Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

Synopsis

Presumed Incompetent is a pathbreaking account of the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women faculty of color. Through personal narratives and qualitative empirical studies, more than 40 authors expose the daunting challenges faced by academic women of color as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators. The narratives are filled with wit, wisdom, and concrete recommendations, and provide a window into the struggles of professional women in a racially stratified but increasingly multicultural America.

Excerpt

When This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, was first published in 1981, women of color in the movement and universities across the country greeted it with deep joy and near reverence because it so accurately reflected and validated the realities with which they had been contending for a very long time. Although intellectually we understand institutionalized systems of domination, study them, and teach their details and histories, in our hearts and innermost selves we may also—at the same time—somehow internalize the ideas about our presumed incompetence that are so pervasive in our everyday lives. In this light, the stories and analyses drawn from the lived experiences of the supremely competent and brilliant women in this book will have an effect similar to the joy that greeted This Bridge. We are in the university. We are in the labs. We are in the law schools and courtrooms, medical schools and operating theaters. We prevail, but sometimes it is at enormous costs to ourselves, to our sense of well-being, balance, and confidence. This book should go a long way toward healing wounds, affirming sanity, and launching renewed determination.

When we view the history of the United States, the discrimination against women of all races and ethnicities, men of color, and working-class people is amply and repeatedly demonstrated, ranging from the slave codes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that made learning to read a capital offense for slaves, to the segregation of the public schools in the late nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries based upon race and the various systems of tracking meant precisely to leave certain children behind. The abrogation of more than 375 treaties between the United States government and Native American tribes and nations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to their loss of sovereignty and homelands and the forced removal of children from Native families and communities by the age of five. The children were mandated to attend mission schools and forbidden to wear their traditional clothing or speak their own languages. These schools were staffed by ignorant, racist, and often brutal priests and teachers. These were terrifying experiences for tens of thousands of Indian children well into the midtwentieth century.

Repeated US violations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended formal hostilities between the United States and Mexico in 1848 resulted in the loss of Mexican land rights and the use of the Spanish language in newly conquered territories. Signs in public parks, restaurants, and many other locations in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s read, “No dogs and Mexicans . . .

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