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Chronicle of Higher Education | Vitae

How Race Studies Scholars Can Respond to Their Haters

June 27, 2014

For scholars in the fields of race and ethnic studies — including those who work outside the ivory tower — dealing with snide questions, nasty comments, and occasional name-calling is just part of the job description. Senior Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Stacey Patton interviewed a number of scholars in ethnic studies to see how they would advise graduate students and junior faculty in race and ethnic studies. Her respondents include Siobhan Brooks, assistant professor of African-American studies at Cal State Fullerton:

"When I came to Cal State Fullerton, I was amazed that in most of my African-American studies courses, there were few (if any) black students. The dynamic was radically different from my own experience 20 years ago as a student at San Francisco State University, which was one of the first campuses to have blacks studies. During that time, students of color— having come from public schools that taught us little about ourselves—wanted to know about our history. I couldn’t figure out what was going on not only at Fullerton, but at other urban campuses I’d taught at, where students of color resisted taking ethnic-studies courses."

"During my first semester at Cal State Fullerton, black faculty members held a panel in our African-American Cultural Center to introduce ourselves. One professor asked the students why they were not taking our classes. Silence filled the room; students appeared uncomfortable at the question. Finally, one student responded: “I’m a health-education major, and I didn’t major in ethnic studies because I didn’t know what career could come from it.” We listened, nodding our heads. This answer made sense. Most Cal State students are working-class; they need an end result from their college investment—something tangible, a job."

"First-time faculty teaching in ethnic-studies departments may come across students of color who don’t want to major in ethnic studies for this reason. My advice to new faculty addressing this issue is to provide clear examples to students of how ethnic studies can enhance their career options." Continue reading at the Chronicle of Higher Education | Vitae.

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