Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education

By Vanessa Sheared; Peggy A. Sissel et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

An Invisible Presence, Silenced Voices: African Americans in the Adult Education Professoriate

Sherwood E. Smith and Scipio A. J. Colin III

The purpose of this chapter is to “give voice” to eight African-American/ African-Ameripean 1 members of the Adult Education Professoriate who shared their experiences regarding the impact of racism on their professional lives (Smith 1996). We believe that in giving voice to their experiences we can begin to create a dialogue, a discourse about the ways in which African-American/ African-Ameripean lives are interwined and interconnected, as well as share how these voices have influenced the field of education. Moreover, we hope that through this discourse we can begin to change the ways in which we operate in higher education as well as society. Their stories, like those discussed by Brown (Chapter 15), highlight the ways in which African-American/African-Ameripean educators have had to operate in order to create space and change, not only in education, but in American society.

It is important to note that we view racism as an ideology of racial superiority and inferiority, based on pigmentation, that was created by Euro-Americans and is perpetuated by them for their sociocultural benefit: social, educational, political and economic (Colin and Preciphs 1991; Fiquero 1991; Hacker 1992; Welsing-Cress, 1972). As such, we believe that every aspect of the lives of African Americans/African Ameripeans has and continues to be impacted by racist attitudes, ideology, and practices.

The following will not be a discussion regarding the existence of racism, for, based upon our experiences, previous research, and the experiences of the research participants, the question of its existence is a moot point. Therefore, we have decided not to become entangled in the senseless debate that is often reflected in Euro-American responses of: “Prove it,”“Aren’t you just overreacting?” and “We are tired of hearing about it.” As Barbara Smith (1982) has stated: “for those of you who are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how

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