How Race-Studies Scholars Can Respond to Their Haters (Chronicle Vitae, 27 June 2014)
Graduate school prepares students for a range of intellectual and professional endeavors. Unfortunately, responding to scholarly insults and academic shade-throwing isn’t one of them. But for scholars in the fields of race and ethnic studies—including those who work outside the ivory tower—dealing with snide questions, nasty comments, and occasional name-calling is just part of the job description. Over the years, these academics have repeatedly told me that their work is uniquely misunderstood and dismissed by students, fellow faculty, and the general public. The election of Barack Obama, some say, has only made it tougher to defend ethnic studies: Amid declarations of a “post-racial” America, how do you explain why you study and write about racism?