"We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as fully human, levelly human, is enough" -Combahee River Collective, Joan Morgan
BLACK WOMEN IN ACADEMIA, 2014
I had the great fortune of meeting and presenting Dr.Peggy Mcintosh, associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, at the 2012 Cross Cultural Conference on Counseling and Education. At this conference Dr. McIntosh referenced her seminal essay title “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Privilege” and highlighted that knowledge was White and male. She discussed in that while pursuing her various degrees, she was mostly taught by White males and was instructed to read the works of mostly White males. It caused her to question if there were, in fact, no Black or Black female thinkers, writers, or authors or if they were intentionally excluded from the curriculum.
As a Black woman interested in pursuing a career in academia, this bit of information troubled me. I began to evaluate my secondary schooling and could only recall one instance of reading a piece of literary work by a woman of color. Majority of my teachers were White women or White men, but few looked like me. It was not until I attended college, a small HBCU in Savannah, that I saw people with Doctoral degrees that looked like me. Were African American women simply not interested in scholarship and academia, was academia a present day “He Man Woman Haters” club, or were our stories not told? Learning is the acquisition of knowledge through teaching, experiences, or self study and it is a permanent process. Once one learns new information, it cannot be unlearned. This information festered in mind like a raisin in the sun. I concluded if knowledge was White and male then, logically, I was the antithesis to knowledge.
Black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks discuss the dual marginalization of Black Women; this is made evident in the exclusion of Black Women from the education process post antebellum and today in the intentional yet covert exclusion from the ivory tower of academia. Black scholars such as Anna Julia Cooper, Barbara Smith, Marion Thompson Wright, and Pauline Hopkins go unmentioned and untaught in both African American History classes as well as general history classes. What does this teach Black women about their intellect and academic efficacy? Who are the architects of this knowledge and following the analogy of architecture, what lies in the secrets corridors, basements, and attics concerning Black women in academia?
THE GRAND NARRATIVE
"It is my belief that there is a running discourse and rhetoric that has been played repeatedly, non-stop on the radio, in print and digital media, television, and through the exercise of tradition that espouses the beliefs and values White Christian Males since this great country’s inception. These beliefs have been force fed into the mouths of both majority and minority groups and manifested in generations of privileged people obese with entitlement, white guilt, racism, and discrimination and oppressed people satiated with apathy, internalized racism, sexism, and defeat."