I woke up this morning with a memory. It was the first time I stood in a colleague’s office. Her office is adorned with bright colored art pieces, shiny mirrors, traditional rugs, and a huge and powerful painting gifted to her by a student. I remember breathing out as I took it all in. As my eyes rested on the “honk if you see La Llorona” bumper sticker, I began smiling from the soul outward. As I sat in a weathered chair across from the student’s painting, waiting for her to retrieve her keys, I said “it feels like home.”
A few years later, I used to have this indigenous student who never spoke in class but would always come to my office a 1/2 an hour beforehand and sit at the small table where I often do my invited grad seminars. Though it is a big room, I don’t have a lot up b/c I project videos/powerpoint/websites onto the wall for some of those same seminars. Yet there is art work from students all around the room, of strong women from our shared and divergent heritages, and images of women that inspire me, places the ground me, and textiles, paintings, and pottery that seeps into me when I feel less whole. The student would comb my shelves for books on people of color, beam at me excitedly, saying something about its import, and then sit and read. It drove me crazy b/c I am a procrastinator and that last 1/2 hour before class is all about prep time. One day when she was waxing poetic about having read This Bridge Called My Back for the first time less than a year ago (she was a 5th year senior), she looked up at my annoyed face and said, “I like it here. It’s safe. It feels like home.”
Gay Prof has an interesting piece on social isolation for academics of color. My thoughts on this subject are too jumbled to untangle just now. Let me say this: I think there are two kinds of academic social isolation, the Ivory Tower kind Gay Prof discusses and the prestige kind that comes from choosing to work in low rated, low funded, schools precisely because they have higher populations of color both on campus and off. There are trade offs to both kinds of isolation and ways to work against them, and the pitfalls can sometimes be exactly the same.
Go read it.
some other reading you might want to delve into (a short get started list):
- E. Torres Chicana Without Apology (an inspiration; meet her if you can)
- J. Leary Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome (not about academics but helpful)
- Telling to Live
- C. Battle Building Bridges for Women of Color in Higher Education (lots of graphs)
- T. Berry From Oppression to Grace (address the student and faculty experience)
- Joanna Kadi “Deconstructing Stupid” (students, classism, racism)
- L. Vargas Women Faculty of Color in White Classrooms
- Anzaldua y Moraga This Bridge Called My Back (individual essays throughout)
- I. Hernandez-Avila “In the Presence of Spirits” (epistemology)
- M. Montoya “Mascaras, Trenzas, y Grenas” (a powerhouse; meet her if you can)
I also find these two pieces read together an interesting exercise in voice & transition from student to professor, but not quite as powerful as those in the above list: tatiana de la tierra Coming Out and Aliens and Others.
I am going to go honk my horn; that is, if the car starts.