Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Candid Reflections on the Departure of Black Women Faculty from Academe in the United States

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Candid Reflections on the Departure of Black Women Faculty from Academe in the United States

Article excerpt

Abstract

Critical content analysis is used to identify content within blogs, exposing views within academe that reinforce and normalize racist, sexist, and interactively racist and sexist perspectives. The two themes explored here are unfairness and subjectivities within personnel processes and the qualifications of Black women faculty, as raised through a discussion of affirmative action in academe. Included within the discussion are antiracist, antisexist, and interactively anti-oppressive responses. Views expressed are an undercurrent in everyday campus life, which at times emerge as microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. With relatively little recourse, Black women faculty members are subject to such attacks because of their race, gender, or combination thereof. As such, this study signals the need for greater attention in the academy to latent racism and sexism in their combinations.

Introduction

On September 28, 2009, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a report on its news blog entitled "Many Black Women Veer off Path to Tenure, Researchers Say." In response, 26 people, members of the academic community engaged in a heated dialogue on race, gender, and the combination thereof in academe. While a few of the bloggers gave full names, the majority spoke plainly with the protection of anonymity afforded on the World Wide Web. The result is a contemporary cultural artifact, a blog, which records what some individuals who identify themselves, directly or indirectly, as members of the academic community say they believe about race and gender in academe - all political correctness aside. My purpose is to analyze this blog to ascertain what some people in academe articulate about race, gender, and the quality of Black women faculty. While there are antiracist, antisexist, and interactively antioppresive responses, I argue that this blog provides evidence that microaggressive attacks on Black women felt but not seen are real. Further, I argue that it may be the case that these microaggressive attacks, rather than any inherent inability to negotiate the tenure process, are a core contributor to the departure phenomenon.

I begin with a review of the literature on microaggressions, then move to a discussion of research literature identifying challenges faced by tenure track Black women faculty. Critical race feminism is used as a theoretical frame and critical content analysis is used to identify and to manifest content within the blogs, exposing views within academe that reinforce and normalize racist, sexist, and interactively racist and sexist perspectives.

Microagressions

Coined by psychologist Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s, the term microagression is defined as "brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward [non- White] people" (Sue, et al., 2007). It compares well with what Essed (1991) dubs everyday racism. Sue and colleagues taxonomize microaggression into microassaults, explicit verbal and non-verbal attacks; microinsults, rude or insensitive characterizations of one's heritage; and microinvalidation, the exclusion and/ or nullification of one's perspectives on the basis of race. This latter category, microinvalidation, connects to education and legal scholarly literature as it implicates colorblindness, the purposeful failure to see or value racial heritage. Colorblind perspectives further marginalize the experiences of insular minorities while aggrandizing the knowledge and skills bases of those in the dominant group (Chavez & Guido-DiBrito, 1999; Gotanda, 1991; King, 1991; Spencer, 2008). Individual microaggressive interactions are innocuous (Sue et al., 2007; Essed, 1991), but the cumulative impact over time can foster detrimental psychological and physical health effects (Jones & Shorter-Gooden, 2003). …

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