Wednesday, September 9, 2009

do less than they could to make black students feel welcome on campus


Regular swpd reader LaSmartOne left a comment this morning that I'm turning into a guest post. In response to a satirical line in yesterday's post about how "whenever white people congregate these days, high concentrations of racial homogeneity are just pure coincidence," LaSmartOne offers much insight into life as a black graduate student at an elite, largely white research university.



These comments are off-topic, but I really need to vent. I am a graduate student at a major biological "research institution" in New York City. You wouldn't know this is a graduate/research program if you stumbled onto this campus. This exclusive, highly maintained campus feels more like Sandals resort with all of the young upper-middle class white or white male/asian female couples roaming around hand-in-hand during the evenings. Groups of white or white-and-asian students roam with tennis rackets on their way to the on-campus court. Or they congregate in packs at the on-campus student lounge with a personal bartender. Or the white and asian students have parties in the hotel-like student lounge of the dorms.

Most of the groups of people you see dotted around campus are all-white or white-and-asian. The campus is mostly white with a substantial number of asians but has a serious dearth of black or latino students--and I almost never see the other black students.

You wouldn't believe the amounts of implicit racism I've experienced here. Twice while coming on campus I've been stopped in a hostile and condescending manner by newly-hired guards who, having seen my ID, told me that I am 'ok' since I was a groundskeeper or a day worker for the animal facility, whose staff is mostly black and latino.

Coming to my dorm, almost every six months someone gives me a hostile look in the foyer as if I'm some intruder. When I attend lectures, I meet the same hostility until I ask a serious academic question of the lecturer.

When someone new comes to my lab, they'll automatically either intentionally ignore me or attempt to condescend to me. Scientific sales reps will intentionally ignore me and proceed to the white guys who are also just students. Believe it or not, this one white girl who rotated in the lab would speak to me in a passive-aggressive/patronizing manner. And almost everyone in the lab, despite my being there for years and attempting to form working relationships with them, never come to me casually or attempt to have conversations (work or otherwise) with me unless I initiate the conversation, and never at the casual or intelligent level they have with each other.

I noticed the other two black guys, who are accommodationists (and overrepresented with respect to the real dearth of black students on campus), also attempt to have conversations with the white people in the lab, but they are always the ones to initiate the conversation.

After five years of being here, the only thing I've learned is that white and asian people are the only people competent enough to be scientists.

A maintenance staff guy wrote an article in the student rag praising the university's president in light of the great hall of European philosophers like Kant and Hume and the great European scientific tradition. Additionally, the sense of ownership and privilege among other students is just incredible.

I'm beginning to think that biomedical science is almost a white supremacist enterprise by default. Science is supposed to be a collaborative endeavor with a free collegial exchange of information and support, but when people are constantly patronizing or condescending to you, such is a psychological assault informing you that you are inconsequential, "tolerated" or unwelcomed. I read a report somewhere that around half of black graduate science students drop out of their programs. If they meet the same kinds of hostility or implied white supremacy I meet, small wonder.

I've especially felt a sort of patronizing attitude right off the bat from many of the white female students on campus. White women, with the help of affirmative action, have made great gains in both scientific student bodies and faculty, but you would still be wont to find black faculty and only a little more lucky in locating black students in scientific graduate programs across the country. That aside, most of my interactions with white females on campus has been unnecessarily hostile and patronizing.

There are two other black male students who happen to be in my lab; they're very sycophantic towards the white male students, which surprised me. They're always kissing up, laughing nervously, you know that trying to court your attention laugh, around these other white males who are just graduate students like them. They prick up their minds and attempt to engage the white guys with crisp, intelligent conversation. They'll go to the white guys equally whenever they have a problem as if they are the fount of knowledge (I've never seen them approach any of the white girls or the Indian guy when they have problems, but they will approach them for prick-up-your-mind 'casual' conversation, more than they give me [or each other]). When explicitly in the company of the white guys (which never seems to be together with each other), they intentionally ignore me or will attempt to condescend to me. It's irritating to watch white guys no better than the average black guy get their egos stroked day after day by white girls and sycophantic blacks while they also slap themselves on the back. It's not like they're especially brilliant or that this science is just so difficult that only superiorly intelligent white supremacists like James Watson can do it.

I don't even want to get into the student listserve conversation I had to observe in the wake of James Watson's comments back in 2007. Some of them practically endorsed the man with statements like "science is about objective data, not political correctness" or "what does giving a writing prize for his autobiography have to do with him making statements that any old man would make"?


What could white students, staff, and faculty do in everyday situations to be more inclusive of black students? How could they reduce levels of what LaSmartOne labels here "implicit racism"?

120 comments:

  1. Wow, we must work for the same department, LOL

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  2. I don't know how black academics in the sciences do it. I truly don't.

    I've gone to predominantly white schools all my life and had some CRAZY encounters and could tell stories for days; yet I still don't feel like I've had anything close to the experience black students in the science fields have.

    Reading this post definitely made me cringe. LaSmartOne, I hope you stay the course and get your degree. When you do, you'll have achieved far more than just what the piece of paper represents.

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  3. I'm a chemist, who attended to very large PWI's (state schools) and worked in labs at both institutions.

    I've experienced some of the things the other has mentioned, in lectures/recitation sections when interacting with other students, but I never felt alienated or singled out in the lab or coming-and-going on campus. That definitely is a problem and you have the right to feel comfortable on campus everyday.

    Do you belong to any student groups, specifically geared to students of color? Sharing stories may give you enough ground to go to the administration and make a formal complaint, should you choose to go that route. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you make the best decision for you, your career, and your peace of mind.

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  4. Wow. That was intense.

    What can they do...or what can both white and Asian students do on a personal level...Well, first of all, recognize that they/we are all prejudiced, however subtle.

    And I've noticed that those at the top usually blame those at the bottom for being 'too hard' to approach. (e.g. They ask: 'Why do the black kids sit together in the cafeteria?' http://abagond.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/why-all-the-black-kids-sit-together/) But from my experience, those who happen to be at the bottom of any social hierarchy are the easiest to approach. So approach them! Invite them to outings. Go out of your way to do this if you have to. Even if you do get rejected (coz they might already be angry at you or 'your people' from previous negative experiences, or they might just be real shy and insecure), don't take it personally. I believe the responsibility lies on members of the dominant culture (this may or may not be the majority in numbers) to take the initiative. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly. (It's like being a host at the party. You do the welcoming, not the guest. You're a host, not a king.)

    The ones at the top are probably thinking: Why don't they come join us? Why do they isolate themselves like that? (I have repeatedly heard people say this.) Because they've tried and tried and tried and you didn't care! Doh!

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  5. This definitely made me shudder, LaSmartOne and send you my best wishes and the strength not to throw lab equipment at anyone.

    The only think I can think that white folks can do is freaking treat everyone as you'd like to be treated. Furthermore, skip the fact that you are being a bigoted [insert whatever word ticked your fancy], for the sake of your future career treat everyone with respect, since you never know where that person you snubbed/condescended to will end up.

    People, we are such a crap species sometimes.

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  6. Do you think a white person in a majority black school would be treated better than a black kid in a majority white school? If you are a rarity because of your appearance, you will at times be stared at.

    When i was in china people would stop on the street and point and stare at me. Thats cos they dont see 6'5 blonde guys very often. Does this mean that the chinese are racists? NO.

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  7. Hey Crimson. You've obviously missed the point. What you experience in China and what LaSmartOne experienced at the university is completely different.

    I get stared at too when I go to villages in developing countries. Pointed at. Get called names even. But it's not racism and it's completely different from what LaSmartOne is experiencing. COMPLETELY.

    It's your kind of obliviousness and ignorance that perpetuates racism.

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  8. Crimson:

    You're making the same, tireless comparison "If I was in China....."
    This comparison is weak. The U.S. was not founded by one ethnic tribe of people. Even though people of European racial type are the majority, this does not make it a white country. Blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics are part of this countries history and culture.

    LaSmartOne, This is also sort of a vent. You reminded me how it was in first year Chemistry, where a good portion (I would say 60 to 70%) were biomed majors and white. The undergrad college I attended was roughly 50% white, 20% Hispanic, 10% East Asian (mostly Chinese), 10% Indian (from India) and 10% black. The discrimination was never hostile, but subtle and looming. It was like those passive-aggressive comments during a dinner party, but when the perpetrator is called out on it, the answer is “Who? Me? But I didn’t mean anything bad by it!” Well over half of the Hispanics and Asians were foreign born (I was one of the few U.S. born Hispanic students). Walking through the campus, you would see islands of people within their own ethnic clique. However, white male/Hispanic female couples were pretty common. Blacks seemed to suffer the most isolation at this college. Many a time I saw a sole black student who was barely, if ever, approached by anyone during the entire semester. Like you mentioned, it was he or she who initiated the conversations. I did make friends at this college, but in hindsight, it was I who had to initiate. Before anyone says “Well, we all have to take a first step if you want to make friends”, white students are far more likely to be approached. What many white people fail to grasp is that since non-white Americans are in a status of “perpetual tourists”, we tend to observe things better. I know this statement comes off as patronizing, but that’s how it is.

    Chemistry class was interesting. The professor (who was also the lab instructor) was BLATANTLY warmer and more accommodating with the white students, even better if they were of his same religion. You would have to be locked in a closet all your life and be completely unfamiliar with human body language to NOT notice this.

    Another observation I picked up from hard science departments at colleges is that blacks and Hispanics are often asked, “So, are you going into teaching?” I have heard this enough to notice a trend, and have learned to perceive this question is a subtle message, and before I write what it means, please note: I do not mean any disrespect to the teaching profession whatsoever, but becoming a researching scientist takes years of rigorous mental discipline and can be emotionally exhausting. But the subtle meaning of that question is “You’re not cut out to be a scientist”. Like I said, it’s an observation. I could be wrong.

    Regarding the “intruder” look you get, I get that look so often, that at this point in life it goes over my head. If I’m walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood and need to ask directions, I step into a grocery store or look for a non-white person, since white pedestrians tend to ignore me and pick up their pace. In fact, I become a little stunned (and a tad distrustful) the few times white people initiate conversations with me.

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  9. This saddens me. Although I agree with Jubilance's suggestion that seeking out Black and Latino students may be helpful, I'm angry that the impetus is always on the oppressed to change things. It's 2009. This shouldn't even be happening.

    LaSmartOne, I don't have any advice for you. All I can offer is sympathy. When I started graduate school, I met with my department chair. He told me he was glad I gotten the fellowship named for a Black alumnus, because that left open the "real" scholarships for the "normal" students. When you're faced with that kind of blatant opposition from the very start of your studies, it can be hard to just "keep your head up".

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  10. Crimson totally missed the point; the situations are not comparable, and it also ignores the fact that LaSmartOne is experiencing hostility from the other students as well as a sense of isolation.

    I think this is a difficult situation to "fix", because it sounds like the white and Asian students are oblivious to their own innate racism.

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  11. I can feel your pain, almost literally. I am a junior Biology major in a private university in Boston. The university prides itself on being multicultural and diverse, and in a large part the demographics are broad and "diverse". That being said, I believe the sciences are where the real racists and white supremacists reside. These are the people who really believe that blacks are inferior to them genetically, intellectually, and socially. The difference between them and the political set is that they believe they have the evolutionary science to prove it. They rarely speak about these things outside their circles but the truth is many postulate that the "Out of Africa Theory" substantiates the racist beliefs of the primitiveness and sub-humanness of blacks. 'Blacks are more closely related to monkeys. Blacks are stronger because they are genetically more similar to beasts. Blacks have lower intellect.' All these racist stereotypes have been perpetuated by bias scientists, journals and articles.

    I took an environmental science class not too long ago. It was supposed to be about earth and natural processes but at the end, my illustrious professor (and head of the department) adds a section on overpopulation. This included a bullshit ridden video about how India and third world countries were producing too many new people and polluting and over populating the word's population. Not taking into account the developed world's abuse and rape of the planet at large. The kind of racist mess that came from students' mouths in the discussion period was disturbing but very typical of imperialist attitudes of the "Third World". 'You know, disease kills off overproducing populations. And (developed)populations who can fight off and prevent disease survive; therefor smarter people who care for the earth are left.' I have even had a chem professor make that classic joke about why "people" (he never used the word black) wear their hats backwards so they can shoot a jump shot if needed to. I witnessed him continually turn to and stare at a black classmate with dark skin and a black scull cap do rap on his head. I know racists when I see them. These are the people we must work for. These are the people who grade our work. These are the people we must kiss ass and pay deference to just to get half of what they have still to this day, WHILE being called affirmative action babies!

    Even as I am a future scientist (and amateur conspiracy theorist) I have a hard time believing that Evolution, the Theory of Natural Selection is not PARTIALLY inherently racist in it's APPLICATION and created by a white supremacist. Point blank, I don't believe everything white people think up, write down, distribute and call truth.

    Also I find it sad when day in and day out, POC trade their loyalties, self respect and individual worth for a pat on the back from whites. I guess it's the If-You-Can't-Beat-'Em. . .mentality. I'm not about trying to pit POC against one another, but I can count too many times when I have seen a curly haired, pudgy nosed Hispanic tell me she is not one drop black or get looks of anxiety when I approach and Asian person. WHY? I don't know, but whites have increasingly allied Asians, patting them on the back, telling them how smart they are and how beautiful and exotic they find their women all while exploiting them for porn, invading their homelands, and displaying white supremacist ads in their countries.

    POC are divided and conquered by lust for whiteness (even blacks: light vs dark) everyday and it benefits no one but whites. I am so sorry you have to put up with these snotty scientists who treat you this way and in NEW YORK?! And whites wonder why black orgs like NESBE (National Society for Black Engineers) are created. 'It's always "black" this and "black" that' they say.' They have no idea the kind of daily bs shoved in our faces day in and out in THEIR world. Such are the trails of a Learned Negro. Stay strong and remember where your going and never forget what your mind is worth.

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  12. In the Education sector, matters are the same. I've been called a quota (despite having the highest GPA in the class) and implicitly told that I should look forward to working in urban and/or rural school districts, as if my qualifications couldn't get me into the door of suburban ones (for which I actually work now).

    In addition, imagine the angst at having to explain that the "Great White Hope" perception that some eager and over-idealistic white students own is a myth and actually hurt students, rather than hurt.

    Life in graduate school was never easy - what with being a racial credit and all.

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  13. Wow, thank you, that's very revealing about how isolating this work/student life must be. Thank you for spelling it out.

    honeybrown1976, this part of what you wrote is really intriguing, but I'm not sure what you mean. Could you expand on it please?

    In addition, imagine the angst at having to explain that the "Great White Hope" perception that some eager and over-idealistic white students own is a myth and actually hurt students, rather than hurt.

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  14. To Notju A. Ginn: I find it interesting you mention black and latino science students being encouraged to teach, as, in a meeting a couple of years ago, the graduate dean of students suggested the same to me.

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  15. How about treat everyone with respect and not automatically assume that a person of color is the "help" as is so common out here in WA State.

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  16. "That being said, I believe the sciences are where the real racists and white supremacists reside."

    Their racism can be sickening. And there are many blogs popping up discussing the "intellectual inferiority" of Blacks and Hispanics. Among other flawed claims (these are just a tiny portion):
    *Affirmative action won't help, and never will help, minority achievement
    *The SAT is actually an IQ test
    *The higher presence of Hispanics in the US will lower the average IQ
    *Things were simpler, purer and more innocent before 1960 (well, maybe for them)
    *Many of them claim to be educated, but since most blogs are anonymous, this cannot be proven
    Just google the name Steve Sailer or OneSTDV, and you'll find dozens of links to similar sites (but read at your own risk).

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  17. A.E., sure I'll explain.

    In my field, many would-be teachers sign up believing that they will be the "Great White Hope" to hopeless (in their eyes) black and Latino children. They often are so idealistic without any regard to realistic measures that they tend to hurt, not help, their students. In addition, they tend to bring racial bias that leads to unfortunate implications because they lack the necessary diversity training.

    Most of these teachers end up leaving the field; thus, adding to the "turnstile" environment in America's schools.

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  18. This really breaks my heart, that this is still going on!
    I am retired and it brought so many memories of my student days at a well known university in Houston in 1970.

    I had gone to and graduated from all Black schools all my life in Louisiana, and moved to Houston for University.I realize what what wonderful teachers I had in an all black school, they lived in my community and knew my parents( I could not get away with nothing !) There were very few of us on the Houston campus at thet time.

    I had instructors at this university that never put my name to my face! and would say things to me like, "I don't expect you to understand this but listen anyway"!
    Until finals week,and if you had a 4.0, you did not have to take the final. When they would call my name as not having to take the final and when I would gather my books to leave, I would get "where are you going?" The look on their faces I stll remember clearly! when I would say " You just called my name as not having to take the final!

    I was working my way through school and had little time for socialization, I knew where I wanted to go so I kept my eye on my goals and I knew these people knew nothing about me.

    I knew I would have to live with this all my life, but it was better to live with it as a professional. I knew that the only thing they knew about me was what Amos and Andy had taught them...

    Sweet Heart let no one define you but you! I also know how difficult that is, but you are the winner.
    My heart is with you, stay strong...

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  19. As a White person, I don't see it as my personal duty/mission to make anyone feel more welcome. It is not my responsibility; I have another stuff to do already.

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  20. I'm very familiar with the type of hostility the LaSmartOne describes. I once had a physics professor (old white man) lecture me about how we (blacks) should be more like asians. And I had simply asked him if I could go into the lab and perform one of the exercises again so I could get a better understanding of it!
    There haven't been many black/Latino students in the science classes I took, and many white students AND professors HATE having your presence sully their elite little world.

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  21. LaSmartOne,

    I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. My friend and I were discussing this issue the other day. He has a Master's degree in computer science and is currently working on a PhD in nanoscience. I have a Master's in Chemistry and Math and am working on a PhD in Statistics. Even though he is "White" and I am half "White", we notice implicit racism in academia in the sciences all the time. It is difficult to miss even when you aren't directly involved.

    My friend thinks that academia is one of the last bastions for rampant unconscious racism because so many people with severe social issues hide-out there. I'm actually working in the DoD, of all places, and find the people there much more socially aware and skilled than in academia.

    Please, though, hang-in there. We really, really need people with your awareness and background to become the next generation of professors and researchers. Someday, you can inspire others with the rare combination of scientific acumen and social sensitivity and awareness!

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  22. All I can say is please hang in there. Working on a Ph.D. myself *not in science, thank the Lord! But I considered dropping out more than once due to the lack of diversity at my university (which really is supposed to be a very diverse institution but you would be hard-pressed to tell it sometimes). Academia is no walk in the park for POC but we MUST stick it out and make a difference at the end! This I believe is my part to play, my little cross to bear, I know others have carried far heavier ones before me...

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  23. "Additionally, the sense of ownership and privilege among other students is just incredible."

    Just helping you out here macon:)

    I am a science student in a PhD program, and as far as I know the only white from a working class background. In fact most of the 'diverse' students are also from relatively upper-class backgrounds.

    I strongly suspect that if you looked at blue collar fields you might see adifferent pattern.

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  24. Isabel, are you familiar with Derailing for Dummies? I strongly recommend that you carefully read this part: "But That Happens To Me Too!"

    Just helping you out here, Isabel.

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  25. I highly doubt that you're in a Ph.D program, Isabel, as your ill sense of logic and lack of empirical evidence in any of the conversations chagrins any one who saw you as a viable Ph.D candidate. However, if you are an actual candidate, I suggest you learn the art of research and debate prior to entering any forum that will have others (actual Ph.D. candidates, such as myself) second-guessing your "identity".

    Also, what blue collar fields are you referring to? Your sense of derailment is impeccable. I will give you that attribute.

    Just helping you out there!

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  26. I've had the same thing happen to me too, but different major. I'm in film and I've noticed things. I'm one of two black women and out of people of color, I want to say that there's like 8. The white guys treat me as if I'm a child who doesn't know film. I'm 4 years older than them, but suddenly I don't know squat.

    I came to Australia for study abroad and the same thing is happening. The American students here are treating me the same as if I were at home. I don't know if this shit is taught at home from an early age or what. All I know is that I'm sick of it and I feel your pain.

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  27. Please no more homework assignments! Some of us have busy lives! And you obviously missed the point. I wasn't saying I have had the same experience - I haven't.

    I was pointing out that once again the sins of the upper-class whites are being diffused to the whole race. The really vile examples usually come from the upper-classes.

    Why is derailing to suggest looking at how a black person in a blue collar environment is treated? Maybe I am wrong, but we know for sure that THIS complaint is specifically about the upper classes -read the post again if you didn't get that.

    btw the person complaining about Steve Sailor is correct - he is an asshole and a racist: However please understand that evolutionary biologists consider people like him an embarrassment or worse- he is not an evolutionary biologist, though he likes to play one on the internet, and the real evidence proves the opposite of his views.

    And yes he (and many 'evolutionary psychologist' types) certainly play fast and loose with the data. But again they are not respected in the field. And for the record, though I will undoubtedly be accused of derailing again, many of the same quacks use the same tricks to show that the poor are less intelligent than the rich, insinuating that people are poor because they are stupid.

    And Watson - that asshole has always been offensive on every level. I can't argue with that one, but again I will only say that I've never heard anyone agree with his twisted views. I guess you are attending a very different type of institution! I will concede that he is not condemned enough and that a woman or PoC would not get away with what he has done. He did get fired for those comments I believe, but yes, there was too much of the 'old guy' excuses, which is ridiculous.

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  28. @macon d

    I don't think that derailing link you give strictly applies to Isabel's comment. It would apply if the gist of Isabel's comment was 'its not about race, its a random thing that just happens to anyone, privileged or not'. But what she was actually saying was 'it happens to people who are disadvantaged in different ways'.

    Of course, getting into an argument about who has it worse in this situation (middle class black people or working class white people) is very unhelpful, so I don't think she should have gone there. But I don't see that its the same as the situation described in that derailing blog, which is about denying the role of 'othering' entirely and comparing it with the experiences of privileged people.

    To say that it compares with the examples given in that blog seems to suggest you think class is just a purely personal issue that has nothing to do with disadvantage. Either that or you didn't read the section of 'derailling' that your referred Isabel to and you meant 'changing the subject to some other form of oppression'.



    I was going to say that I wish I could disagree wtih the points made here about academia and science in particular but I can't. There's a kind if immature intellectual snobbery that prevails in many science (and especially maths) departments, which seems to be pretty closely connected to plain ordinary snobbery - and racism.

    To me when I was at university in the UK it was entirely about class, but that's because there weren't any black people there at all. Had there been I have no doubt that kind of snobbery would have been doubled (because most black people in the UK are working class anyway, so there's a kind of doubling there).

    Personally my rule is never trust anyone who refers to 'IQ' as if it is a meaningful concept.

    Its interesting that in the history of IQ studies the US tended to emphasise race while the likes of Cyril Burt in the UK were motivated by the desire to demonstrate the natural inferiority of the working classes (which is how we ended up with grammar schools and the 11+)

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  29. I am in a history-of-Christianity Ph.D program, and there seems to be a general expectation that black scholars will study modern Christianity in the U.S. or Africa, black women in particular will ALWAYS write from a womanist perspective, and so forth. I suspect this is our version of the research/teach assumption (it's the history of Christianity. It has no practical application).

    For those of you in the sciences (or even social sciences), have you noticed a sense of "if you are [insert non-white race] you should probably go into this subfield"?

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  30. Thank you for the Derailing for Dummies link macon, what an excellent resource.

    I think that part does apply to isabel's comment, which is about "But this happens in terms of class too!" her general point on this blog seems to be that: "class oppression happens too, and y'all are ignoring that!" Which, as the Dummies site says, is a response that trivializes the oppression being talked about, which is racism.

    This following part of D for Dummies especially applies to Isabel's derailing (and concern trolling) comments on this blog, her refusal to take the discussion of race here seriously by actually participating in it, instead of constantly adding sidenotes or supposedly "correcting" it, and so basically dismissing it:

    Privileged People® are accustomed, after all, to it being “all about them”. Not used to simply sitting back and listening to othered people‘s issues, Privileged People® like to be the centre of attention at all times. It reminds them that they are important. By doing this, you will feel good about yourself and send a crucial message to the Marginalised Person™ (yes you really can diminish their experience by making it all about you, all the time!).

    But yeah, I suppose in even answering her, those of us doing that are letting it all be about her, or too much of it anyway.

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  31. >I was pointing out that once again the sins of the upper-class whites are being diffused to the whole race.

    I live in Australia and I've experienced racism from all classes of white people, including working class. In fact, they are more blatant than the upper/middle class who are better at hiding their sentiments. Apart from condescension, white working class racism also appears in a convoluted sense of jealousy. A sense that Asians who are wealthier than them don't deserve it. 'It's okay if the white middle and upper middle class are wealthier, but it's not okay if Asians are wealthier...besides, don't they come from developing countries anyway?...' type of perception.

    I'm not saying they are all like this. Especially not if they're of a more recent migrant background too. But class doesn't cancel out racism. In the same way that race doesn't cancel out classism.

    So Isabel, it's pointless to keep arguing about class on a race blog. That's like going to a biology lab and talking about Virginia Wolf all the time. If you want, you should go make your own blog about classism. And maybe if we're up to it we'll come and 'support' you with, 'But, but, it happens with race too...'

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  32. @Isabel

    I have a hard time figuring out what point you are trying to make. If you are saying that in an upper-middle class environment like academia racism will manifest itself differently from how it would in a working class environment, I'm sure you are correct.

    But are you really arguing that racism would be _absent_ in the latter? Because I'm sure many have personal experiences that would say you were quite wrong about that. If that's not what you are saying, then what _are_ you saying?

    Ultimately I just don't understand, if you are concerned with issues of class, why you are wasting time posting here and trying to turn it into some sort of competition with race. What's the point?

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  33. I was having this discussion with a co-student earlier. I need a good reason why there are so many more asian students than other minorities in science courses. Thoughts?

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  34. Macon: I think that your the one looking-if almost hoping- for slights and insults.

    In fact if you were treated like anyone else you would be insulted because they (white folks) just can't see how unique and special you are.
    But, this is part and parcel of the white privilege movement, everything that white do, don't do, say and don't say is because of their hidden racism and privilege. Of course only people of color can lead us to the promise land of justice and equality for all.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Red, are you under the mistaken impression that I'm not white?

    ReplyDelete
  36. I think Red and some other people are under the impression that you wrote the post, Macon.

    "That being said, I believe the sciences are where the real racists and white supremacists reside."

    BlkSmarTree, my impression was that the whole concept of race came from science in the first place, and that racism has its origins in evolutionary pseudo-science. So it kind of stands to reason that the sciences might have more of a tendency to be racist than other fields.

    ReplyDelete
  37. ", which is about "But this happens in terms of class too!" her general point on this blog seems to "

    NO IT WAS NOT!

    Can you not read? It was that in the POST (not everyone's experiences that are now going to come forth:) But in the POST and in similar environments (large, prestigous science graduate programs) the vast majority of the whites are upper-class.

    They are from a particular, minority fraction of "whites". And that fact is very relevant to the subject.


    WHY is that so hard to understand?????????????????????????????????????????


    I think this is a clear example of the typical on-line habit of skimming a post or comment and just seeing what you WANT to see based on your previous bias, not what the writer has written. It's your problem, not mine.

    ReplyDelete
  38. "But what she was actually saying was 'it happens to people who are disadvantaged in different ways'. "

    No I was not.

    "s very unhelpful, so I don't think she should have gone there."

    I didn't.

    And who are you to tell people what they should or shouldn't do anyway?

    I was pointing out that as a working class person, I actually NOTICED that everyone else was from more "privileged" (in the traditional sense)backgrounds in my graduate program, and that this is typical.

    My comments were especially addressed to macon, who like many from his class does not notice the distinction, unless he is pitying lower-class whites for their strange habits. But it is also addressed to others, who when complaining about a very specific sector of society, identify them by their race, which is shared by the majority of people in the society.

    This post (and most comments) was about the particularly racist environment of elitist academic science programs. This is in no way a typical 'white' environment. These are people that are extremely privileged in the traditional (not your specific, academic definition) way, and who are used to acting in an entitled fashion, and to add insult to injury, are the ones labeling less sophisticated whites as racists and bigots.

    I do not think racism would be absent in a blue collar job, but I suspect it would be less hostile, especially over time, unlike what the poster suggested.

    I'm suggesting that there are very different cultures within the white world, and my on-going complaint is not that macon should discuss class, but that the most offensive and unambiguous examples of racism posted about here are specific to the upper classes who are prone to acting more entitled because of their background. But they are blamed in every case on 'whites' in general.

    The ads featuring 'Americans' featured upper-class whites, and for that matter it is upper-class whites who decide the content of commercials, it is upper-class whites who travel to distant lands and 'shoot' the children, etc etc etc. When Robin described 'institutional power' in terms of jobs and benefits she described upper-class whites.

    Why is it so hard to see why this might all stick in the craw of a working class person when it is always framed as an issue of 'white people'? It lets the upper classes who we also suffer under, off the hook for their obnoxious behaviors, that we not only do not share, we also are often offended and belittled by. Why should we have to share in the blame for the offenses described in this post for example?

    I have bonded quite often with PoC in academic and other environments - maybe there is a reason for that in my background. It's certainly something to think about, especially if you are trying to gain insight into the situation. Of course, if you just want to vent, or diffuse blame....

    ReplyDelete
  39. LaSmartOne I appreciate your venting a great deal. While in graduate in NYC I was the ONLY Latina in my Department. I was lonely and felt disconnected to the Department. That said, I started to LIVE for national conferences that put me in contact with other grad students of color and I spent a good amount of time both developing and leaning on my professional network which was unfortunately out of immediate surroundings. It may not have been always convenient, but I was sustained professionally and emotionally.

    Stay up, WAY UP.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Isabel wrote,

    But in the POST and in similar environments (large, prestigous science graduate programs) the vast majority of the whites are upper-class.

    They are from a particular, minority fraction of "whites". And that fact is very relevant to the subject.

    WHY is that so hard to understand?????????????????????????????????????????


    It's not hard to understand. In fact, it's pretty obvious. So obvious that I don't think that what you think needs to be stated in this post does need to be stated -- that white people who go to elite schools are mostly upper-middle and upper-class whites. You think that's news?

    So your claim that the blaming of whiteness in this post gets "diffused" onto other or all whites is wrong. It's difficult to imagine a reader of this post thinking that the common white behavior and attitudes it describes are common among working-class whites.

    This post, like others on this blog, describes common white tendencies. That doesn't mean that all white people have or enact them. At the same time, despite your claims about interracial, class-based bonding in such environments as the one described in this post, I can easily imagine (and have seen) white people from working-class backgrounds in middle-to-upper-class white environments adopting and sticking more to the white side, and to common white behavior, than to the non-white side.

    In your next comment you wrote,

    This post (and most comments) was about the particularly racist environment of elitist academic science programs. This is in no way a typical 'white' environment. These are people that are extremely privileged in the traditional (not your specific, academic definition) way, and who are used to acting in an entitled fashion, and to add insult to injury, are the ones labeling less sophisticated whites as racists and bigots.

    Again, that seems obvious. Does every post have to say, explicitly, "by the way, this isn't about working-class white people"?

    Isabel, if it's not about you, why MAKE it about you? As the above link (which you're too busy [?] to read) points out, shifting the conversation about someone else's oppression trivializes and even dismisses that oppression.

    And by the way, what is a "typical white environment"? I'm not saying there's such a thing.

    I'm suggesting that there are very different cultures within the white world, and my on-going complaint is not that macon should discuss class, but that the most offensive and unambiguous examples of racism posted about here are specific to the upper classes who are prone to acting more entitled because of their background. But they are blamed in every case on 'whites' in general.

    No they're not. Read the subtitle of this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks Macon for providing this forum and everyone for sharing your stories. How refreshing to understand that, to some extent, we, as minority science students at elite institutions, are all faced with the same egregious situation (hostility, isolation, dotted with explicit acts of racism) and that it isn't all our fault.

    I wish I had access to these brutally honest accounts of racism in science programs before entering graduate school; it's easy to overlook the importance of staying connected with other black scientists in the mist of idealism that shrouds most incoming students.

    ReplyDelete
  42. You're welcome, LaSmartOne, and thank you in return for sharing what you did here. It clearly resonates with and confirms the experiences of others. I also hope a lot of white readers will find it revealing, and that they'll recognize themselves in some of the behaviors and attitudes that you described so well.

    ReplyDelete
  43. "Isabel, if it's not about you, why MAKE it about you? "

    You have it exactly backwards.

    I am saying speak for yourself macon, and your own minority socioeconomic group which is the real protagonist in your posts, and Leave Me and all the other lower class white people Out Of It.

    Lower class whites have their own brand of experience navigating the upper class world, which I have not even mentioned here.

    Also, those lower class whites you say you have observed going along with, or sticking by the upper class whites are only behaving like the PoC who do so described in the main post, and likely for the same reasons.

    As far as the blog title, it would be more accurate to say 'some' upper-class whites (after all, not all act this way).

    Your excuse which seems to say "some white people are upper class and do these things" comes off as disingenuous to me, sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I am saying speak for yourself macon, and your own minority socioeconomic group which is the real protagonist in your posts, and Leave Me and all the other lower class white people Out Of It.

    Again, if you're not in it -- if you don't do the thing that any post says some white people do -- then you're not in it. If that's the case for lower-class people too, then I've already left both you and them "Out Of It." OTOH, a lot of the posts here describe common white tendencies that cut across several social classes. So confining the title to one class would be inaccurate.

    Also, those lower class whites you say you have observed going along with, or sticking by the upper class whites are only behaving like the PoC who do so described in the main post, and likely for the same reasons.

    Maybe in some ways, but much of what they're doing is also something very different, especially when POC are around (as LaSmartOne's post demonstrates). I call it "practicing white solidarity," and that's happening whether or not the white people involved are explicitly conscious of it.

    As far as the blog title, it would be more accurate to say 'some' upper-class whites (after all, not all act this way).

    Are you implying, here and where you say I should "speak for myself" on this blog that I'm a member of the "upper-class"? Cuz I'm not. Speaking of college, for instance, neither of my parents went; I paid all my college expenses myself (except for the taxes allocated to help support state-run colleges); and I'm the first person in my family on my father's side to go to college. As for finances, I'm nowhere near wealthy by U.S. standards (though, like you, I'm very wealthy by global standards).

    In terms of racial hierarchy, though, I am, like you, at the top of the heap, and I do benefit from that, every single day. It's a significant part of my life, and of yours too, no matter how much you want to ignore or deny that.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "I had instructors at this university that never put my name to my face! and would say things to me like, "I don't expect you to understand this but listen anyway"!"

    I had instructors do this to me too. In the early 2000's.

    Thing is, if I got any whiter I'd have to wear sunscreen indoors...

    I'm going to be brave, and give the readers here a reason they may be experiencing standoffishness from white folks. Take it or leave it, but it's my reason:

    I'm perfectly happy to talk to and take advice from anybody, regardless of skin color. I'd be overjoyed to have a green Venusian with three heads mentor me if they were knowledgeable.

    I tend, however, to not approach black people immediately, because I have had a tremendous amount of experience with black people being hostile to what works as friendliness and normal communication to everyone else. I seem to get along just fine with folks from every other color and culture I've had the opportunity to encounter.

    It stresses me too much to intentionally approach people I feel I'll be rejected by, so I don't anymore. Not that I'm rude, or cold, I just don't go out of my way.

    That said, I'm also a female in a field vastly dominated by men. If there's another male coworker with me, clients will typically immediately defer to him, though I'm calling the shots. Life is much easier when one asserts themselves in a positive manner, rather than getting bent out of shape when it happens. I sleep better at night and I imagine some of my clients have a new picture with which to draw their world-view.

    /$0.02

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  46. Erica,

    Have you ever thought that, perhaps, what you thought was friendly and normal wasn't? Also, did you ever think that the other groups may not have stood up for themselves? You do realize that black people aren't some monolithic group, right?

    I think it's sad that you are justifying your standoffishness from a few encounters. If I had a nickel for every experience that I've had from white males and females, I wouldn't have anything to do with whites and I'd be rich. But, then again, I don't judge books by their cover like you apparently do.

    Work a little harder. Maybe it's something about you that you put off on them.

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  47. Isabel,

    I really don't understand why you are so defensive. I'm sorry if you don't understand that as black people in academia, we really don't need to make the distinction between economic status because we have probably experienced some racist behavior from ALL types of white people. This isn't a "rich folk" thing. It's a "white folk" thing. Just because YOU don't do it (intentionally or consciously) as a working class citizen, doesn't mean that NO working class citizen has ever been racist. Your sentiment, like it or not, is dripping with some unchecked privilege. Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  48. don't know what's better,
    having a thread derailed or
    being compared to imaginary beings like 'a green Venusian with three heads'.

    stay strong LaSmartOne. i experienced the same thing to a lesser degree in highschool and more pronounced in music engineering/business school but luckily there were a few POC's that didn't try to curry favour and the school was in my city

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  49. I have to say that I have noticed the paucity of black graduate students in the biological sciences, but tended to assume that family and economic pressures for upward mobility diverted a large percentage of the talent pool into professions that either make a lot of money (medicine, dentistry, etc), or make less money but pay off earlier in life and are relatively secure (graduate nurse specialist, other highly specialized medical careers such such as perfusion (bypass pump) technician, respiratory therapist, rehabilitation physical therapist, pharmacist, etc.. Biomedical research in an academic setting is hardly the ticket to an ability to start a family comfortably on your own income before you turn 30. Perpetual post-docs are the rule, not the exception, nowadays.

    It is enlightening to me to hear of such hostility or failure of collegiality. I can well imagine that a significant percent of P.I.s (faculty) hold consciously racist views - among American born white male scientists and engineers, there seems to be a large percentage of "libertarians" ('L" is a fancy word for "F_ you, I've got mine"). Foreign-born and foreign-raised non-black P.I.s can be quite racist against blacks, in my observation. Questioning the P.I.s' assumptions seems to run into the ego problem as well as the "two cultures" problem. Many P.I.s are not exactly tuned into the news, let alone non-majority views, the humanities, and the social sciences.

    just observations from a middle-aged white woman trained at a ranking univ. and working at a lower-ranked univ..

    ReplyDelete
  50. "or being compared to imaginary beings like 'a green Venusian with three heads'"

    That's the thing here. I really can't win.

    I'm sorry you honestly thought I was making a direct comparison such as that. I was attempting to illustrate the point that I see people as individuals. What I respect in people has absolutely nothing to do with what they look like.

    Of course though, it has to be a problem with me. I'm not reaching out enough, my version of friendless must be wrong, and I'm unconsciously and unintentionally trampling on people.

    This is what makes me throw up my hands in despair, give up, go quietly away.

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  51. @Erica,

    That's the thing here. I really can't win.

    Make you wanna holler, throw up both your hands? Awww.

    Anyway, I appreciate this vent, especially this year. If I may do a little of my own, I'm an English major (so, the exact opposite of science, lulz) but my school is fairly known for it's hostilities towards people of color. We have so many task teams & organizations for handling racial issues but to hear it from them they're barely making a dent. I STILL have people asking me questions ("why do all the black folks hang out together but not with us?!") & generally acting like they've never interacted with a person of color in their life before. I get ignored & condescended to in class. The friends I do have treat me like their safe token negro & I've heard and been the recipient of the most outrageous racism I've experienced in my short life. But you know, if I voice my concerns I just get scowled at or "we're working on it". Bullshit. It's just amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  52. @Erica - the first thing I learned when I first started hanging out on anti-racism blogs was that I have to throw out any specific negative experience I may have had with POC in the past before in order to start rooting out my own racism and privilege. Your experience with hostile black people should not be used as a reason to place the blame on an entire race or an excuse to not be willing to approach them in the future.

    SOOOOOOOOO many of us have had fantastic experiences approaching POC and making connections with people from other races that you might consider examining your own approach first.

    Moving on to the class vs race discussion - I kindof fall in the middle, but would need to think about it some more. I don't think the post is invalid because it could also be considered classicist. In fact, I think it's entirely appropriate to show a wide range of examples to show how deeply racism still penetrates modern society. There's a lot of stuff here and over at Racialicious that I totally don't understand because its sourced from a place to which I cannot relate. Certainly there's a lot of privilege in white privilege, but no matter my working class background - I still benefit from it.

    ReplyDelete
  53. well erica, i don't know about winning but here's a little something

    invoking strangely colored people

    http://rachelmanija.livejournal.com/693232.html

    ReplyDelete
  54. I don't think a discussion of class is out of place in a race blog. They are highly interrelated issues, after all. For example, I feel that the specific kind of racism faced by black people in particular, and also Hispanics, is a racism flavored by the classism of upper-class whites. In the minds of whites, blacks and Hispanics are by default lower-class. They are "trashy" the same way white trash is trashy. Considered stupid, violent, unsophisticated, etc.

    Seems to me that working-class people have a different sort of racism, much less informed by privilege and much more informed by fear. Fear of invasion, of displacement - a very "us vs. them" sort of feeling.

    Isabel's original point was just to point out that, in her view, the sort of discrimination faced by black people in the sciences was a specifically upper-class white sort of discrimination. Right or wrong, that doesn't sound derailing to me, unless discussion of why white people do the stuff they do and how attitudes and privileges differ among groups of whites is off the table.

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  55. >I see people as individuals. What I respect in people has absolutely nothing to do with what they look like.

    First you put Black people in the 'too hard' basket because you've met people who are hostile who happen to be black and so you attribute that hostile characteristic to the fact that they're black. And now you say it's got nothing to do with how they look. Aren't you contradicting yourself?

    >It stresses me too much to intentionally approach people I feel I'll be rejected by, so I don't anymore.

    And vice versa erica. But in a situation where Black people are an extreme minority as in LaSmartOne's case, I doubt you'd be met with hostility (especially considering how some are even willing to be sycophantic).

    @Isabel - Here's on racism among the working class. Many of us are on this blog learning how to deal with racism in our daily lives. We've had a lifetime to learn what it's about. I don't think it would hurt for you to do some share of that homework from your desk if you're gonna participate in the conversation. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5036267694177913386

    Also, nobody is saying everyone is 'racist'. But I do believe that we all carry racial prejudices of some sort. It's just expressed in different ways.

    Besides, both macon and LaSmartOne did specify who they're talking about in the original post: "_elite_, largely white research university" & "feels more like Sandals resort with all of the young _upper-middle class_..." So why do you make it about you? Why are you so angry? _What_ are you angry about anyway? I'm starting to wonder if you're angry that some POCs are better off than you. I'm not saying that you are. I'm just wondering coz you're not making much sense. You repeatedly gloss over parts which you don't want to see in this and other posts.

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  56. "I don't think the post is invalid because it could also be considered classicist."

    Of course it's not! Who said the post was 'invalid'?

    I spoke in support of the post.

    I again maintain that although macon occasionally posts about issues (what he disturbingly calls 'common white tendencies')that may cross class lines,(although it seems on those occasions it's one class or another-now that I think of it he's actually more comfortable labeling whites as lower-class than upper or upper-middle class as if the white default is upper-middle) the really egregious stuff, like in this post generally comes from a particular class. There is a definite pattern that would be enlightening (and fairer)to look admit. I don't think it's "obvious" at all.

    It doesn't make sense to me to say 'white people' when you are referring to obnoxious white elites but it is done all the time here,the two are used virtually interchangebly, and it is harmful stereotyping of a whole race.

    This blog is scary.

    Erica's right - she will never win. Unless she accepts that the following only applies in one direction.

    "Your experience with hostile black people should not be used as a reason to place the blame on an entire race or an excuse to not be willing to approach them in the future."

    ReplyDelete
  57. Erica- I'm just going to say two things to you regrading your original comment and subsequent posts.


    There is a difference between intention and impact. In the REAL world you are held accountable for your actions or impact, unless we're talking about whites talking about race. In the latter case, then the rule changes and intention matters more regardless of outcome and you bare no responsibility. Think about it. It's not attack on you per se. Think in dynamics. It's the parallel universe POC live in.

    Secondly, you are not a victim, you are a perpetrator. Your whiteness and your power in saying "what passes for normal" is a direct assault against people who live differently than you. Throw the Golden rule out of the window and think "Treat people like THEY want to be treated."

    I appreciate, fully, your participation in this discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I'm not in a graduate program and don't really plan to go to grad school yet, but this reminds me of my very first semester in an undergrad CS program. I'm African and I scored a perfect score on the very first Intro to Programming quiz. Rather than be proud, my white professor accused me of cheating since 'someone from Africa who has never programmed could never know this stuff'. Never mind that I had been mucking around with programming Atari's and Commodore's as a teen in Africa. I had to take my fight to the dean, won, and then the professor claimed I had missed classes (he lied). I ended up being forced to drop his class and at the end of the semester I transferred to another school.

    Granted, this was in the early 90s but some of the things you've mentioned remind me of undergrad. The irony of this is that experience has mirrored some of my experiences in the workplace as a software engineer.

    ReplyDelete
  59. @Baiskeli -- It's been my experience as well that IT managers expect their POC to be East or South Asian. One time a dear friend of mine who is light skinned black was grilled on whether he was Indian or Pakistani. He had to literally tell them that his mom was black for them to even accept the possibility.

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  60. Ordinary said...
    As a White person, I don't see it as my personal duty/mission to make anyone feel more welcome. It is not my responsibility; I have another stuff to do already.

    laromana said,
    It is INDIVIDUALS/INSTITUTIONS with these OBLIVIOUS, ENTITILED attitudes who need to be CHALLENGED and HELD ACCOUNTABLE for promoting ANTI-BLACK/MINORITY RACISM.

    LaSmartOne,
    It really angers me that you are experiencing ANTI-BLACK/MINORITY RACISM at a graduate school that you have EVERY RIGHT to attend, learn, and succeed at, without being made to feel like a PARIAH. It’s OFFENSIVE/OUTRAGEOUS that you’ve been forced to endure this mistreatment.

    It would be great if you could contact a member of the media who could do an undercover expose of the rampant ANTI-BLACK/MINORITY RACISM at your graduate school and generate some negative publicity against them for the purpose of bringing about meaningful reform. It would also be useful to contact a civil rights legal group and forward the comments you’ve noted above to them to see if they can CHALLENGE/PUNISH this school for their RACIST treatment of Blacks/Minorities.

    Nearly 10 years into the 21st century, NO SCHOOL should be allowed to promote ANTI-BLACK/MINORITY RACISM and get away with it.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I just started a program in Graphic Communications. This is the first week of the program, but already a group of white students have bonded together like they've known each other forever.

    Any attempts I make at eye contact, let alone conversation are met with a mild hostility. Their eyes glance over me and dismiss me in one gesture and it's humiliating and angering.

    The black people in the class don't do this for many reasons. First if we did, we know the white students would complain - why are all the black people sitting together? I bet we don't fit in your little group do we? When the truth would be, they are making it necessary for us to ban together whether we want to or not, if only for support.

    Secondly, the black folks in the class are different age groups. Myself and another gentleman are older. The two other black kids are younger and frankly, I find them annoying. Yet and still, each day, by default, we get closer to being a "group" instead of mingling with the white folks, regardless of age or likeness of interests - because the white people simply are willing to get to know us and they make it plain.

    It's hurtful and maddening all at the same time.

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  62. From my experience, we should listen to the other side of story too.
    I mean, you can always find a lil' LaSmartOne in every workplace, street, family, ready to point his/her finger against others for his/her personal difficulties and lack of social skills, instead of looking at herself first.Skin colour is not an issue if you are a smart and competent person showing talent.
    Talent always emerge.

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  63. PD Henry wrote,

    From my experience, we should listen to the other side of story too.

    What, the white side? "We" do listen to that story, because whites are in the numerical, empowered majority. We have to hear that story all the time.

    I mean, you can always find a lil' LaSmartOne in every workplace, street, family, ready to point his/her finger against others for his/her personal difficulties and lack of social skills, instead of looking at herself first.Skin colour is not an issue if you are a smart and competent person showing talent.

    White privilege alert! White privilege alert!

    Your condescending dismissal of the insight offered here by LaSmartOne and many others into common white ways is truly sad. As well as a good example of why this kind of oblivious dismissal --of non-white experience, AND of non-white understandings of white people -- is still so pervasive.

    Talent always emerge.

    Nevermind, you seem to be saying, how much harder black people usually have to work to demonstrate their talent to condescending, doubting white people.

    Oh, right, you're not saying that, because you don't even realize it.

    And for a better understanding of common white condescension, you might start with your own language: "you can always find a lil' LaSmartOne in every workplace." A "lil'" one, huh? Those three letters speak volumes about what you think and feel about black people.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Yikes. Reading some of the counter responses to this post is rather frightening. I am deeply saddened by the very loud, belligerent minority of people out there who menacingly wield guns, condescention, hatred and resentment.

    PD Henry and Erica,

    You seem to be hurt, angry people who feel the need to lash out at vulnerability and honesty. I'm sorry you feel the need to spread negativity to the world at large. If you are frustrated by "not being able to win" in this venue, might I suggest lending your voice to the chorus of more like minded pundits on Fox news?

    ReplyDelete
  65. PD Henry,

    Why so angry? Is it because you are reminded that your privilege is earned solely on skin color, not merit? Your condescension speaks volumes on the inability for your talents to emerge as if you were secured, worldly, and knowledgeable of your environment you wouldn't lazily retreat to using such infantile techniques.

    Commonality is such a sad place to predictably place yourself.

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  66. As much as simpletons like to claim that in the end talent will get you through. It's simply not true. Like Macon said to dismiss the black person's experience of segregation is not helpful and tantamount of a person that has lived their life in a state of privilege. Only a person that's been pushed to the margins of society, been made to feel as Ralph Ellison's "invisible man" felt can understand how much of a struggle it is to succeed.

    The prejudice is always there and no matter how hard you try and try to prove that you are above the standard they expect of you. Guess what? You're still black. It seems like a fatalistic conclusion but in order for one not to expect an ideal, these beliefs must be brought to light.

    I don't think that by discussing issues such as these one is victimizing themselves. They are a reality and these accounts should be used to expose racism, sexism and other forms of segregation in order for society as a whole to begin formulating ways in which to move past them.

    Ignoring hate won't make it go away. That's to PD Henry. Open your insular mind please!

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  67. Yes, THIS!

    I'm a white girl going to a college for science and engineering. Polytechnic institutes like mine are notorious for being really homogeneous and insular. There are roughly eighty people in my undergraduate major and year and less than five of them are female. We've also had some very public issues with the campus newspaper referring to all female students as uppity "bitches" who hate men.

    Attending this school has made me realize I should be doing way more to be an ally to other campus-minority groups, particularly PoC. I hung out with the Latin@ campus organization once or twice, and there's a Black Students Association, but I am worried about my schedule and the time I'll have to devote to those things.

    While nobody should feel pressured or obligated to respond to me, and I know the average graduate student has less time than the average undergrad, I would like to know if anyone has suggestions for being an ally to PoC when they're badly under-represented at one's school. I try to call out racist comments from peers when I pick up on them, but that's not necessarily going to make my school and social group any more welcoming or less homogeneous.

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  68. macon d
    mthgk
    honeybrown1976
    Miss Sheeba:
    you twist and bend my words for your own advantage, depicting me as a redneck, scared and unaware racist.
    No problem, btw I HAD to express my opinion on this subject because I'm frankly tired and upset of always hearing racism accusations even WHEN they're dubious or ungrounded.

    Tangerine:
    don't waste your time trying to make friends with other ethnic groups, time is your precious and scarce resource there, use it well for your study and then for your future.
    You have plenty of time later in life, if you really want to make new friends with them.

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  69. Tangerine

    Sincerity works all the time. Be yourself and you'll do fine.

    PD Henry,

    I can't twist anything that aptly presents itself.

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  70. PD Henry said:

    "you twist and bend my words for your own advantage, depicting me as a redneck, scared and unaware racist."

    *********************

    Dude, you basically just described yourself in your own words as a redneck, scared, unaware racist.

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  71. I read your post, but only skimmed the comments, so I do not know if this question has been asked here of you: What kind of Asians are at your school?

    Also, are the two black men you mention Americans? Or are they from the Caribbean or an African country or somewhere else? And why do you call them "accomodationists"?

    I do think that Isabel has a point about class, though. From the very brief description you have written about the campus, it doesn't sound like Vinny or Angie from Bensonhurst are part of the student body, yes? I'm "assuming" that the white students are mostly WASPs (in the true definition of that acronynm, wherein there are not many of those ethnic whites, which NYC is full of, in attendance). Probably upper middle class to upper class, the blue-blooded types, whites. Those types of whites, from my experience with them, have very little experience with folks outside of their world (watch the movie "The Incredible Tom Ripley" starring Matt Damon, and/or read the book), thus their social skills, outside of their "social" circle, are abominable.

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  72. bluey512 said...

    some insightful words that helped me understand my own ideas...thanks!

    And also said..

    "BlkSmarTree, my impression was that the whole concept of race came from science in the first place, and that racism has its origins in evolutionary pseudo-science."

    Don't forget it was upper-class whites who invented the black/white racial difference centuries earlier for monetary reasons, and the scientists who supported them later. This pseudoscience (and IQ testing) was used to discriminate against white immigrants as well of course; my ethnic group was accused of bringing down the average IQ in several states, the Irish and the poor in general were seen as another race, more ape-like, and so on.

    They also create the competitive environment we in the rest of the society exists in as we fight over the leftover crumbs after the upper-classes take the spoils,* leading to the 'distrust' version of racism on lower class whites that you allude to. But they don't really have power over the situation, and it's not based on superiority or hatred, so I do feel it would clear the air here to a tremendous degree if macon would not refer to whites as a monolithic group. They simply aren't.

    It's offensive because a powerless group is bearing the burden of the blame (being the majority) for something a minority powerful group is doing, and that something is the very elitism which also harms them.

    Won't you at least admit it might help to clarify the origin of the problem? Maybe we can make this a win-win situation:)

    * this is another pet peeve, about something you yourself macon mentioned in this thread, and that is that the upper classes use way more energy and resources than the bottom 70-80%. I would say 10 or more times as much, seriously skewing the averages, but we only hear about Joe 6-pack and his gas-guzzling pick-up truck...the same with wealth and income, the differences are way beyond what most people imagine (as they smugly complain how 'rich' Americans are compared to everyone else). These averages don't reflect anyone's reality - they are way above most people's and way below the upper-class's to the extent that they are totally uninformative but they serve a purpose: again, as with racsim, the 'blame' is being spread around where it doesn't belong, meantime effectively hiding the magnitude of the problem that originates with that particular class.

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  73. Hey Isabel. Did you read my comment to you from September 10, 2009 8:50 PM? Doesn't sound like you have. Seriously, Isabel, if it's not about you, why make it about you?

    And if we follow your argument, then we should also solely blame the handful of ruling elite in Japan for their colonization and brutal treatment of Asian countries. The soldiers only went coz they were told to right? (According to your argument, that is.)

    And if an elite 'WASP' was reading all this, they could also argue that what's happening today is not their fault. It's the fault of their forefathers from the days of Columbus. And oh, we can't say that all the English ppl were racist, it was probably just the King and Queen who funded the scientists and explorers. So Isabel, please don't blame the elite white ppl of today for white privilege or racism (or even classism), they just inherited a bad system the way the working class whites did. That's why they're so 'distrustful' of the working class even today.

    Awesome. Let's all just party, blame the dead and be done with it.

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  74. using class and me too for derailing 101.

    damn, isabel, i have to give you dap for bringing the classic tried and true derailing methods

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  75. Isabel said “They also create the competitive environment we in the rest of the society exists in as we fight over the leftover crumbs after the upper-classes take the spoils,* leading to the 'distrust' version of racism on lower class whites that you allude to. But they don't really have power over the situation, and it's not based on superiority or hatred”

    To label you delusional would be a compliment, and I’m really not trying to be adversarial, but your comment is so ridiculous it brings about a sad kind of hilarity. Just curious, but when these semi-literate klan was going around lynching black folks, that was not hate? When the white bus drivers forced Black folks to the back of the bus, that was not superiority? When the white folks in Boston literally tried to overturn school busses WITH Black students seated, was that not hatred and superiority? Or, was all that from a feeling of distrust? When that high school drop-out in Texas dragged that Black man for two miles behind his truck, till he died, can you see the hate in that hateful act? When some white parents refuse to have their kid(s) listen to a Black President talk about the benefits of an education, is there not some element of superiority and hatred involved with that decision?
    Obviously I can fill a page with these events, hopefully you get the point. You trying to absolve poor whites of their role in perpetuating racism, is quite frankly, disgusting! You talk about the Irish being discriminated against, and I agree that did happen. Also the Italians, Lithuanians, etc, experienced the same discrimination. But in the end they made a deal with the devil. The deal was they would be the door keeper for the rich white man. Meaning the Irish, Italians, etc would get the foreman, supervisor, sergeant’s positions, and from those positions would control the entry of Black folks into the economic system. Basically keep the niggas out! So these “lower class” white folks moved away from their ancestral roots and embraced the concept of whiteness because it afforded access to them and their families, while excluding the niggas.

    You seem to be very sensitive to the economic disparities in our society, I speculate that’s because you’re on the wrong end of that structure. Now, if you could extend your sensitivity to those that are on the “wrong” end of the racial divide, then maybe, just maybe, we can make some progress.

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  76. Btw, in EVERY single sentence both macon & LaSmartOne specifies (implicitly or explicitly) which white group he is talking about by using words such as: on campus, here, students, staff, lecturer, young upper-middle class, Sandals resort, hotel-like student lounge, dorm, newly-hired guards, lab, student listserve...

    6 out of 40 sentences don't explicitly specify the group or place. But with all of those 6 sentences, the context makes it clear who he's talking about.

    Isabel, how much more specific do you want it to be???

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  77. Word. There's plenty of "diversity" in my graduate program (none of which is apparent by taking a look at the faculty), but the racism is still overwhelming. I took the time to do a wee empirical observation, and noticed that in one of my seminars, my white professor had correctly identified all of the white students by name, had mildly messed up about half of the Latin@s names (even though she claims to speak Spanish fluently), and, when it came to the three African American women in class, the conversation went something like this (I substituted their names):

    PROF: "So Woman1 is not here?"
    WOMAN1 (sitting directly in front of her): "Uh, I'm right here."
    PROF: "Oh, right, right. Woman2, your name is not on my list."
    WOMAN2: "That's because that's not my name."
    PROF: "Oh, right, right." *points at one and then the other, counting OUT LOUD* "..then that means that Woman3 is not here."

    Yeah. They don't look even remotely similar.

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  78. "Now, if you could extend your sensitivity to those that are on the “wrong” end of the racial divide, then maybe, just maybe, we can make some progress."

    I've done that repeatedly. My whole life. It is you who are not extending your sensitivity. Your comment was very offensive to me. The elders of my ethnic group did not make a 'deal with the devil.'

    "These averages don't reflect anyone's reality - they are way above most people's and way below the upper-class's "

    I realized I was wrong about the second part of this statement right after I wrote it- the averages actually fall *within* what most people would consider upper-middle class. For example, the 'average' American income is around 150K yet the median is less than 50K. The so-called average income is somewhere in the top 15% or so (rough guess I admit). I suspect it's similar for wealth and resource use. The misleading use of average leads to 'upper-middle class' as the default American state, just as I am asserting that it's the unspoken default 'white' state here on this blog.

    The top 20% own/control 80% of the wealth and resources and the bottom 80% fight over the remains. The people in control want it to be this way (the fighting, which keeps us distracted) and we oblige them.

    "But in the end they made a deal with the devil...Basically keep the niggas out!"

    This is really offensive. And it does not even contradict what I said.

    It's almost as offensive as macon censoring my last post. Not up to the challenge huh macon?

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  79. Isabel, I didn't publish your lengthy comment about various personal bits of information about myself because I prefer to remain anonymous here. I didn't consider it a "challenge," and I don't want this thread further derailed with all of that.

    What's "offensive" is your refusal to face up to both your own white privilege, actions, and complicity, as well as those of the lower-class white Americans whom you keep holding up as blameless. I've had enough of your efforts (unfortunately, successful efforts) to derail this thread about common POC experience with common white behavior -- behavior that, as several people here whom you persist in ignoring have pointed out, is clearly labeled in the post in class terms, and at the same time, also cuts across class lines.

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  80. And by the way, regarding your ancestors who became white Americans? They did make a deal with the devil (as did mine), as described above by Imhotep: by becoming "white" instead of what they were before, and thus elevating themselves in many ways, including financially, above other despised races. If they were impoverished immigrants, then by becoming white, they traded in class-based solidarity across racial lines for racial solidarity within a racial line -- the one that still separates their descendants like you and me from non-white Americans. And as LaSmartOne's post demonstrates, lingering, deleterious effects of that separation continue to live on in white people, of any social class, and they often get enacted when today's white people interact with non-white people.

    It's true that all of that is "offensive," and much worse, but not in the way you think it is.

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  81. It's not just black students, it's black people in general.
    There was a heart-breaking incident in Australia when an Indigenous guest lecturer had a heart attack and collapsed at the bus stop outside the university, and none of the white people helped her because they assumed she was just some random drunk (and therefore not worth helping, obviously). In the end a couple of Asian students came up and helped her.

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  82. Grad school is not the place to be (at least at a majority White institution) if you are a POC looking for a identity-affirming experience. The best advice I ever received was to not wonder whether I was getting rained on or spit on, but just to take steps to keep myself dry.

    As for the question:

    What could white students, staff, and faculty do in everyday situations to be more inclusive of black students?

    I do not find it to be a question worthy of asking. Higher ed has been asking this question for years. People of color have been giving our opinions and telling of our experiences for years. Universities have held task forces, conferences, workshops. They have convened committees and collected data and typed up reports. The answers from all this activity do not vary much from year to year.

    At this point I believe that most places do not really have an interest in actually changing; They merely want to give the appearance of changing.

    So the best we POC can do is get our degrees and move the heck on. Believe me, once you are POC, PhD these things do not change substantially. (Calling Dr. Gates....) But it does get better.

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  83. First off validation: This experience sounds completely typical for a minority in academic science, particularly an "elite" institution. I speak as a WOC in academic science, so I speak from extensive experience.

    Second: Never forget that isolation fucks with your head. It is too easy to under-estimate how isolated everyone else is feeling. This is particularly true of others dealing with a minority experience. You may think that those white women have it relatively good, but I can assure you they are still dealing with a lot of shit. Others experiences may not overlap 100% with yours, but they probably overlap more than you think. The key to staying sane in this environment is to find that common ground and work it.

    Third: as a POC, you are bearing an extra burden. Accept this as a fact. It isn't fair, it isn't nice, and your fate may even change course because of it. This is sucks. You have to find some kind of peace with this reality. If you let it drive you crazy and bitter, the main person who will suffer is you.

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  84. A friend and I once strolled the grounds of what I'm guessing is the university LaSmartOne attends. We approached the gate, unscheduled, neither of us with university ID, neither of us even students there. My friend explained that she was thinking of attending the school and wanted to see the campus, and the guard graciously allowed us entry. It would never have occurred to me at the time that there may have been a racial element to the exchange, but now I wonder how the situation would have played out if we weren't both white.

    I don't really have anything on-topic to contribute that hasn't already been said, other than to acknowledge that you've made me think.

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  85. "because I prefer to remain anonymous here."

    Filling out the privilege meme would not affect your anonymity at all. Many anonymous bloggers did it.

    Neither would telling us your background and how you became such an expert in white sociology.psychology. I think it's an entirely reasonable request.

    And the post was not lengthy if you remove your quotes.

    "and at the same time, also cuts across class lines."

    no evidence has been shown for this in the thread.

    And you are wrong about my family. You are quite deranged in fact.

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  86. Isabel, is this the privilege meme you're talking about? If so, I'll let you know that five items on it apply to me (never mind which five). I'll also let you know that I think it should be called the "class privilege meme"; it's a woefully inadequate measure of other forms.

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  87. @Isabel - I've noticed that you pick and choose which comments to respond to. You've ignored several comments I've written specifically for you. Is that because I've hit the hammer on the nail and you know your argument has failed, but you're not game enough to admit it?

    RE original post: It would help to spend some time in a non-racist environment (e.g. weekends or summers) where people take you seriously and see you as an individual. Where you don't have to think about your race all the time. (This is actually more stressful than we realize. I didn't realize how stressful it was until I found myself in an all poc environment and I didn't have to think about race anymore.) It'll really help you feel 'normal' again and get affirmed that you're not the one who's weird. It'll help pump you up again and keep you going.

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  88. "You've ignored several comments I've written specifically for you"

    Your comments either were examples of the kind that really irks me, by those who refuse to read carefully and keep accusing me of something I never said (it's exhausting dealing with these, I have to keep repeating myself and then I get accused of taking over the thread), or were sarcastic and made no sense (blaming the dead??) so I did not feel they deserved a reply. Sorry.

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  89. ot: is there a thread about how black people are constantly called arrogant, angry and must learn humility?

    i can't read anything with the william sisters this week without the same ol' bs, nevermind the gop telling obama the same bs before his speech.

    sorry for the o/t

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  90. Is "Isabel" the same "Isabel" who, in comments on another post, claimed not to be American and therefore had an "unbiased" view of American race relations? Is "she" the same commenter who claimed that race relations in her country were better with the old "we don't make a big deal of it over here" nonsense?

    And now in "her" comments to this post, suddenly "she" is an American from a lower class background AND a PhD candidate making "her" uniquely qualified to speak to this issue.

    I think I know what's going on here. If I see that screen name again, I will know to scroll right past the comment.

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  91. Stephanie, I also think it's this person "UnPCGrrl" as well. Trolldom is so easily detectable.

    Macon, you have to work harder with the moderation. If you are serious about having conversations, then you really have to screen the derailing or outright trolling posts.

    When it gets to the point that your posters are realizing this and you're not, it looks bad.

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  92. You should then think about traveling abroad my friend. You'll find that its just mostly white Americans who are so forthright with the racial ambiguities and it is sadly so commonly accepted. but don't let the racial insecurities of whites here in America tarnish your view of all whites in the world. Try Copenhagen or Paris perhaps.

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  93. I just signed up for a seminar course to learn cryo-EM and the registrar just insinuated that I might not want to take it for credit. LOL! It never stops!

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  94. I just signed up for a seminar course to learn cryo-EM and the registrar just insinuated that I might not want to take it for credit. LOL! It never stops!

    Did the registrar say why you "might not want to take it for credit"? How did s/he make the insinuation made?

    I do not want to sound mean or uncaring towards you, but from reading your post and comments, you seem to assume to know what others are thinking, what their motivations are, all without asking ever asking that person.

    You said the following, which contradict each other:

    From your post:
    I noticed the other two black guys, who are accommodationists (and overrepresented with respect to the real dearth of black students on campus), also attempt to have conversations with the white people in the lab, but they are always the ones to initiate the conversation.


    From one of your comments:
    I wish I had access to these brutally honest accounts of racism in science programs before entering graduate school; it's easy to overlook the importance of staying connected with other black scientists in the mist of idealism that shrouds most incoming students.

    You came to conclusions about the other black male students in your class from what seems to be assumptions about them, yet you acknowledge that you need to be connected with other blacks in a similar situation as yours. Well, there you have two, right under your nose, yet you don't talk to them. Perhaps, they are going through what you are, or perhaps not. But you will never know by sitting on the sidelines and never interacting with anyone, be that person black or white or [an] Asian, in your midst.

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  95. RedCatBiker, I already described my experience with the two other black students in lab in the original post. Yes, I've had one strained conversation with each of them about their research. No, they did not approach me when they first entered lab. Yes, they approached and talked to every single white guy in my room except for me on their respective first days in lab. Yes, their attempt to distance themselves from other black people (i.e. me, and apparently each other) in lab does seem to be a mechanism for gaining validity among white lab members.

    As for my recent experience with the dean's assistant/registrar, in light of what I know now I can see a pattern of being underestimated and sort of being tracked as a secondary student, his insinuation that I'm not cut out for serious research and should teach included. At the time, I might have rationalized it away. I'm also certain that if the dean and other faculty on the admissions committee wanted to increase black student enrollment (and also advocate for an increased black postdoc and faculty presence, up from zero) and not leave black students in such an extreme minority on campus, they would. Denial is a powerful psychological force.

    Is this some perverse attempt to dismiss what I said, color me as paranoid and get the last word as the white voice of reason and authority? I'm not really interested in arguing with you, because until you physically experience what I (and apparently, as echoed in the numerous stories shared here, many black science students) go through on a daily basis, you will never truly understand.

    I will take PPR_Scribe's advice to heart, vent when I need to but try to become more oblivious and steadfast going forward. Yes, I am being not only rained upon but also spat upon. It's easy to rationalize and deny a situation into something that it is not, blame yourself and accomodate to injustice. Someone on another forum shared their experience in a similar situation and confessed that it took her years to realize that she was not a "lip-dribbling moron", so psychologically scarred she was from her interactions with her white, asian and east indian peers. Sometimes it takes a little outside validation in perspective to see a situation for what it truly is. Patty Hearst needed it, most cult members need it, and I suspect that most black people in situations like mine need it as well. As similarly isolated "hostages", this much needed support is generally sorely lacking.

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  96. Is this some perverse attempt to dismiss what I said, color me as paranoid and get the last word as the white voice of reason and authority? I'm not really interested in arguing with you, because until you physically experience what I (and apparently, as echoed in the numerous stories shared here, many black science students) go through on a daily basis, you will never truly understand.

    About 13 or 14 years old, riding on the NYC subway. The number six train, heading downtown to the YWCA on the east side, to attend a swimming lesson. Sitting across from me, a drunk woman. A drunk white woman; living rough, probably. A not too crowded car--no one standing, but pretty much every seat taken.

    "Never catch the eyes of a drunk." A lesson I learned from somewhere. I caught her eyes. Or she caught mine. I don't remember. Nonetheless, we caught each others eyes. She spit a big wad of thick saliva on to the floor in front of her, which came close to my feet. Then, at me, looking me dead in my eyes, she yelled, "nigger!" The number six train, on the east side, when it is in Manhattan, has a lot of whites riding it. Not one of those whites, on that train car that day, came to my rescue or said anything to that white woman.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    You wouldn't believe the amounts of implicit racism I've experienced here. Twice while coming on campus I've been stopped in a hostile and condescending manner by newly-hired guards who, having seen my ID, told me that I am 'ok' since I was a groundskeeper or a day worker for the animal facility, whose staff is mostly black and latino.

    Other than the above-quoted part of your post, much of the racism that you've talked about here that you have experienced (are experiencing) at your school does come across as you being paranoid about racism being inflicted on you.

    No, I am not dismissing what you said. Actually, I have paid attention to it; I have read and comprehended what you have written.

    I asked you questions for you to clarify your claim(s) of racism. The thing is, I don't suffer from white liberal guilt, so not every cry of racism from a black person do I automatically consider to be such, especially when there are so many holes, assumptions made by you about what the thoughts and motivations of others are, in your post (which is, by your admission, really a vent). Much of what you have written to be "implied racism", reads to me more as one commenter here stated as "your lack of social skills."

    So, no, I am not spitting on you and telling you that it is raining -- I do know the difference.

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  97. I think you've got this post a little wrong. As a black student that recently attended an overwhelming white LAC the problem is not what they're not doing. It's what they doing to not make black (or any minority) students feel welcome. Thank God I've since left the LAC. I've never a group of people so collectively clueless in my life.

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  98. I wrote:

    I asked you questions for you to clarify your claim(s) of racism. The thing is, I don't suffer from white liberal guilt, so not every cry of racism from a black person do I automatically consider to be such, especially when there are so many holes, assumptions made by you about what the thoughts and motivations of others are, in your post (which is, by your admission, really a vent). Much of what you have written to be "implied racism", reads to me more as one commenter here stated as "your lack of social skills."
    -------------------------------

    I want to change it to:

    I asked you questions for you to clarify your claim(s) of racism. The thing is, as a black [American] person , I don't suffer from white liberal guilt, neither do I subscribe to a blind allegiance to my fellow black people, so not every cry of racism from a black person do I automatically consider to be such, especially when there are so many holes, assumptions made by you about what the thoughts and motivations of others are, in your post (which is, by your admission, really a vent). Much of what you have written to be "implied racism", reads to me more as one commenter here stated as "your lack of social skills."

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  99. redcatrider

    "I don't suffer from white liberal guilt, so not every cry of racism from a black person do I automatically consider to be such,"

    hmmm sounds like the post. .

    'describe white people who point out the problems with whiteness as "self-flagellating"' I think there is a post especially written for every Isabel and redcaterider.

    Your motivations are so obvious and sadly flawed I wonder why you take the time to write some of the things you do. Your intent is to obviously be the white voice of reason to overly sensitive blacks as they tell their endless stories of racial paranoia and phantom discrimination. My suggestion. Please get over yourself. You are obviously not a person of color. Having been one for an upwards of 20 years, I can tell you sraight...(and exuse my language) WE DON'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP. As you sit on your lofty white seat and judge the experiences of strangers in their own land, please be aware that most of what you have said to LaSmartOne and others is taken as garbage in garbage out. More white reasoning from someone who has never been there. I think if you really opened your mind enough, you would see that the world is bigger than what YOU know and that most people do not have the same experiences as you and therefore feel differently.

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  100. Just realized you were black redcatrider. I still don't agree with you!!

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  101. LaSmartOne,

    I was so moved by this post that I had to write. I am sorry that you are feeling isolated this way. I hope this isn't affecting your work. I can't remember who gave the advice, but I think the advice was very good. I hope there are some student groups you can join to get some support and friendship. People are not meant to live alone and in isolation. That can drive you crazy.

    Even seeking out some physical activity, yoga, jogging can help free the mind and get you in touch with yourself. I find physical activity helps keep me focussed and allows me to achieve a sort of observant detachment, which helps me with my anger. In the end, you cannot change the stupid behavior of other people around you but you can learn to control how you feel about it and how you react to it. Hang in there. My best wishes to you.

    @Isabel

    There is a book called "How the Irish Became White" by Noel Ignatiev that you should take a look at. Whites at the bottom end of the economic scale should have had solidarity with blacks. I don't understand how they couldn't see that the existence of slave labor, which continued to exist well after emancipation, by the way, brought down labor conditions for everyone and affected attempts at collective bargaining and organizing in some instances. But for the most part, unfortunately this did not happen. I have often thought that racial division was in the interest of a ruling upper class, which is what I think you are trying to say. But for the most part when ethnic groups gave up what they were (say, Irish) to become white, these people became part of the power structure that ultimately oppressed POC. It's not pretty to look at, but it's the truth. There was something to be gained in "whiteness", otherwise why did people go along with it?

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  102. LaSmartOne:
    I feel your pain. I am a PhD who graduated from a major white institution in Texas (imagine that, of all places). Among all the hostile things that could happened to me, the most outrageous was receiving unsolicited mail from the Klan, who apparently thought I was a white PhD candidate that might be interested!

    All I can say is, thank God I went to an HBU as an undergrad, then a liberal Ivy League eastern college for my Masters! Because of that I was able to withstand the isolation you currently feel LaSmartOne.

    However, I had to learn to handle and divert my anger, so that I could get the hell out of that place. You are going to have to do the same. My salvation was a brilliant Black faculty member, from another department, that took me under her wing. I hope you find someone like that.

    Also, Stephanie, FromTheTropics, and Macon you are right: Isabel did attempt to derail the discussion. Initially, I thought she was innocently adding depth to the conversation, then I began to see her real intent. After that I just scrolled past any comment by her so that I could look at the comments that might actually help LaSmartOne.

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  103. LaSmartOne here:

    Just received hostile stares from two white couples who appear to be first or second year graduate students after entering the campus from the key-card entrance on a Wednesday night (~11:10pm). Again, it never stops. Yes, it feels like I'm in a living white-supremist hell. It still doesn't fail to amaze me how many of these kids have coupled-up here and parade around as if they're established professionals taking a stroll through their gated community. Imagine, being an isolated black man in a practically all-white&asian environment and having to endure this treatment on a regular, almost predictable basis...

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  104. Interesting comments about the Irish 'becoming white'. La Smart One has mentioned a few times about the white and asians on campus - are asians the latest group to 'become white'?

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  105. @Isabel who said: "Your comments either were examples of the kind that really irks me [snip]...and made no sense (blaming the dead??)..."

    Exactly my point. They make little sense because they're an extrapolation of YOUR argument.

    And back to the original post: It's the subtlety of it all that can be quite damaging. Here's what Tim Wise said about it:

    "...Indeed, research on the health effects of racism has actually found that it is precisely in these kinds of cases, in which the racial motivation is less clear, where the negative impact on blacks is greatest. The "attributional ambiguity" of such cases (fancy language for, "what the hell was that about?") is what causes blacks, for instance, to expend valuable emotional and cognitive resources trying to analyze each situation anew. The stress from such a response heightens what is known as the allostatic load for those experiencing it, through the release of stress hormones (such as cortisol)..."
    http://www.redroom.com/blog/tim-wise/denial-a-river-wider-than-charles-racism-and-implicit-bias-cambridge

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  106. I don't really know what schools could do. I think it's up to people to quit acting like if they can just avoid each other in these close-quarters situations for the time being, that they will be able to pretend they don't exist later, like their paths will never again cross. But that takes personal motivation from people, and that's often lacking (in pretty much everyone, not just whites). I'm interested in reading the rest of the comments here, though.

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  107. this post was familiar to me. i am a social work graduate student, which is a program that is traditionally mostly women and more racially diverse than other graduate programs. however, even in the program i've noticed some racist behavior. one night we were all planning to go sing karaoke in a bar downtown. all of us were talking during class break, except for the two black women who were getting a snack. this is when the karaoke plans developed. later in the class it occurred to me that the black women had probably not been invited. after class i approached them to invite them out with us and give them the details of time, meeting place, etc. one of the looked to the other and said, "oh, i guess that's why [our classmate] asked us to babysit tonight." i didn't know what to say, but i was shocked. they just laughed and thanked me for the invite. i couldn't believe a social work graduate student had invited the black women to watch her child before inviting them to hang out with us.

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  108. LaSmartOne, I hope I can share experiences with you one day! I'm in the same boat; I'm in the biological sciences, Ph.D program, and African. The covert racism is fascinating as the students seem to have found an enabling black person to keep as their token. I will never understand what is so great about being the "token black"? I have fallen out with a few people in my program because I will not hesitate to call out any shady behavior; I don't need their patronizing/condescending "friendship".

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  109. Reading Macond & AE's macho attacks on Isabel's innocuous, engaging, sympathetic and ultimately defensive posts, I realized that this commentary thread is also a great resource for examining how skilled Americans are at self-righteous exclude-and-attack rhetoric. Decades of intensive, media-sponsored right-wing training have really paid off. Who can converse across social boundaries now? I can't imagine that poor bitch Isabel will ever express sympathy or curiosity about an issue that intersects with her one legitimate area of identity politics. Go team! Fight fight fight! And don't forget to wrap yourself in your golden team flag while you splatter inappropriate, boorishly condescending internet links!

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  110. I'm a biracial (black and Italian) female grad student at a major university in Chicago. While I have not really had much trouble with fellow students or postdocs in my lab (we are quite a diverse and international bunch), I have seen some of what the OP discusses. The maintenance staff in my building are largely white -- I think Central or Eastern European immigrants, judging by accents. The one guy who always comes in to mop our floors and take out the trash in the evening never deigns to speak to me, even when I say hello first. But he always enthusiastically greets the white members of my lab. It's a subtle thing that I tried to ignore but kept noticing over the months. And it bothers me.

    Another issue with not feeling comfortable in this environment is that there are so few black faculty members of administrators. There are actually NO black primary investigators who run basic science labs at my university, and from talking to other grad student friends of mine, that's not uncommon.

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  111. I've read this thread with a combination of empathy, frustration and re-lived anger. I left my PhD program in Lit at the U of M for various reasons: Ann Arbor was too small, I hated living on 1100/month, I missed the city, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be an academic.

    But my program sure did make it easy for me to decide.

    While UofM prides itself on the luck of being in Ann Arbor, on being 'diverse' (it ain't diverse when a white toddler points at a grad student of color and says 'Mommy, look!'), and on having a diverse faculty (whatever), the reality is SO much different.

    Back around '97 or '98 one of my thesis advisers was a well-known Victorianist. She had a reputation for being socially awkward and no one really liked her, but I looked forward to working with her. I liked her work on women's history, Boston Friendships and the like. I was taking one of her seminars and I had the habit of getting there early. One afternoon, I saw her struggling with some tea things (we liked to have tea during our 3 hr class) and I went to help her out.

    Swear to GOD this is what she said:
    "Oh, Ding. Thank you but I really can't have you be my step and fetch it."

    As soon as the words came out of her mouth time froze. I froze. She froze.

    I know what she *intended* to say. But f*ck intention. This woman looked at my brown face and the words 'step and fetch it' leapt immediately to her brain and fell out her mouth.

    As soon as the seminar was over, I had a beer with my friends, told the story and, within days, it was all over the department. It didn't make a dent in her repuation.

    (After I left, I had to laugh when I saw that one of her projects turned out to be about 'hidden mulattas' in Victorian lit. Wouldn't you know this was an idea I had for my diss? But more power to her. She's a sad racist and I'm not.)

    These people will NEVER change; we students of color learned to cope the best way we could. The doubled identity was adopted (oh, we'll hang out and have beers but we'll never trust you) and we either made it through the program or left and found a way to go to corporate. (Like I did.)

    I don't have any advice. I just hope that there are some white academics reading this and they take some of this shit to heart.

    But who's holding their breath?

    I'm not.

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  112. Good points. Accomodationists - I know exactly the type. Their pitch rises a few octaves when talking with whites, esp. white males. They show no respect for other minorities- typically of any kind (including their own). They are "rewarded" for their behavior by the majority, so I suppose its reinforces their behavior. There are two dimensions of this that bother me. The first is that accomodationists pride themselves on having better relationship with the "majority" and look down on other minorities for having tenser relations with whites. They don't or won't realize that not all minorities will behave as opportunistically as them or treat themselves with such self-abasement while disrespecting other minorities who've done nothing wrong. The second point is accomodationists set an impossible standard (and a wrong standard) for other minorities to live upto when dealing with whites. They agree with whites (esp. white males) reflexively, and they apologize for or ignore wrong white behavior. You can imagine how annoyed whites are when dealing with non-accomodationists who don't lap up everything they say or defer to them at every opportunity. It makes an already difficult social situation even more so.

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  113. As a white mid-life woman educated in the sciences, a member of a medical family (father, husband, daughter, cousins)and a rural Southerner, I continue to be frustrated by the conditions you describe. I credit most of it to unrecognized personal racism; people just don't realize/admit their prejudices. I think the key is for the courageous among us to seek leadership in every field of endeavor. When boards, deans, department heads, superintendents, employers and legislators are more diverse than Anglo, male, Christian conservatives, we will wield the power and insight to move out of the racial dark ages!!

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  114. your fault, not oursNovember 22, 2009 at 7:44 PM

    I'm white... and, let me just throw my 2 cents in, ill try to shed some light (no pun intended) on the situation. The reality is, the majority of white people not only don't have a problem with blacks. But actually DESIRE to EMBRACE blacks on a deep level. The hostility is not based upon anything but a real misunderstanding. Personally, It's been my experience that blacks tend to hangout together, even if it's a group as small as 2 people. And when that happens immidiately we feel not threatend, but UNWELCOME. That's where the hostility comes into play. We in general feel that blacks have no (real) desire to engage and interact with us, therfor, we don't want to engage and interact with them. And I know you're thinking you do try to engage and interact, but the reality is, you have to examine exactly how you're interacting. Typically when people, PEOPLE, all people, feel they are in a position of weakness it's hard to legitimately reach out and take a personal interest in someone else. This comes usually in the form of trying to prove yourself, keep in mind I'm saying all people. So think about it, you add something to the class, and it's something intelligent or whatever. What you're actually doing is making everyone around you feel threatend, why? Because its thrown in with they don't feel welcome by YOU anyways. If you want to be welcomed, by welcoming by, appreciating the value in what others say, and do. It seems elementry, which leads me to my next point. Take what I just said for example, you could percieve it to be degrading, which would destroy the connection, or helpful and smart, which would build a connection. If you're coming from a position of weakness though, you'll likely see it as degrading. Coming from a position of strength, you'll see it for what it really is. Your world is a mirror of you.

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  115. @your fault:

    I really disagree, as a white female college student. I do think spaces can specifically be unwelcoming to people of a certain race, orientation, or gender, without this tension merely existing in the outsiders' head or being the outsiders' fault. I think your refusal to accept the words of people with less institutional power than yourself is rather terrible, and I am wondering if interacting with you is merely feeding a troll.

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  116. Re: your fault, not ours,

    I am going to outline your point for the rest of the people.

    Not just from your posting name "your fault, not ours," but also your well-thought out paragraph detailing the same sentiments, I gather that you have no idea what the hell is going on.

    What you said is that it is not in fact anyone's fault but the blacks who are apparently so cliquish that it intimidates the poor white folks. It is the blacks' fault that they aren't being made to feel welcome on a predominantly white campus.

    The article itself says nothing about the writer loitering around with a group of "thugs," but merely how a person of color on a campus of primarily white individuals is profiled and excluded either implicitly or, more rarely, explicitly.

    You have no valid points. In fact, other than blaming an entire race of people for the problems faced in a society where they are a minority, you've made no points at all.

    Maybe you should do more reading and less writing.

    -Mask

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  117. Your fault, not ours,

    Do you ever wonder how these White people have these uncomfortable feelings of not being welcomed while standing in a group of 10 other White people? (It's just one group of many just like it on a predominantly White campus.)

    What I don't understand is how 2 (or more) Black people standing together is an exclusive clique, while 2 (or more) White people standing together is just a group of friends. Do those people ever stop to look around and notice all of the "White tables" in the cafeteria?

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  118. I'm feeling Jasmin's sentiment.

    @ Your Fault - Why can 2 white people stand together and that's totally innocuous? But 2 blacks together is somehow threatening... Go look up "ethnocentrism".

    You're shedding all sorts of light, Your Fault. Way to bring it home for us!

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  119. >And when that happens immidiately we feel not threatend, but UNWELCOME.

    Ugh. I cannot believe you just said the exact same thing another white person said to me personally about a group of, say, Mongolians (he wasn't talking about Mongolians, but another Asian ethnic group. But let's just pretend he was). And I thought, 'Really now.' I didn't believe him. Now, neither he nor I speak Mongolian. But I went up anyway to this group that loves to constantly speak in their own language and started talking to them. Man, they were friendly as.

    I've noticed that when white people say that a POC group seems unwelcome, they often haven't even tried approaching the POC group. Whereas when a POC says the same thing about white groups/people, it is usually after they have tried and tried and tried to 'integrate' into the white group but still can't seem to succeed. Or they may seem as though they're integrated, but still feel as though they're 'faking it'.

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  120. LaSmartOne,

    I know this will not be the (exact) same thing compared to your experience(s,) but I've also experienced subtle racism recently from a couple of white people. I'm multi-racial: Pacific Islander, Black Foot-Native American, and Caucasian but due to my appearance (dark eyes, dark hair and a wide bone structure... or a bone structure that doesn't look "Caucasian," most people ask if I'm "Hispanic." I know Hispanics are different races but when people assume that of me or ask that of me... it's (not) because I'm a 6'2 blonde haired and blue eyed... that's For Sure. My mother certainly has never been asked if she was "Hispanic" or "spoke Spanish" Unlike Moi because she looks completely Anglo-Saxon. Here's what I experneced recently at a local subway. After making my purchase, I'm about to exit the building when I see a senior caucasian looking woman about to open the door. I open it first and say in a "normal but loud enough" voice, "Here You Go!" and open it ALL the way to where you can't push the door further so it was VERY obvious I held the door for her. She says NOTHING. Does not aknowledge my kindness nor my existence. She puts her hand on the door as if (she) were the one keeping it open even though I still was holding it. A young white male is about to walk out of the door I was holding, and the old lady said to him, "Come on out now." He says "Well, thank you" (he obviously did not know her. Then they both STARED at me and STILL didn't aknowledge that I held the door for this woman. They said NOTHING and just STARED at me. So I'm like "O-kay" in my head and then I just walk away. What the hell is wrong with people?? The ironic thing is... most of my background is white but my APPEARANCE does not look that way (I have strong Pacific Islander genes I suppose : o)

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