A call for self-criticism
I’ve been teaching at several CUNY colleges since 2009. Recently, I served on the Bronx Community College Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Task Force along with eight other faculty and HEOs of color to develop recommendations for achieving greater diversity at BCC in faculty, HEO and CLT hiring, retention, promotion and development from underrepresented groups.
I’m also an immigrant from Jamaica and now a US citizen, so diversity issues are often top of mind for me, as I relate the following. I’ve repeatedly experienced CUNY Caucasian faculty telling me that they are impressed that I’m so articulate, or so knowledgeable, or so well-read, and so on and so on. I’m always bemused by these remarks, and I wonder why my verbal proficiency and intellect need to be commented on. Would these remarks be said to other Caucasian professors?
Recently, I was waiting to borrow a laptop from a media support center in a CUNY senior college. This center loans IT equipment to faculty to use for our classes. A Caucasian professor walked into the center, saw me waiting at the service desk, and asked me to provide her with a laptop for her class. Even though I was carrying a tote bag filled with student papers, and standing behind the service desk beside her, she mistook me, a black woman, for a tech support employee and not a professor. Another Caucasian professor claimed to witness me at a department meeting when I was out of the country at the time. And in several PSC meetings, my requests to ask questions are frequently ignored, interrupted, or cut short. In talking with other faculty of color, they share similar experiences.
Whether these incidents are thoughtless irritants (at best), micro-aggressions (at worst) or simply the rough and tumble of New York City social interactions, we should be aware that white privilege is insidious. Let us all be mindful of how we interact with each other, stop “othering” one another, and not refrain from calling out each other when these incidents occur.
Marian Stewart Titus
Bronx Community College
Borough of Manhattan