Choosing Cultural Competence over Diaspora Division

Article excerpt

Living in diverse sections of New York and Los Angeles during the 1960s and '70s, I learned early that people of the same race don t always consider themselves "brothers." Some Blacks are Haitian, some Jamaican, and others are from Brooklyn. "I'm Black and I'm proud" might resonate with all, but only one is likely to respond with the affirming expression, "Word." Puerto Ricans and Chicanos are linguistically linked, but if you invite them over for frijoles and serve refried beans, one will be disappointed. Mistake a Chinese kid for Japanese and you might have to fight. This was my world growing up. Failing to recognize and respect intra-racial distinctions, I learned, could lead to trouble.

Race divided by culture equals discord. Diaspora division, as I call it, seemed to be the prevailing formula. For centuries, it has played out: the Greeks warred with the Macedonians much as the Chinese now oppress the Tibetans, and the Hutus fight the Tsutsi. Judging by the events of the past few months, it appears 21st century scholars of color are not completely immune to the divisive dynamics of intra-racial pluralism either.

In our cover story, Black Issues correspondent Pamela Weiger takes a look at Arizona State University, where one former ASU employee says, "ASU is getting to be one big mess for African Americans." She says Black faculty and staff are being forced out and mistreated, and in some cases being replaced by Hispanics. However, others at ASU say there is no Black-Hispanic rift and if Hispanics are outpacing Blacks in the faculty ranks there, it's simply a matter of their representation in the community (see pg. 20.)

Also featured in this Hispanic focus edition, correspondent Roberto Rodriguez provides an update on how scholars in Chicano studies and Latino studies are working through their differences and redefining their place in the academy (see pg. 26). And recently, the press reported on a Nigerian professor who won a lawsuit against historically Black Virginia State University because it was determined that he was discriminated against on the basis of his African origin. …