When will the University be ready to reckon with the racism, neoliberalism, and eurocentrism that reproduces the society that we all are experiencing?
The University, as an institution, is at the forefront of reproducing the societal structures, political, social, cultural, and economic, to name the obvious, and embedded in all are the racial markers and signifiers that make racism so difficult to undo and challenge. Examine what is taught as the Canon, and you will find missing or totally erased the history and contributions of Blacks, both in the “New World” but more critically pre-enslavement in Africa. You can actually finish a BA, MA, and Ph.D. and not get exposed to any aspect of global south Black history or thinkers or Blacks in the Global North. At the same time, you still call yourself educated and part of a sophisticated company. You would not even know what happened down the street from your home where Black and Brown people lived, but you would be introduced to every ice cream parlor that was struck with Whiteness and is part of the local historical society records. Tulsa Oklahoma did not happen, if it is not in the curriculum and not taught except in a Black Studies course! The same applies to the erasure of Asians, Arabs, Latin Americans, and Muslims in the curriculum. It only appears when they are a problem that disrupts the “peaceful and normal” in everyday life at the Eurocentric University.
Yes, we do have “inclusion,” but the integration is often done through “contact” and “discovery,” which means Black academics or global south thinkers’ or authors are brought into the “White” world through a process that epistemologically replicates Columbus’ “discovery” of the indigenous people. I know that we have made progress, and we do have Black Studies and Ethnic Studies departments and diversity courses. Still, these were introduced as a result of struggle and are often problematized and marginalized by the “custodians” of the Canon and the academy. More importantly, the “custodians” who are always pursuing “discovery” insist that their standards would regress,” research and scholarship would be undermined by this non-established and “feelings” or “emotional” university response to the protest that brought about the “new” field of studies. What are Black studies, Asian American/Diaspora Studies, Latino Studies, Arab and Muslim Studies, Native American/Indigenous Studies!
According to the “custodians,” these are “identity fields” and are not based on rigorous scholarship? Mind you; these are the same “academics” that chair or teach in departments with all European markers and names attached to it, but they assert that these are neutral, universal, and not specific or identity-based pursuit! Yet, and indulging them a little more on this front. If you have a “universal” history department that does not include the history of Black people or other global south accounts, as history, while putting forth every European colonial thinker that pontificated (while drinking tea prepared for him by a colonized person) concerning global south colonial subjects in the colonies and presenting it as “history” rather than a colonially distorted view from a Eurocentric lens that could not see or talk beyond his/her mirror image and only constructed the negative reflection of him/herself, this production is not history; it is fiction that is masquerading as history.
The same applies today to the so called academic experts who land at any given country in the global south, stay at a posh hotel next to the airport (sometimes they do stay with the “natives” as it looks better for the slide show presentations when they return to campus), hire a translator to go with them during their visit to the distant land and socialize with individuals and groups connected to the US embassy. Moreover, when they get back to the University, they hire a graduate translator ($20-$30 an hour) to provide them the “native” press view, which then they package all of this and become the go-to “authority” and invited to offer their opinion on all matters about a given country. I do admit there are exceptions, but these are exceptions to the norm. What you find is that most of their materials come really from reworking the New York Times articles or what the graduate students translated for them while those that are a little more clever partner with a handpicked upwardly mobile “native” academic that ends up writing most of the materials in the hope and desire of links to this “expert” and his/her institution (Here, I am not blaming the academics of the Global South as it is a complicated landscape to navigate). Faculty of color end-up likewise having to get these academics included on their grant proposals because they have the “white” connections that control the faucet and determine who is acceptable and who is a hot potato that does not play along. The audacity and the arrogance to make this be “History” proper. At the same time, everything that does not fit or depart from it is described as identity-based history that is inferior and belongs in “Ethnic Studies” or other minority designed programs to satisfy the protestors.
Now, let’s get a little more direct with the University leadership since the post-1960s Civil Rights movement played the diversity game very well and developed all skills to maneuver around making an epistemic and long-lasting transformative change, curriculum and leadership alike. The current University is still vested in a curriculum rooted in White Supremacy and pushing to the margins the intellectual contributions and experiences of Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims, and others. What type of law schools do we have and the legal practitioners that produce the prison industrial complex? You make sure to invite them to the diversity fair, the new and improved version of Native-indigenous-global south Zoo that operated in the US and Europe up to pre-WWII-not long ago. An acceptable and vetted person staffs the diversity office from these marginalized and otherized communities. The higher-ups, who are “responsible” for running the real University with its complexities, can go on with this important business, running the shinning University upon a hill. What diversity means at the University is to keep the Blacks and other racialized communities quiet or managed into silence so as not to impact the University’s “Public Relations” standing and diminish big money coming from White and Corporate Donors. These types see the University as their own, and they love to see the football and basketball teams, get a VIP box and have the cheerleaders dance around them but make sure that no one opens their mouths and says anything of importance or take knee! Race and racism at the Eurocentric University is a public relations crisis and not a moral and ethical issue or value to guide and transform society. (I can include discussion on sexism and gender, but that’s for another discussion-rape until recently was a PR issue to be managed by the public relations office-including at law schools)
The ranks of tenured faculty are overwhelmingly white, with campuses ranging as high as 80-90% being white faculty and 70-80 being White men. Simultaneously, all the lecturers, clerical staff, and lab technicians are Blacks, Asians, Arab, Latino, and Indigenous. Don’t dare to put the Asian model minority forward because they might have some numbers in the undergraduate ranks. Still, they diminish in numbers at the graduate level. Most of those at the faculty or administrative level end-up not moving up or in the science departments are looked into Labs that are managed by White colleagues who move up faster than a space rocket. Critically, the ranks at the top of the University are also overwhelmingly White and the same for governing boards, advisory boards, and alumni boards. Even the athletics where the number of Black athletes (Football, Basketball and Track and Field especially) is noticeable, the number of coaches, administrators and upper management tend to be still heavily White and also paid much higher than their Black counterparts if they happened to have a position within the institution.
The University is also a neoliberal edifice that bought into commodification and considered the institution to be consumer-driven; rather than a public good and find ways to bring about this to the broader society. Community engagement often meant a relationship with a corporation interested in transforming the public good into a commodified product, and copyrighted knowledge and services to be sold to the highest bidder. Whole departments and divisions are sold to corporations and companies for pennies on the dollar. The sale process transforms public investments and societal good into a small branch of whatever company that is ready to partake in the neoliberal model. The company or corporation takes hold of professors, staff, and graduate students’ careers (some get paid well in the process, especially if they are involved in the military-industrial complex or pharmaceutical research) for a cheap deal. In the case that protests and mobilization take place, then the University does have a police force that has expanded and also connected to all types of war on terror surveillance and militarized campus presence.