Survival Guide for Women of Color

How to protect your bright mind from the drain of everyday racism you may encounter in academic life.

“This week, I was awarded tenure at my university. Brown. Muslim. Woman. Tenured. As I enter this new stage of my career, I can think only of you: the BIPOC woman starting her journey in higher education. The next generation. There are many things I wish I had known when I was new to academic life. I wish to disclose these secrets to you, to help protect your gifted mind from the injuries and injustices that keep Black, Indigenous, and other women of color out of academe. I am here as a sister — perhaps now as an auntie — so that you know you are not alone. I will share a few granules of wisdom about racism in higher education. May they help you survive and thrive in a system that is structurally designed to cast a shadow on your bright and luminous mind. So let us tackle a few obvious demons that stand in your way. The Great Gaslighting. Let’s begin with the effects of institutionalized racism on your wellness and success. One of the great absurdities is that colleges admit that systemic racism is real and wrong, yet also fail to acknowledge it in any specific case. You will hear many denouncements of racism as an abstraction, a great mythical beast. A diversity statement will be posted on the campus website. But those award nominations that somehow overlooked the most outstanding Black scholars in the field? The hiring committee that once again failed to shortlist any BIPOC candidates? That lab that has never recruited or promoted any women of color? In practice, colleges and universities are cesspools of denial. Racism exists — but not here, not us, not me. You already know this. What you may not yet realize: Prolonged, daily exposure to that kind of environment can disturb your beautiful mind and, thus, affect your marvelous theorems and discoveries. In essence, this racist denial is a form of relentless, institutionalized gaslighting.” Read the full article here.

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