In a recent piece in the Atlantic, the Bates College professor Tyler Austin Harper records an exchange both ordinary and extraordinary, between himself and a white woman he met waiting to register at an academic conference:
At some point, we began talking about our jobs. She told me that—like so many academics—she was juggling a temporary teaching gig while also looking for a tenure-track position.
“It’s hard,” she said, “too many classes, too many students, too many papers to grade. No time for your own work. Barely any time to apply to real jobs.”
When I nodded sympathetically, she asked about my job and whether it was tenure-track. I admitted, a little sheepishly, that it was.
“I’d love to teach at a small college like that,” she said. “I feel like none of my students wants to learn. It’s exhausting.”
Then, out of nowhere, she said something that caught me completely off guard: “But I shouldn’t be complaining to you about this. I know how hard BIPOC faculty have it. You’re the last person I should be whining to.”
It is the idea expressed in the temporary academic’s latter remark that is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary in that the idea is quite frequently and commonly expressed in academic and other educated American circles. Extraordinary in that it is completely cuckoo bananas.Continue reading