12 rules (oops, 13) for maintaining a racially hostile environment at your institution*:
- Use phrases like “we’re working on diversity.” Use them often and in as many public venues as you can. (Shake your head sadly, for emphasis, when you do.)
- Never count out loud, in public space, the actual number of people of color who are part of your administration or faculty. (Doing so is risky. The silence may be so horrifying, it might mobilize action.)
- Never say the specific names of the black and brown people who have “left” your institution in the last ten years.
- Be careful to not make any such departures “racial” if you do mistakenly name someone’s name. Make sure to say things like this: “in that case the issues were complicated,” or just be explicit that “this had nothing to do with race.” People will believe you.
- Never ask the black and brown people who remain part of your institution what it’s actually like to be there.
- Never ask black or brown students what it’s actually like.
- Instead of number 5 or 6, whenever you do talk to a black or brown person at your institution smile really big (this shows you are one of the good ones). Do most of the talking. Be sure to return to rule number 1 (see above) while speaking to that person. Chuckle often.
- If you accidentally violate number 5, make sure you ask students this question in the most alienating environment possible; preferably when they are presenting as part of some committee meeting (about “diversity,” of course). Make sure they are number 4 or lower on the agenda for that meeting, and are given no more than 5 minutes to bear their souls to people they have never met before and have no good reason to believe (based on all evidence around them) are in their corner, will have their backs or care about their actual day-to-day experiences. (Never chalk their assessment of this reality up to their wisdom, well-developed critical thinking skills or just plain sanity; assume they just don’t appreciate what it takes to run an institution on a day-to-day basis. Change after all is slow. DECADES slow.)
- Pat those students on the back often. Physically, I mean. While you talk at them.
- Take a really simple set of solutions—concrete resources and a will to act to change things—and make diversity into a really complicated and difficult problem. This is most effectively accomplished by standing firm in the belief that you can will “diversity” into existence saying over and over how badly you want it, but making sure to avoid exerting resources, changing institutional priorities, or having difficult conversations about race with white faculty, administrators or students (also, make sure to tolerate those folks’ resistance while packaging that tolerance as “collegiality.”)
- Forget that in every other arena of life you tout your “PhD” and intellectual gifts as evidence you can understand many things or think through most problems in a productive manner.
- Wonder why students of color look tired or disconnected when they walk into your classrooms the day Baltimore is on fire. Maybe assume it’s because they are disrespecting you or their peers. Or maybe expect them to tolerate “strictly academic” discussions about things like the use of the ‘n-word’ or the legitimacy of ‘people rioting’ with their non- or misinformed peers (with whom they also have to live, eat, and study, and towards whom you also are paid to be kind and gentle no matter what they say in such “strictly academic” discussions). Forget that your black and brown students have to live with these white students who are more interested in talking about riots than they are in talking about why police officers get away with weekly killings of black and brown men and women in this country. Or, if none of these options feels right, maybe remember you’re one of the good ones and instead smile when you ask them to talk about how they feel about all of this in front of their class of mostly non- or ill-informed white peers and your powerful white body (with the power to grade them) at the front of the room.
- Try really hard to never vent about these things out loud and in public if you are a respected member of whatever-the-institution. Venting, after all, is not very professional. And change, after all, is slow. You understand.
*This is a list generated specifically thinking about predominantly white institutions of higher education. It could easily be modified to almost any white institution, organization or entity. You choose.