The book Colors of Excellence is the leading authority on this topic. I have read it a few 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. There are continual challenges regarding diversity here in the 21st century.
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. As I write this, I am proud that my department chair, dean of faculty, and other chairs are at conferences in which efforts are made to recruit people of color is paramount for the health of our faculty and students. I do know of schools that assume that such faculty members will just apply. Little effort is made to bring such candidates to campus.
As I have noted before, one of the disconcerting facts about being a teacher of color in an independent school is this: We are treated as replaceable parts. Of course, as noted in a conversation at a recent conference, this is pretty much true for all people. I have seen colleagues grow frustrated at the lack of change within their schools and the uncompromising nature that shapes their institution. And, when these faculty members of color move on, the school seems to always get someone new, fresh out of graduate school, who does not know the history of the school’s relationship with faculty autonomy, diversity, and empowerment. New teachers and faculty of color, with their fresh energy and idealism, often go through the same cycles of delusion and roadblocks. Part of the problem is that independent schools tend to believe in what I have blogged about before: The “silver bullet theory.” Faculty and administrators in schools claim they have done this or that to fully meet the needs of a faculty member, but in the end, it is what they want and not what is in the best interest of the faculty.
I tell folks on the market how important it is to ask the right question during the process of seeking out a school; interview them as much as they interviewing you. As a person of color, it is key that we find a place what is best for us — new and/or experienced teacher.