Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I love the ways that our students have begun to use this phrase and other related ones: "Hateration," "Don't be hating on me." "You a hater." The concision of "don't hate" appeals to me. It's also very funny when used in most contexts. The phrase came to mind as an interpreter of some of my blog posts decided that I would either be perceived as "crazy" or a "hater" Both designations make me smile because I know and they know that nothing could be further from the truth. Though I understand why some "haters" would want to put me in those categories, nothing that I write is fueled by either mental illness (crazy) or hate. While much of it seems personal, particularly to those who see themselves in the blog, my observations are over a period of twenty years. I've seen what I see for twenty years; watched the same scenes unfold in the same ways at three different institutions and then some.

Rather than suggest some imbalance, why not engage me? Those "concerned" and "conscious" ones just need to "reach out." I'm more than happy to explain and engage. I hear comments via the grapevines, but no one ever wants to speak to me about my blogs. Well, at least not those who feel implicated. Just so you know: this blog ain't fueled by no hate. This blog is inspired by years of observation, exceptionality, tokenism, racism--personal and institutional, and great personal cost.

As a matter of fact, I owe you out there a debt of gratitude. You have precipitated my move toward freedom; you have encouraged me, in your own "innocent" ways to do what I should have done a long time ago. My heart is light; my burden is eased. I feel great joy and excitement about all the possibilities that are before me. And yes, I'm anxious and terrified. I've sold my home. We have no jobs. The economy is... well, you know. But this great mix of emotions is one huge promise of HOPE for a new life, a new beginning, a new job, new experiences. In other words, I am free. Who would "hate on" that? And this is my gift to myself as I look toward 61 next week. I give myself the right to take these risks in the quest for liberation. It's exhilarating.

Peace out, y'all. I'm going to Iowa City today to get me a JOB! "Don't hate."

Monday, September 13, 2010


I've many progressive, white, liberal friends, but they usually don't identify themselves as such. They just go about their business, living their lives, doing the things they do. And then there are the self-identified liberals--those who waste no opportunity to acquaint us with their latest and most pressing cause or issue and their jargon. These folks are always looking out for the underdog or less fortunate. They use terms like "disenfranchised," "essentialized," "underclass." I can always count on these liberals to have my best interest at heart, and I can also count on them to know, even more than I, what my best interest is. Either life experience or erudition gives them an incredible understanding, empathy, if you will, of all things pertaining to race and social justice. I owe these liberals so much. They helped me get to where I am today. They make promises they can't possibly keep. The "problem" of "diversity" is never solved because what, then, would they have to do? Whom, then, would they protect? Who would be their cause?

I've been criticized by the liberals for the relationships I have with conservatives: Republicans, members of the NRA, flagwavers, staunch and firm believers in a "conservative" interpretation of the Constitution and Christians, devout and otherwise. It should be no surprise that some "conservatives" are very dear to me. There is a deep and abiding bond between us that goes beyond political positions and persuasions. These are people who have loved and supported me. I can count on them, and they can count on me. We do not have to agree. To them, I am simply a person--not a representative, not diversity or even a minority. I'm me.

Self-proclaimed liberals often judge people by their politics rather than, as Shelby Steele would say, "the content of their character." This version of liberal can only hang out with like-minded folks who speak their language and support their causes. In my institution, one of the most effective "recruiters" of faculty of color is a "patriarchal, conservative, far-right, gun toting, hunting, Republican." In addition to effective recruiting, this "right wing nut" was the most effective "retainer" of faculty of color as well. Every, single person of color in the department is happy and content. There was no well-meaning, patronizing, rhetoric. No "lowering of standards" as a nod to "diversity." Just a good person whose genuine commitment is immediately transparent to a prospective colleague.

Liberals suffocate, patronize, affirmative actionize, determine, run, rule with the smug self-assurance that they are always absolutely right. They pity those of us who get in the way; they attempt to crush and denigrate those who get in their way. There is nothing worse to a self-proclaimed liberal than a "minority" who doesn't get with the program--a minority who opposes and exposes them--a minority who refuses to capitulate to their rigid requirements for membership in the club. They will find one who will. These liberals have no credibility if they have no "minority" among them.

I seen you before, Ms. Liberal, and like the emperor, you ain't got no clothes. Peace out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Last night, a colleague and sometime friend looked directly into my eyes and said: "Yeah, I heard it. I don't believe it. Nobody does." The topic was the likelihood of my departure from SLU and the north country. It was an incredibly revealing moment. Although I've wanted to leave for at least 5 years, I don't think I've ever threatened to do so (or "cried wolf" as some would say). I read job ads and imagined myself doing all kinds of things, but I've never said: "This will be my last year at SLU." Now, I don't write because I expect anything from anyone, but the assumption that I couldn't possibly be telling the truth is a curious one. Why couldn't I be? Is it because the job and tenure are simply too good to "give up"? Is it because some overestimate the my feelings about the place? What would I possibly have to gain by fueling such a rumor? Negotiations? More money? Some attractive deal?

I'm amazed by my own conviction and commitment in this matter. I've had no misgivings or second thoughts. Nothing has given me pause--not the almost certain and significant decrease in salary or the probability of beginning a position about which I know nothing; not even leaving friends and "family" here whom I dearly love. Not one, single thing has caused a flicker of reconsideration.

The decision, or more likely the responses to it (even no response is a response) has taught me so much about my relationships here. My best friends aren't; one casual friend has emerged as a longstanding best friend whom I've unconsciously overlooked. The silences from friends are varied and various. There are pained silences (but not many), angry silences, "how could you" silences, "how dare you" silences, and "I don't give a damn" silences. I learn something from them all.

A student asked me last night if I would miss academe. He's a kid who thinks he wants to be an academic. I uttered an emphatic "no." He looked sad, and said "what about us?" Rather than feel the tremendous sense of obligation that I've felt for all these years, I simply and gently told him that no one is indispensable. There will be another; there are others who will do what I've done and more. Then, I reminded him that students, in my opinion, are not academe. I love all of my life as teacher, even to this very day. I love the ways students have touched my life--have given me life and such delight and joy. I love my students enough to leave them when I know that my passion and enthusiasm wane. Would I feel this way if my life in the profession had been less tumultuous? Perhaps not. But it has, and I do.

My computer documents are gone--the syllabi and course descriptions, the tenure file. I've given away 500 books, and the book shelves in my office are clear. I'm tossing mementos of years past that I've hauled from place to place. My file cabinet is clear save my teaching evaluations. They're the one "safety" feature that I hold onto "just in case." When I sign a contract, the evals, too, will go. I will leave the profession with my memories alone. They will sustain me.

The time has come, believe it or not, the time has come.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


So, I have finally been demoted. I've lost the title of HNIC. Lest you think I'm lamenting that fact, let me assure you that the demotion is welcome and entirely predictable. So why do I write? It's to further point out the ways in which racism works--the "innocent" and "unconscious" ways for which all involved would likely posit "good and noble" reasons. So here we are: a star emerges from the bowels of academe--one previously anxious, overburdened and mostly unto itself has taken center stage. The HNIC is everywhere--places its never been before--front and center, vocal, smiling and happy, loving life and living large. Not one bit of shame or self-consciousness. Previous enemies are now dearest friends. Oh joy! The social life of the HNIC soars. There are dinners and dates and gatherings of every sort. Ain't life grand? How do we explain the emergence of this up and coming figure? Where has it been? So here's the thing: The new HNIC is good. The new HNIC became an HNIC through the good graces of white folks--by popular demand. They helped, wrote, cajoled, guided, advised, and now, finally, they love, enjoy, fete and honor. They pat themselves on the back for a job well done. This HNIC, the chosen one, has all of the appropriate qualities: relatively quiet, makes no waves, no strong challenges to the system (except in its own particular interest), and more than anything else, it is grateful. The best possible Negro is a grateful Negro. The best possible HNIC is one that doesn't remind the good folks that racism is alive and well and working in its not so mysterious ways. In addition to gratitude, the new HNIC is "highly intelligent." It reads books. It is, or so I hear, very much like the learned white folks in both intellect and demeanor. Now I know some of y'all are gonna criticize me for being bitter and resentful; others are going to suggest that I read too much into "innocent" coincidences. Believe me when I tell you that I could have written the complete story before it began to unfold. Why? Cause while other folks were being learned, I was a Negro who studied white folks in the academy--white institutions, and the strange workings of "diversity." I've studied race in this country in theory and practice, and I been a keen observer for all these 20 years. I know there can only be one. The others will never matter in the way the HNIC matters. We just need one--just one. It gives me great joy and great pleasure to see the first act of this performance before I leave, and if you'd like to know how this show will end, I can tell you that too. For me, the title, HNIC, has offered years of pain and heartache and tokenism at its worst. You see, I was never chosen. My title was inevitable given my solitary position and tenure. It was a job I never wanted. Perhaps the reign of the next will be a more positive one. I hope so. I hope so.