Not too long out of graduate school, I met Jaime Rollans on a grant project that explored race, AP courses, etc,. Jaime is a noted scholar, nationally recognized authority with the College Board, and one who engaged others in her work and publications on matters related to art history and historical thinking skills. I can recall our dinners, the conferences we traveled to, and how we split bottles of wine when dining out. She offered me jobs for which I regret not taking. She is what I want to be: a scholar, a pronounced history teacher, and an amazing human being. I am so far from her; I have yet to meet a teacher like her. Yes — I want to be her. After learning that she elected to retire — I have felt a great sense of joy, but real sadness. Though we worked on projects and sat on panels in my early days, I cannot help but wonder what it would have meant for me to work in her department. To learn from her. At one point we talked about an all star history department. Wow!!! I love you Jaime and talk about you a great deal. I want to be you. I am trying. Thanks for being the only academic mentor I ever had. 25 year-old me seated by Jaime (3rd from left) on a panel in L.A. You are an amazing historian, teacher, mentor, and friend.
I just got back from the People of Color Conference — and it was a needed gathering for me in the city of Atlanta. Being around like-minded folks (LGBTQ, black and brown and white allies) fills my soul as I navigate my days in a world operated by those who knowingly and unknowingly empower white supremacy. Packnett was the real deal. She spoke about independent schools who ignore matters of race, sexuality, and gender, thus are complicit in graduating white supremacist. And, allow a hostile campus environment. Have you looked at the demographic make up of your faculty? Are you supporting people of color? The folks I talk to say no. But we do look good on brochures. It is easy for straight white men to hire and support straight white men. There is no threat to their hegemony.
I also found time to join colleagues I do not see that often.
“More than malice, Matthew says, “what I’ve found is that there are codes and habits that faculty of color don’t know about because those unwritten practices are so subtle as to seem unimportant until something goes wrong, and then the assumption is that the person of color is incompetent, lazy or lying. In my case, the assumption was that I was dishonest or disorganized, though neither of those things is true. The fact that I am a black woman played some role in that tangled-up process, and I still see the same patterns that were in play in my reappointment and tenure reviews whenever I am assessed. More important, I now know that those patterns are at work all over the country. It’s not just me. It’s not just us. This is happening everywhere.” See here for more.
Read the full article here
Being in New England, I am connected to some of the most prominent schools in the nation. As I visit peer schools — I often look at the pictures on their walls as I tour different campuses. I also notice the pictures hanging on the walls here at Brooks. Yes — most are white men. I get lucky at times and find a female. That makes me happy. But never a person of color. Recently the late great Peter Gomes’s picture was displayed in Harvard’s faculty room. What does it say to the world when there are no images of people that are not white hanging from walls? What about the fact that places have not figured out how to make people of color feel welcomed? We are not aliens. New England prep schools and Harvard will argue and make excuses. Most places will. But the truth is in the numbers. Are we not part of the club? Prep schools are easy places to feel displaced. Independent schools are this way in general. And the conservative schools will make you feel like an outsider if you are not of the population norm. Harvard has made that all too clear by just now hanging a picture of a person of color. I love the late Peter Gomes. Good for Harvard. Boy it took you long enough. What does your campus look like? Why? Why are there no people of color? Why do they leave? Do you care to know.
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.