Above: Sam Mendazibal of Bolivia and the chairman of the Foreign Language Department chats with me after playing basketball with students during a recent campus retreat.
I received an email today from a group looking to organize a sub meeting on independent school campus diversity; one of the topics to be addressed is that of comfort at traditionally conservative affluent schools. I found it interesting that in the letter, it noted that a number of black faculty members tend to have attended private schools themselves, though many such as myself received a great deal of financial help from the school in order to attend. Because I have been active in this type of work over the course of ten years, I suspect my name was recommended either by an upper-school administrator or by a distant colleague that heard a conference presentation I gave on this subject.
Many minority faculty members and school administrators discuss the hiring of minority candidates in two terms: comfort and fit; however, both terms can mean different things to schools and minority faculty members. Houston Christian has a fair number (though not an astronomical) of minority teachers — which is great seeing that we are an upper school only. I have found that minority faculty members offer a different voice on matters of socioeconomic status, race, and perspective; still, the ideology of most on my campus is conservative — which is a bit unusual. Being a conservative faculty member, in my opinion, has nothing to do with faith. All HCHS faculty members are Christian. I find this piece of information below to be interesting as it relates to ideology and independent schools:
People of color, be they African American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.
The book Colors of Excellence is the leading authority on this topic. I have read it a number times. It is one that is always discussed at the annual People of Color Conference held by the National Association of Independent Schools. Moreover, it serves as a great comfort to many teachers of color with its countless anecdotes from other faculty members of color regarding their own experiences in independent schools. Regardless of what some might say, only those of a particular minority group can fully understand the social construction in existence that might or might not promote a level of comfort. I am looking forward to working with other teachers of color and addressing the continual challenges of diversity in the 21st century.
Visit the People of Color link here for more information on the annual meeting.