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We Wear the Mask, COVID Reprise

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Like Claude McKay said, we have always worn the mask. That part of our lives is not new. Only now, it seems that all of humanity wears an external, tangible mask-not just an eerily symbolic one. It’s true that the whole world is donning a mask right now. But your masks still ain’t like ours. We are not the same. When you take off your masks you can breathe deeply again. Fill your lungs with oxygen, expand your chests and breathe life unencumbered by suffering. While all the while . . .

We literally and figuratively: Can. Not. Breathe. We wear the mask 24-7. We wear the mask eternally. We wear the mask and yet, still – We are dying. We are not allowed to mourn or to bury our dead. We attend drive through, virtual or nonexistent funerals for the countless Black lives that have been lost to the pandemics of racism and Coronavirus and we suffer silently. We mourn inwardly, cause we have to work and don’t have the time or capacity to heal. We mourn inwardly because y’all can’t stand to see our pain. We cry intermittently and out of necessity we work, serve, teach, pray, move, sing, dance, pretend, play and all the while . . . we are grasping at breath and dying slow, miserable deaths in alarmingly disproportionate rates to everyone else. We. Wear. The. Mask.

Why should the world be over-wise,

in counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

To suddenly see people everywhere wearing a mask should be startling, an anomaly to our very spirits and souls. But somehow it makes sense that the truth of the guile of humanity should be partially hidden in plain sight. As for me… I don’t want to see your smiling faces when your wretched souls harbor such hatred for Black lives. To see Black people wearing masks so faithfully, while others fight to go without and declare their rebellious right, indignation to live freely without them; should be evidence that we are simply not the same. What means life or death to us, is truly a nuisance to others. Your privilege absolves you from the losses of life, agency and joy that this global health crisis has uniquely inflicted on our lives. You seem to only know the inconvenience of Black people and other people of color from faithfully and willingly serving you. While we know all too well the very real toll the violence of dual pandemics of racism and its sister global killer, COVID can and will continue to wreak on Black lives.

Empty streets. Economy at a standstill, sane school systems engaged in online instruction. And yet, the vast disconnect between those who want a swift return to business as usual and those who want a reimagined future (without your oppressive foot on our necks), is only widening. Assault-rifle armed Klansmen, women and children protest at state capitols to demand a return to business as usual. Their efforts encouraged by the demented, unfit madman at the helm of the country who increasingly ridicules, berates, poisons and kills at will in the name of a vast, white supremacist version of America’s greatness as their driving force. And sure enough, slowly but surely, states buckle under the pressure to begin to open (but slowly, in stages), so that they can once again be “served” as Black lives and those of others low on the priority rung, re-assume their essential (read expendable), lives and duties continue to engage in the performative preservation of the status quo.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!”

Meanwhile as cities burn and mass protests ensue the pandemic lingers on to encompass a new normal and way of life. One in which there are no more illusions of power, democracy or social justice and order. The masks on our faces only reveal the long term stratifications and intersectionality of identities, layered beneath the surface. Teachers, nurses, doctors, certified nurses assistants, orderlies, maintenance staff, service employees and restaurant staff have now become the essential fabric and components to a society that cannot function without us. America seemingly can’t abide the round the clock, 24-7 realities of life with their own children and families in their own sprawling homes, communities and living freely on their own expansive plots of land. Indeed, from tortured souls arise the cries of a crumbling economy and the disintegration of an age-old facade of a global superpower, now uncovered to be the sordid, broken infrastructure of a vile, racist and rotten to the core cultural framework.

How ironic that as America hastens to its inevitable demise and irreconcilable doom . . . You too, wear the mask.

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I Am Woman . . . Fearlessly

How ironic and yet on brand for America, that we are approaching the momentous occasion of celebrating Mother’s Day, while simultaneously teetering at the precipice of the dissolution of half a decade of women’s rights.

I’m absolutely outraged by the timing of the extremely public attack on women’s freedom seeking to criminalize our own decisions about our reproductive rights by the highest court in the land. And though the Supreme Court as poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is nearly incomprehensible in 2022, it certainly speaks volumes about injustice being normalized and frames the work that educators engage in every day, as that much more invaluable and cherished. And I Am Woman . . . Fearlessly.

As many of us are aware, teachers are overwhelming women/mothers. So, even as we close out this past week, ceremonially regarded as Teachers Appreciation Week, the reality is that it’s precisely because most teachers are women that teachers have historically been so grossly underpaid and universally disrespected. In many ways teaching has always been viewed as less than significant, women’s work. And though so many of us adorn the title and occupy this profession, with pride, it still hurts to be undervalued in the eyes of the general public. And you wouldn’t even need a symbolic week to appreciate and honor our profession, if you would only do what’s right and pay all educators a living wage. Still, I Am Woman . . . Fearlessly.

When Sojourner Truth unashamedly bore her breasts and so eloquently, and might I add extemporaneously, declared “Ain’t I a woman?” She spoke truth to power on behalf of the scores of Black women, in particular. As we were held to the very same inhumane and unjust productivity standards as did our men during the period of enslavement. Yet, our lot in life and inescapable burden was that we also bore the children, did all the cooking, kept the house running like a well oiled machine and bore the lash of brutal whippings, for falling short of the mark of perfection on any of the aforementioned accounts. So yes, I Am a Woman . . . Fearlessly, and this means that I will not shrink quietly into the background as divine femininity, womanhood, personal decisions made in the best interests of our own health or our professional expertise and universal respect is simultaneously undermined.

As I write this, I fearlessly embrace the unknown in multiple personal and professional areas of my life. Navigating uncharted waters as a middle-aged educator and self-avowed lifelong learning has admittedly been an humbling process. In terms of major financial and life decision making, I’ve had to humble myself in acknowledgement of just how much I don’t know and pay handsomely for this crash course in life as a result. More to come on this front, as it still remains to be seen whether I will emerge victorious or reap the sorrowful spoils of my own ignorance in a particular area in which others are much more knowledgeable. In my personal life, I have had to protect my peace and right to be joyful, optimistic and overly expressive about life as others have sought to silence my voice or ask me to shrink to make themselves more comfortable. But ultimately, I am hopeful and resolute in being a messy work in progress who still has miles to go, before I sleep.

But most importantly, I follow the exemplar modeled by countless, warrior, Black women elders, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters who appropriately elicited the catchphrase “Reclaiming my time” as she was rudely interrupted by cis white male colleague(s), asserting both their unearned privilege and voices as weapons against her own. And even with the many messages that my voice is neither warranted nor welcome, I snatch back the microphone and spend this weekend in celebration of my hard-working sister-in-love, who works full-time AND went back to school (after having had 5 children), to earn a degree in medicine and graduates this weekend. I pay homage to my own Queen Mother, who has labored for decades on behalf of our people, in her dual capacity as a consummate mother/grandmother to our family and as a senior pastor, public servant and grassroots activist to our local Detroit community. And I head out the door with my own young adult daughter, to run Saturday errands and prepare for both church service and Mother’s Day tomorrow.

Indeed, I Am Woman Fearlessly and I thank God for bathing me and all women, in our divine light and purpose! Asé ❤️✨

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America’s Historic Building Block of Justice

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as Justice to U.S. Supreme Court, marking historic milestone for USA

The April 7, 2022 vote of the U. S. Senate to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black Woman Justice to the U. S. Supreme Court was historic, and monumental for this nation.

157 years ago, on April 11, 1865, two days after Confederate General, Robert E. Lee had surrendered, ending the Civil War; President Abraham Lincoln delivered an address from a window in the White House overlooking the North Lawn. President Lincoln verbally described the next steps for the Federal Government to implement the Emancipation Proclamation which he had signed into law on January 1st, 1865.

During this speech, President Lincoln delivered a number of complex strategies to be employed by the Federal Government during an era termed Reconstruction; and-for the first time-President Lincoln stated that he would use the power of his office to insure that Blacks would become citizens with the right to vote. Upon hearing that Blacks would have the right to vote, a member of the audience, John Wilkes Booth, declared that “this is the last speech he will ever give” and assassinated President Lincoln three days later, at the Ford Theater on April 14th.

It should not be lost to students of history, that President Abraham Lincoln’s first public statement supporting Black Suffrage was April 11th, only two days after the Confederate surrender signaling the end of the Civil War. The April 7th, 2022 vote of the U. S. Senate to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as a Justice on the United States Supreme Court is built on the heroic advocacy and the legacy of untold numbers who have fought for freedom, justice, dignity and freedom and for all who dare to believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the solemn, sacred promise enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution “We the People…”The 15th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution was ratified in February, 1870, codifying the right of Blacks to vote; but challenges persisted for Black voters until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965–a landmark law that has been decimated in recent years, by virulent right-wing proponents- and the Voting Rights Act remains under attack in 2022. Eternal advocacy and vigilance is key!

It is important that April be viewed as an historic benchmark for Black voting rights dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s public endorsement of Black Suffrage on April 11, 1865. Another “Justice Building Block” was erected when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated the legendary Thurgood Marshall, as the first Black man on the U. S. Supreme Court . Marshall had founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and was the lead attorney in the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education. He was confirmed by the Senate in 1967.

Also, a key cornerstone among the building blocks of Justice was the appointment of the brilliant Judge Constance Baker Motley to the Federal Bench-the first Black woman to serve in this role. Judge Constance Baker Motley was eminently qualified to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court! She had won 9 of 10 cases argued before the Supreme Court, she was one of the attorneys who successfully argued Brown v Board of Education, she represented Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King; and was regarded by legal analysts as one of the most exceptional jurists in the USA.

Standing on the shoulders of Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley; Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman confirmed by the Senate on April 7, 2022, to become a Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated by President Joe Biden; and this latest Justice Building Block will be long viewed as a major milestone among America’s building blocks of Justice.

Reprinted by the permission of the author, Rev. Dr. JoAnn N. Watson

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Mis-education and the Pandemic of Racism

a boy sitting at the table

Mis-education thrives endlessly in the absence of a relevant, grassroots experience base and an authentic connection to the Black experience. Full stop.

The increasing disconnect between U.S. Education Secretary Cardona’s agenda and that of countless superintendent’s and school districts fighting to remain open and to conduct ‘business as usual’ in the midst of our tumultuous pandemic climate; is exacerbated by the disconnect from the clear and present dangers of our current reality. And when I say ‘our’, please allow me to transparently name that Black people and our unique life experiences, are always and forever centered and at the forefront of my thought, educational scholarship and daily work. So, I/we are in the best position to state the claim that during these times in education, it is authentic Blackness, vast educational experience and/or your proximity to the same, which qualifies one to make sound decisions keenly attuned to the best interests, needs and sustaining of this country’s overwhelming ranks of Black and Latinx students in our education system.

There is little doubt that teachers, students and Black and Brown families are in the very best authoritative position to determine their needs regarding schools being physically open, at this pivotal time in history. It is us who are of African descent and/or who identify as people of color who are literally and figuratively on the front lines of the sacrificial lambs losing our lives in this horrid endemic. Literally every overcrowded ICU ward is filled with people of color (whether vaccinated or not), so the priority of ensuring our survival rate is directly proportionate to what is happening in schools. And so, it is us who comprises the distinct groups who are all too often very much in sync with what needs to happen to ensure our collective safety who must make the decisions to remain open or to meet virtually. It is us who are empowered to determine when to proverbially “hold or to fold” the hands which we’ve been unfairly dealt. And yet, it is us who happen to be consistently and wholly ignored.

Institutionalized racism sees only the need to value and center the needs of capitalism, white supremacist ideals and business as usual. This breeds mis-education and utter contempt for teachers, students and families (of all cultures) and it is this unsustainable, current climate of our educational system, which is contributing to the irreversible demise of Black lives. Whenever students, teachers, families IE: the true decision makers in educational policy are disregarded and ignored, then mis-education proliferates in unchecked forms. Further, to the extent that today’s school district leaders are responsive to external pressures to acquiesce to traditional schooling face-to-face norms – as opposed to being in tune and responsive to the masses of their largely Black and Brown, Title I demographic whose opinions and wishes matters most (especially considering that it is our lives at risk) – there is greater frustration, mis-education and death which results. The costs are too high and the damage has long lasting, generational implications. Of course, there’s no need to continue to police the teaching of history, and to disallow the refrain that Black Lives Matter, when the driving force and impact of your tone deaf decision making, continues to exist as proof positive that they do not.

The decision of whether or not to keep schools open or closed is an issue of racial justice. This is especially so to those of us who effortlessly emanate from and relate to or unapologetically reflect the norms of the Black cultural experience. As long as life-altering, government approved edicts as to whether schools remain open or closed and/or which dictate whether standardized testing and learning loss reigns supreme on the educational agenda (rather than the mental health, wellness and yes, even the authentic academic achievement and needs of our students are met against all odds), then the disconnect widens. Meaningless pandemic era policies, particularly as handed down by President Biden, education sec’y Cardona and others amounts to nothing but useless exercises in futility. The truth of the future of education and the final decisions will continue to be made by default (since you’re not listening to us anyway) by we, the people. Our beloved students speak (loudly and proudly I might add), as they continue to engage in rightful social justice activism and launch non-violent walkouts all across the country and in every major city. They will continue to vote with their actions and their feet. This is a sound prediction based upon having a pulse on their outspoken wishes and not at all a baseless opinion or a threat.

Teachers, paras, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and administrative/support staff have proven themselves to be convincing as they paid (and continue to pay) the ultimate sacrifice of losing their very lives and at the least their livelihood’s, as they leave the profession in droves via pine boxes or by mass resignations. Parents and families have spoken by homeschooling, tutoring, and essentially empowering their children to remain safely at home, even as they are forced to work. Because to send them to school despite their increasing protests that their teachers and beloved friends are dying (heavy sigh), is akin to sending them unarmed into a vicious battle, where the only outcome is to perish en masse. Clearly, it is only the scourge of capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist racism which persists in ignoring those who matter most and insists on keeping schools operating in person, despite the massive hemorrhaging and loss of lives. The only thing left to do is for government officials and school leaders to attempt levels of empathy, connection to those who exist outside of the safe umbrella of white privilege, by listening to us and acting accordingly. There’s no better time than now . . . our very lives depend upon it.

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bell hooks’ liberation legacy

What a purposeful life, well lived.

A self-named bell with armed with mighty hooks and a penchant for powerful words. They will speak of you as a feminist author and scholar. But I, we, us will forever salute you for being so much more . . .

I, we, us will honor you for your unapologetic Black, woman, freedom loving, frontline warrior unafraid to address race, class, history, gender, and to so beautifully frame education as the practice of freedom and the classroom (particularly the pre-integration learning space), as a sacred place within which to radicalize our righteous revolutionary cause – against the boredom , lowered expectations and miseducation of the post-integration immersion into a seemingly inescapable system of white supremacy.

She, you who gave us the language which reminds us of the interlocking systems of domination which are always functioning, simultaneously, to maintain our oppression. Not racism said bell hooks, but white supremacy, and acknowledging that there’s power in calling a thing what it is. Because racism is insufficient to allow for a discourse of colonization , decolonization and the vestiges of internalized oppression which wield an indelible impact upon us today.

You, she who reminded us that we should place the ownership at the feet of the racial apartheid and color caste system of white supremacy and insisted that we remove whiteness and white people from the center of our discussions.

Because of you and your selfless knowledge sharing, we/us have inherited a more powerful language with which to embrace love, reject white supremacist imperialism and acknowledge that we could, should and must dismantle the institutional constructs of white supremacist oppression.

From you we learned, not conformity to and/or through the white gaze. Not classroom rules, silence and obedience to authority. Not a starkly traumatic and oppressive, white space which exists as an extension of white supremacy. But an antiracist, revolutionary dialogue between students and teachers. Yes, a wholly transgressive approach which rejects the boundaries and brainwashing inherent in this foul system.

You, she bell hooks, propelled our activism for freedom and justice beyond the narrow constructs of this country to a global stage.

Asé honored ancestor, thank you for your revolutionary service on our collective behalf. We are eternally grateful for your liberation legacy.

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Academia So White

All my life I have been blessed to occupy Black spaces. To start off, I am from Blackity Black Detroit “What up doe?” And so, my entire universe has been punctuated by intentional, profound Blackness for so long that I am still genuinely appalled at the ugliness and depravity of the myth of white supremacy, every time I encounter it. Detroit is so Black and proud, that while I would love to devote an entirely different and refreshingly lighter blog post as an ode to my beloved Detroit, until then – I wholly endorse and invite you to drink in the powerful words, imagery and palpable beauty that is Blackness, as depicted in this recent VH1 episode of #GrowingUpBlack and as experienced through the eyes of fellow, imminently talented Detroiters. And in case your’e also wondering just how my Detroit Black experience ties to the subject of academia so white, be assured that a lifetime of immersion in a sea of Black excellence makes one even more appalled and unwilling to acquiesce to the inane demands of whiteness. So, I might as well just go ahead and preface at the outset that I was recently disgusted enough to with my position in academia that I embraced an abrupt hiatus for the sake of both my sanity and well being. But since I’m clear that my own experience is not unlike those of my peers who have exhaustively documented their woes at the interwoven fabric of racism and academia using the hashtag and pertinent Black scholar coined reference, #BlackInTheIvory I hasten to pen this blog post as an ode to those of us who have duly earned our accomplishment of a personal, academic best in publishing dissertation research so close to our hearts and respective fields of study only to now be relegated to the mediocrity of academia so white. For me, even before taking this unscheduled leave from academia I can attest to being wholly disgusted and even reduced to tears while on vacation no less, because of the inescapable horrors of academia so white.

Before the semester had even begun in this most recent graduate education course I taught from August to October, one student had incredulously documented that as he previewed the course syllabus and rubric governing several modules within the course, he knew in advance that he would require personalized modifications and exceptions in order to ‘excel in the course’. Oh really? Truly there were no surprises here because this presumptuous request for favor had been levied in multiple different forms by no fewer than 3 dozen of my educator/students, per year in my respective graduate courses at a small predominantly white institution (PWI). For the record, the characteristics in common befitting the profile of all those making such formal requests is that the students were exclusively white, arrogantly privileged and every one more demanding than the former, in endeavoring similar modifications to course requirements due to their unique and wildly varying needs. Sigh. It is probably helpful to name that this is a novel occurrence for me as a veteran, K12 educator who has by choice and nearly 30 years of experience, worked exclusively in the Black and Brown Detroit and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn communities in which I have lived. Please believe despite their current iteration as gentrification central, both of these areas boast of brilliant talent which is reflected the countless Black and Brown scholars whom I had long prepared for college, without even the slightest hint of unearned privilege and/or lowered expectations in my skill set. Sadly, I know now that the Black excellence to which I was afforded as both a student and a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools is somewhat of an anomaly. Because just a few years of being a professor in white spaces has unwittingly taught me that the preservation of white supremacy is the only, inescapable goal of the #AcademiaSoWhite environment. In this student’s case, he sought to circumvent the universal expectation that students culminate the course by crafting a rigorous curricular unit which leverages the gist of unwrapped Common Core Standards and ensures the seamless alignment between rigorous curriculum, formative assessments, while still ensuring evidence of widespread student learning. Alas, this student preferred albeit demanded instead to use a less rigorous set of standards, as his subject/district neither required nor mandated cross curricular fluency and/or apparently high expectations. So rather than to rise to the lofty expectations inherent in the course as outlined, this student opted to rather aggressively assume the role of the squeaky wheel in ensuring that this graduate course be relevant and to paraphrase his words, ‘useful to his needs’ as a non-core subject teacher in pursuit of a graduate degree. According to him in clear, documented form he neither planned nor expected to be held accountable for the incorporation of rigorous, core subject standards as it was reportedly outside of his ‘comfort zone’ and other professors had willingly retrofit their course requirements to duly meet his needs in the past. Okay, so now having laid out the key features of merely one case study of the gross perpetuation of whiteness in academic spaces, some of you might still be wondering why this request would be so emotionally triggering and what does it all mean from an institutional and systemic perspective of academia so white?

Essentially, an attempt to leverage privilege in an academic context has little difference from the power imbalance of a racist commander in chief insisting that he has been re-elected when the numbers clearly fail to support this illusion. And it is akin to the now commonplace scenario of a racist demanding that a person of color speak English in their presence or identify themselves and their address/license/purpose on demand, or risk becoming subject to the same institution of police violence and oppression that criminalizes Blackness for simply being. This student’s request was not an anomaly and has come in countless forms, at the behest of any number of students over my time serving as an adjunct in this particular institution. The audacity of the request meant that I would once again be called upon to reinforce whiteness willingly or suffer the consequences of their bad behavior throughout the course, including but certainly not limited to: challenging me on every assignment for which said student was not granted a perfect score; publicly interrogating my professionalism, experience and/or credentials (especially in the presence of their peers), as a means to incite a cadre of likeminded hatred and discrimination fueled queries by others accustomed to weaponizing whiteness. Also, this behavior is typically accompanied by an unending barrage of persistent email requests demanding that assignments be graded and thoroughly evaluated in advance of due dates, so as to require the level of on demand qualitative feedback to otherwise absolve themselves from the obligation of fulfilling the required course readings. Trust me, it’s an exhausting, unending and vicious cycle of truly unadulterated white privilege. Add to this frequent occurrence, the typical rules that apply, which are to provide scholarly advisement and demonstrate evidence of a speedy 48-hour or less response to any/all student requests. Sheesh! This pattern undoubtedly normalizes a systemic perpetuation and inappropriate catering to whiteness and choosing violence of sorts. Because ultimately and no doubt adding insult to injury and harm, these students are wholly prepared to go on record as weaponizing their whiteness by penning scathing and woefully unsatisfactory teacher evaluations (without merit), to punish those like me, who dare resist giving in to them and their illusion of authority. In many ways, this ensures that the ranks of those tenured and highly affirmed at the top rung of academic ranks look like, act like and blindly reinforce the unwritten rules of engagement within an academia so white norm. Somehow, all of us who operate in the unsavory confines of this reality quickly recognize that the goal is to make it easy for whiteness (read: abject mediocrity), to thrive. Of course, this does not apply to all students and all settings and there are thankfully students of every background, persuasion and iteration, who make the latter more tolerable because they openly expect and even welcome and appreciate academic rigor and the true acquisition of knowledge. However, for me the students who admittedly thrive in the face of high expectations, not unearned privilege, being the norm happen to have exclusively been the Black students whom I have had the honor to teach. I have come to know for sure that these are the only students for whom I am prepared to labor for in future academic contexts.

And in terms of context given my own unwelcome immersion in academia so white, perhaps complicating my visceral reaction to the otherwise customary email sent in mid August when I had deigned to take not even a full week, but merely 2-3 days hiatus from my persistently busy and admittedly stressful work demands; it was my intention to enjoy a family vacation by safely traveling by car to another part of the state and briefly engage in some pandemic imposed relief (and long neglected self-care), prior to the start of another academic year. The thought of true vacation was fleeting as I was still bound to checking my university email and expected to adhere to strict response timelines so as to ensure being present and attentive to students needs. And as you know by now, I did not fall in line to the exhausting, inhumane demands of whiteness, but rather fought valiantly against the system. But before doing so, I cried. I cried because I was simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. I cried because this email was not new, but merely a nightmare of a recurring theme and seemingly a permanent fixture of my graduate professor portfolio at an institution so white that I would often still be the “only one” in professional learning and faculty peer spaces. I cried because there was no scenario in which my capitulation to or abject refusal to uphold and reward whiteness resulted in my favor. Ultimately, my lengthy response to this young man was not unlike my patient explanation to others before him: Yes, you must adhere to course requirements and sure, although there might be infrequent exceptions made to fashion course content to the practical application of your physical education, or preschool or non traditional education course, it was still wholly expected that one would learn to leverage CC curriculum standards alignment as this was indeed an objective of the course. The course was designed to challenge him and all others to learn best, research and evidenced based practice and not meant to cater to his prior level of comfort and experience. His later documented attempts to challenge countless assignment grades and to appeal to the college for a grade change from a B to an A-? Well, this was just par for the course and to be predicted because effort, hard work, and scholarship is merely an unacceptable pill for whiteness to swallow. Truly in their myopic vision, resistance to their feigned delusion of white supremacy is futile and will therefore always be subject to them being a Karen and calling the police, or being a Derek Chauvin and actually being the police armed and ready to weaponize their whiteness. For I have learned the hard way that those with unearned privilege and fragility will always choose violence in defense of whiteness, academic spaces are not a panacea. In retrospect and clearly – I had endured enough and wouldn’t be long for the oppressive demands of this world a few 8-10 short weeks later. Although I did not know it at the time, I had mentally decided I could no longer endure the degree to which countless students’ documented microaggressions prevailed, particularly as it manifested in the form of their relentless demands for unearned favor especially whilst safely ensconced in a system in which their privilege dictated that everyone fall in line to inequitable, lifelong expectations of entitlement. Academia is so white, so mythical and ultimately so dangerous a microcosm of society, that in this space we allow whiteness to prevail in magnified, unchecked, and blatant forms through our own efforts to just go along and get along within the muck and mire of it all. Universal acknowledgement of the ‘academia so white’ truth, is important to establish at the outset of one’s academic career, because to believe that mis-education is uniquely relegated to K12 spaces without permeating a much larger, vicious cycle of dysfunction is as misguided as believing that a kitten can grow up to be anything other than a cat.

Higher education like white supremacy, summons its unearned power and distinction from the intentional, exclusionary nature of its boundaries. Because elitism and so-called specialness is baked into the very foundation of being afforded access in this white supremacist social construct, what institutions of higher learning and whiteness have in common is that they thrive on reinforcing the race, class and power stratifications upon which oppression thrives. What’s more is the academia so white state of the academy is functioning exactly as it was intended to. Despite visible hints of progression in other areas of societal evolution towards equity and inclusion, academia persists as a dated relic of systemic and institutionalized racism, showing little sign of longterm viability or hope. That academic spaces routinely foster anti-Blackness is widely researched and documented by countless numbers of my Black scholar colleagues. Kudos to each of my predecessors, peers and virtually all of us of good conscience, for not shrinking silently into the background but instead choosing retaliation against this violence. Shout out to those of us who amplify our voices, c/o public or private protests and those of us who opt to leave with our talents and Black labor, white wealth rather than opting to subject ourselves to suffer the inhumanity of whiteness in silence. In my own case, it has taken several weeks to process and to somewhat coherently respond to the violence inflicted in this only my second adjunct professor appointment in my brief academic career. This recent experience, spanning for only the past 3 years and 6 months, seems an interminable time to endure the precarious balance between my love of teaching and the invisible labor of being Black in such an unwieldy and inequitable white space.

But if nothing else, I am blessed to have gleaned so many insights from the favorable and especially the tough learning experiences inherent in this work. Ultimately, and this is an entirely personal decision for which I would never judge others for begrudgingly having to suffer; I determined that my proud Blackness, humanity, decency and morality would no longer allow me to uphold the illusion of white supremacy by doing the work of an educated and experienced professional, while being paid pennies on the dollar because of the inequitable adjunct title and full professor workload. Similarly, I say no mas to being the only one in a sea of whiteness. Because this graduate education work was performed at a PWI, with little to no diversity amongst either the students or faculty, I was routinely subjected to the abject racism and white privilege of a seemingly endless line of adult educators who sought exceptions, workarounds, demanded immediacy in the face of their often incredulous requests for deference and who essentially demanded (if not fully expected), to receive A’s for nary the slightest bit of effort nor scholarship. I kid you not, within my three and a half year tenure and much to my chagrin, I encountered graduate students who refused to refer to me as Dr. Nkenge or even professor, but who persisted in referring to me by my first name only – as an expression of their feigned supremacy and refusal to submit to any level of decency, authority or common respect. So this final incident as outlined herein, was merely a nail in the coffin for the increasingly frequent ways that my students (and sadly some of my faculty colleagues), demonstrated their disdain of being subjected to learn or teach graduate course content alongside my Black excellence. It bears mentioning, that in addition to the apparent universal expectation for deference and nothing less than perfect scores, despite less than exemplary performance, the final straw for me came when the college administration and my clueless, white male supervisor openly reinforced and I daresay, rewarded this behavior by affirming that once a student duly interrogates an assignment’s grade (even after the final grade in the course had been posted – that I would in turn, be expected to justify my rationale and/or alter a grade for affording them less than perfection in the face of their piss poor, elementary-level mediocrity.

So yeah, kudos to any/all who urgently sound the alarm as colleges and university’s nationwide get embarrassingly called on the carpet for such unforgivable gaffe’s as: mistaking prominent Black faculty as the help; hesitating to grant tenure to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists like Nikole Hannah-Jones, and for otherwise taking an ‘L’ every single time they protect, reinforce and perpetuate systemic whiteness despite the deleterious harm it does in contributing to the oppressive norms of the scourge of white supremacy on the global stage. However, because countless academic spaces exist as a mere microcosm of society, and people like me have the privilege of ensuring that more, not fewer of the Black scholars of tomorrow look like the Black faces of so many of our noteworthy heroes and predecessors who intentionally cultivated Black genius, we must be as fiercely outspoken and proactive in rejecting the harm of whiteness as people of good conscience are called to do in every other space where justice and equity are still elusive. All too often, we forget to include the illusory precursor of the prevalent myth when we refer to whiteness and in doing so we in turn, empower the perpetuation of the sick institution by choosing to silently become complicit in the evils inherent within an oppressive system. In short, no amount of well-meaning platitudes about equity and/or attempts to diversify faculty or student bodies (of course only at the lower rung, because few if any changes are ever warranted at the top rung of tenured, world-renowned, respected scholars), will impact the current state of academia. It is up to those of us who didn’t earn our terminal degrees to perpetuate whiteness to courageously buck the system. We are the few who must continually reject occupying the lowly, status quo positions of being a scant number of gatekeepers. We are those who earned our doctorates in honor and respect to our ancestors who devoted sacrificial lifeblood and scholarship in deference to the pursuit of justice, equality and freedom from oppression. We must continue to testify as we are called upon to document the pervasive whiteness and mis-education inextricably entwined at the highest level of academics. It is up to the people revolutionary enough to usher in the significant changes needed in #AcademiaSoWhite spaces to increasingly render these so-called institutions of higher learning as less than relevant or worthy of our Black presence, research, scholarship, blood, sweat and yes, even our tears. It is especially incumbent upon those of us blessed to work in empowering Black spaces, to still vehemently resist mimicking the mediocrity of whiteness and the internalized self-loathing which accompanies it (akin to the scandal unfolding in our very own prestigious institutions of higher learning, like the proverbial Mecca of Howard University). How demeaning it would be if the larger HBCU exemplars opted to render themselves complicit to the horrors present in white spaces and otherwise obsolete, to the extent that they selectively choose to ignore the righteous and warranted demands of its too Black, too beautiful and justifiably revolutionary scholar ranks, like the students aligned with the #BlackburnTakeover collective. Certainly, a heartfelt salute and credit is due to both the students and the faculty who skillfully and of necessity, navigate these academic mine spaces and who unduly encounter inescapable levels of dysfunction and harm, as we are forced to grapple with the not so hallowed halls of academia. Academia so white is pervasive and must be dismantled in all of its insidious forms. It is up to each of us to do our level best to make it so.