PhD ≠ Respect ≠ Assumed Equal Status

The last few months have been a time for reflection and refocus. The time has been great for me to do more reading and planning for my research, but one thing that has not changed has been my positionality. I still get reminded that I am a young Black man from Mississippi. Academic spaces were not made with people like me in mind. I recently went to a meeting for my professional society and no less than three times was I confused for or assumed to be a student. Most of the time, I was the only Black person and was also one of the youngest people there. I am constantly reminded that although I have the same degree, I am not automatically granted that respect. Even when that barrier is crossed, I am talked down to at points, even on topics I have experiential and academic knowledge of. I was asked my thoughts on specific issues relating to my community, only to have my perspective disregarded in favor of what that person already believed.

What do you do when you are at a power disadvantage? What if this person is a senior in your field? How many people like me have been in these situations in which we have to simultaneously be scholars and protect our sanity from racist microaggressions?

And why I gotta deal with this during Black History Month???

Black Militant

Militant. An interesting word. One of which I'm not sure people know the real definition. It's a label that has been applied to me. In courses I've taught, evaluations have said that I'm militant or that I am pushing an African American agenda. Is it militant to assert that African Americans face discrimination and domination in multiple areas of our lives? Is it militant to point out the number of ways that structural racism is reinforced by the connections between institutions that themselves reproduce racism? Is it militant to use words such as white supremacy, white privilege, or institutional racism? Is it militant to choose to not center whiteness as it has been in every other aspect of our society? Is it militant to suggest African Americans are humans and should be viewed as equally human as any other group?

Maybe the militant label gets applied to any individual who is unwilling to just accept the status quo and is willing to speak out. Maybe it's attached to anyone willing to assert Black Lives Matter. I have come to accept this label. I wear it as a badge of honor because it is a sign that I am on the right path. When you speak out against systems of domination or oppression, those who benefit from it or internalize it will deny or dismiss it. You are not rewarded by the system for fighting against the status quo. Most likely you will be sanctioned, punished, and/or isolated. If all of these things mean I am a militant, then I will claim that title. Black, militant, and proud.