Khristie’s sustenance of racism hurts not only themselves and the Tiffanys of the world, but also rolls the clock back and provides an incubator for white supremacy that stunts the growth of all communities—more specifically communities of color, the same supportive communities that will “stick with her” through thick and thin.
While many historians have studied the colonial implications of the medically-theorized relationship between tropical diseases, climate, and racialized bodies, Urmi Engineer Willoughby adds a new dimension to this familiar tale: the vital importance of sugar cane cultivation to the epidemiological history of yellow fever.
Several years ago, during a tenure-track search, I asked two questions – two questions which I ask of every scholar applying for a position with our institution. The first is innocent enough: “How important is racial/ethnic diversity in your scholarship and teaching?” Not surprisingly, all enthusiastically answer in the affirmative. Then I ask my second question: “Which scholars and/or books from racial and ethnic minorities do you include on your syllabus and why?” Here is when the squirming begins, revealing the candidate’s lack of academic rigor.
I’m becoming. I’m becoming authentic. I’m becoming solid in the fact that I am good at my job, that I deserve to be in front of these students each day, just as much as any white, cishet male counterparts with degrees from way up North. I’m becoming solid in the understanding that by accepting my own identities (and the privileges and oppressions that come with them) I can clear space for my students to do the same.
I have found that academia can offer a lower-class West Virginian from a single-mother family the chance to live an illusion. I have been able to travel countries, gain audiences of affluent scholars, and been given a platform for my voice that I would not have received outside of academia.