On Wednesday, a cishet white male instructor tried to tell me what intersectionality was…
Tried to tell ME what intersectionality was.
My roommate and I joked about it happening on the first day in my last required class for the program when I was so close to leaving mostly unscathed. The comment came after he talked to us about the differences (read: diversity) in rich, white, first-year students at my institution; and after an entire class period of talking about collaboration in higher education with no deference to nor acknowledgment of power, privilege, and the pervasive nature of whiteness and white supremacy in our educational system.
It’s gonna be a long semester.
My classmates pointed out that at some point during his lecture, he called me Miss. Williams with an annoyed emphasis because I kept asking questions. But I wouldn’t ask questions if things were clear from the start? I’m annoying–but I don’t talk to hear my own voice. This experience has been earth-shattering for me because I’m rarely ever the student to seriously complain about class. Whether I have a ton of things to do or I feel overextended, I find the will and a way to get things done because this is what I signed up for. I will whine about it, I will rant about it, but I’m going to do the work
–when the work isn’t an activity my roommate does with fourth-grade field trip students anyway. Marshmallows, noodles, tape, anyone?
I’m sure this guy has plenty to teach me–intersectionality is not one of those things, though. I live it.
This experience has reminded me of something I had taken for granted throughout my graduate experience: Not. Every. One. Knows. What. They. Are. Doing. In. The. Classroom. I’ve complained to my advisor, my friends, cried on the phone with my mom, and reached out to people I know and love. And after careful consideration of their opinions in combination with things I know to be inherently true, I’ve decided to do the following so that I can make it through the semester alive:
A. Get Everything In Writing
I asked multiple questions in class because I didn’t understand what was presented to me. Once things were clarified, I realized they weren’t listed as such on the syllabus. To prevent any grading mishaps, I’m going to write an email to the instructor asking him to verify if I am correct in my understandings of what has been presented and what is expected of me. This will allow me to create a paper trail and protect myself.
B. Clarify The Instructor’s Openness to Pushback (Complete with Receipts)
The annoyance I noticed in our exchange about intersectionality has led me to wonder if this instructor holds his syllabus beyond reproach. One of my classmates asked if he felt this way about the readings and the instructor said no, but I’m still questioning to what degree is he willing to hear something else. I’ve decided to gather all of my literature about systems, organizations, and Black women so that I can say my piece and “prove it” so to speak. He may not take my word for it, but he’ll have to take the word of hooks, Dillard, Patton-Davis, Stewart, etc.
C. Let it go. Let it gooooooo.
I’ve decided this guy is not worth any more of my energy or piece of mind. I’m turning in what I have to give and I’m moving on.
Which better be worthy of passing, Humph. After all, a wise man once said to me that this situation is a “minor step in what I [he] imagine to be your great career in academia.”
I know I’m going to find the wherewithal to finish this class, one because it doesn’t come around again until Spring 2020 when I’m slated to graduate May 2019, and two because no mess formed against me shall prosper. But if those two things fail, I’ll just repeat
(under my breath) the wise words of one of my good friends since childhood–
“Gone On Somewhere With All That BullSh*t.”
Dear Fellow Graduate Students: Keep pushing. Get it in writing. Have receipts. Make your piece. And reject mess.
Cheers to a STRONG Spring 2018 semester! </3