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

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

21

“CASUALTIES OF WAR”:
SUGGESTIONS FOR HELPING AFRICAN
AMERICAN GRADUATE STUDENTS
SUCCEED IN THE ACADEMY

Sibby Anderson-Thompkins,
Marybeth Gasman, Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin, Karry Lane Hathaway, and Lisa Rasheed1

Nothing that I learned . . . lessened my feelings of pain and confusion and bitterness
as related to my origins: my street, my family, and my friends. Nothing showed me
how I might try to alter the political and economic realities underlying our Black
condition in White America.

JORDAN, 1989, p. 58

June Jordan made this comment in a lecture on her experience in 1975 as a student at Barnard College. While the words were written over two decades ago, they reflect many of the concerns expressed by African American graduate students today. In response to their research interests, students like June Jordan often hear, “That issue is not really valid ...” “You may be labeled a feminist if you pursue that topic ...” “You know, you may be ghettoized for choosing to study that [African American issue] research agenda ...” Many students in doctoral programs across the country receive these messages from faculty. What is their result? To what extent are qualified and interested African American graduate students discouraged from participation in the academy or confined in their pursuit of research topics? To what extent do they feel that they are casualties of an invisible war? In this article, we seek to amplify the voices of African American graduate students.

This article emerged from a series of conversations among the authors about race and ethnicity in the academy. We realized how important these issues were and how rarely the traditional structures of an academic department offered any

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