by Mariah Parker, Multimedia Editor
I can count the number of teachers of color in my life on one hand, and when asked how many of these I encountered through bona fide educational institutions, that hand gets shamefully pocketed.
The world is vast, perspectives innumerable. Why, then, is our information on ‘what it’s like out there’ largely disseminated by old white dudes?
It’s not a groundbreaking question– it’s the kind we came to Wilson to learn to ask– and the answers can be seen everywhere in our nation’s history.
The problem is clear, but the solutions are, well…problematic.
Consider, then, this hypothetical scenario: the search for a new faculty member comes down to two equally well-qualified candidates. One is white. One is Latino.
Who would you choose, and why?
When one brings up affirmative action as a possible response to the lack of faculty diversity, people, usually the light-skinned variety, tend to leap up in idealist indignation.
“Bringing on a new faculty member because she’s Latino is just as fucked up as bringing one on because he’s white,” I’ve often heard. “Making decisions based on race is always racism, and racism is always wrong.”
If ethics operated in a vacuum, I’d agree. However, studies have shown that, when identically-qualified testers of different races apply for a job, the white tester receives nearly double the positive feedback as the black candidate; in studies where the white tester presents evidence of a felony conviction, the white applicant with a felony still received 3 percent more positive feedback from employers than his black counterpart with no criminal background.
In this light, it seems as if affirmative action is already at work on the behalf of white men.
This isn’t a vacuum we’re talking about here; this is a society that has thrived on institutionalized racism for centuries. In reality, one choice lets the current academic conditions fester while another tips the scale toward a more egalitarian future.
Additionally, the Latino candidate in the faculty search hypothetical is not only more deserving (in terms of historical disadvantage) but also brings to the table something that the other candidate cannot: a highly underrepresented view of the world.
To say that we live in a postracial culture is to ignore generations of institutionalized oppression. It does nothing to eliminate the real issues at play.
You know what might actually help, though? Being ballsy enough to fight the racial status quo in a potentially unpopular manner. Not feigning colorblindness, but rather being bold enough to acknowledge color and embrace its differences.
As a supposedly progressive, historically radical, institution, we shouldn’t be afraid of making racial considerations when bringing on new faculty. We’re to receive the most well-rounded experience possible and to create social change; in my eyes, purposefully bringing on candidates of color enables both goals.