaster.
Most of their tickets are several years old, and unpaid. Probably, they just moved on. Just passing through, trying to make a buck; “illegal” or good as, in the eyes of the law. They left their names behind – names, and sturdy new roofs, the restoration of Old South brickwork, freshly painted white columns, poured concrete foundations beneath buildings named for alumni, weedless flower beds.
Travel safely, my relatives. I haven’t forgotten you. Tonight I went back to the book, back to the Mission, back to the story that hasn’t been told because poverty, malnutrition, racism and hatred silenced our tongues.
If I escaped, it was only to bear witness. If I survive, it is only to call down justice like rain, and re-baptize you in the Tears of the Sun. If my voice is heard, it is because of your sweat in Virginia summer heat, rebuilding the halls where I write. I haven’t forgotten you.
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