For those of you who don’t know, educational degrees usually work in this progression although there are slight variations: (1) high school diploma, (2) Associates degree which amounts to around 2 years of college work, (3) Bachelor’s degree which is 4 years of college, (4) Master’s Degree = 2 years after Bachelors, and (5) PhD = 3-7 years after Master’s.
If we’re going to operate on media stereotypes purely, one would assume that people pursuing higher education degrees must be geniuses, right? In fact, people in higher education get an automatic type of respect as soon as we say that we’re in our master’s or phd program; however, the privilege that comes along with being educated eclipses many of the real issues that occur in academic programs. Because academics receive automatic respect, they oftentimes forget to check themselves, or to look at how some of their actions and words may be offensive or even racist/sexist/ableist.
I just graduated with my master’s degree and I’ve been reflecting about my experiences, and I decided to make a list of *some* of the racist things I’ve heard over the past two years in graduate school to cope with a lot of the frustrations that I still feel.
Academia has transformed into a business where it’s all about profit, exploitation, and pumping out students with degrees who are intellectually and politically bankrupt.
Some of the worst offenses can occur in academic spaces because there’s a culture of arrogance where students assume that they’re so smart simply because they have publications and because they know an immense amount about one very narrow field. I was inspired to make this quick list after I read Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman’s post about horribly offensive things he heard in his program.
Academic programs and classrooms can often be spaces of violence for minorities whose experiences are largely ignored by professors and colleagues.
Minority students are often ignored within graduate school contexts where there’s a giant assumption that most of the stress comes from the school work, rather than the sexist, racist, ableist aggressions that we experience.
So, here are some of the many things I regularly heard from my student colleagues and even some professors:
(1) “I don’t know anything about Black people.” —white professor
(2) “Is it racist if i’m not attracted to black people?” —white Phd student
(3) “ I once dated a black man, and I’m never dating black people again.” – white masters student
(4) “why are black people offended by racism? I mean, you don’t see chimps having any problems.” —white PhD student
(5) “People have critiqued me for my scholarship being too white. Oh well.” — white professor
(6) Here’s a conversation I had with a white male master’s student who was complaining about a Phd student in the department who he thought was racist:
Man: “Yeah, so he made me really uncomfortable because he called Muslim people towel heads.”
Me: “Geez. So, what did you say?”
Man: “Nothing. I mean…it wasn’t my place. I felt uncomfortable, but next time I’ll probably say something.”
(7) Here’s a conversation between me and a white female PhD student:
Student: “The guy I was dating called a black cop a jungle monkey.”
Me: “Oh my gosh. What did you say in response?”
Student: “Nothing…but I regret it now.”
(8) A white PhD student started talking and said “So, the colored man-“ [professor stops her and says] “We don’t say colored anymore.”
(9) “Black men don’t seem to get jobs as easily as white men. I don’t know why though. They’re not as good at interviewing as white men I think.” —white PhD student.
(10) “I can’t talk about race because I’m not black.” white PhD student
(11) “I’m definitely ethnic because I have rhythm.” white PhD student
(12) On one of my blog posts online, someone from my department anonymously commented and called me a social failure who uses the race card all the time.
(13) “Do you think it was a problem that I scheduled all the articles by brown women on one class day?” —white professor
(14) After I was offended by a racist remark, a white master’s student told me, “You need to learn to separate your fun self from your academic self.”
(15) I had a picture of Angela Davis on my wall in my office. A white PhD student asks, “Is that you?”
(16) I was having a conversation with a white PhD student about where I lived.
Student: “that part of town is horrible.”
Me: “why? because there’s black people there?”
Student: “well, yeah.”
(17) One of my professors spent a whole segment in class teaching white scholars how to write about race and black people. I was the only black person in the room.
If you want to learn more about micro aggressions that minoritized graduate students experience, please check out my satirical show called, “Tales from the Kraka Tower.”