A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

20

20/20 HINDSIGHT

Ella Forbes

“Each one, teach one” is an adage that we are all familiar with. “Hindsight is 20/20” is another. This essay will combine the two maxims by offering advice based on my experience as an African American professor who successfully negotiated the tenure system in a White institution. My experience was somewhat unusual, however, because my department is an African American Studies unit and it was there that I had the most trouble.

I had worked previously at a historically Black college and university (HBCU). As a result, I looked at my African American Studies Department in a predominantly White institution (PWI) as a microcosm of a typical HBCU because many of their issues also plagued the department in which I received tenure. The problems of ego, lack of resources, and limited support that can cripple HCBUs also greatly impacted my tenure path.

The tenure process is usually not easy; mine was tough. It was made more difficult because I had had personal problems with the former department chairperson who appointed the departmental tenure committee before a new chairperson was selected. That committee was my first hurdle. Another problem was that I was also a product of that department, having received my Ph.D. there. I have decided that it is probably not a good idea to accept a faculty position in one's own department immediately after completing a graduate program in it. There are advantages to putting some distance between yourself and the department before working there. For instance, the other faculty members might find it too difficult to relinquish

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