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Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue On Historically White Campuses: A Critical Race Examination Of Race-Related Stress

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The young Black reporter looked at me patiently as I paused to gather my thoughts. Noticing that I was clenching my cup, she smiled reassuringly and calmly said, "I know this must be difficult to talk about, but please let me reassure you, my point is to get this out to our readers, to let people know more about what happened, and-" I interrupted, "Well, as I mentioned to you when you contacted me, I don't know exactly what happened, but I do want to make sure that folks know what this man was about. What he was doing. I think the link to what happened is his work- our work." I paused to sip my kava kava herb tea and take my stack of paperwork and notes out of my crocheted bag. Angela, Corky, Huey, and others had warned me about sharing too much information with reporters, but this newspaper had a reputation for serving the Black community in Boston for many years. I hoped I was making the right decision to trust this woman. "Well, Monday, March 6, 1972, was for all intents and purposes just another day ..."
Faculty of Color
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Faculty of Color
Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities
Christine A. Stanley
Texas A&M University
Editor
ANKER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.
Bolton, Massachusetts
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Faculty of Color
Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities
Copyright © 2006 by Anker Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be
reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic or mechan-
ical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or re-
trieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
ISBN 1-882982-98-3
Composition by Lyn Rodger, Deerfoot Studios
Cover design by Dutton and Sherman Design
Anker Publishing Company, Inc.
563 Main Street
P.O. Box 249
Bolton, MA 01740-0249 USA
www.ankerpub.com
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Faculty of color : teaching in predominantly white colleges and universities /
Christine A. Stanley, ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 1-882982-98-3
1. Faculty integration—United States. 2. Minority college teachers—United
States—Social conditions. 3. African American college teachers—Social con-
ditions. 4. Discrimination in higher education—United States. 5. United
States—Race relations. I. Stanley, Christine A.
LB2332.6.F33 2006
378.1’2089—dc22
2006010963
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This book is dedicated to my parents, Dr. & Mrs. Victor Stanley, and
to my brother, Dr. Robin-Charles Stanley.
In loving memory of my maternal and paternal grandparents
Charles C. and Myrtle M. Demetrius
and
Ena E. Mighty
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Table of Contents
About the Authors iii
Preface xii
Acknowledgments xv
1 An Overview of the Literature 1
Christine A. Stanley
2 Succeeding in the Face of Doubt 30
Stephanie G. Adams
3 Do I Have to Be Black or Brown to Count? An Appeal for
Broad Appreciation and Understanding of Diversity 41
Karla Anhalt
4 Free to Be the Me You See: Discovering the Joy of Teaching 54
K. Denise Bane
5 Are You Here to Move the Piano?” A Latino Reflects on
Twenty Years in the Academy 68
James F. Bonilla
6 The Temple of My Unfamiliar 80
Fred A. Bonner, II
7 Racism Will Not Go Away and Neither Will We:
Two Scholars of Color Examine Multicultural Education Courses 100
Bryan Brayboy, Maria C. Estrada
8 In Search of Community: The Challenges and Successes
of an Isolated Engineer 115
Karen Butler-Purry
9 Solitary Sojourn: An American Indian Faculty Member’s
Journey in Academe 123
Karen Sunday Cockrell
10 Putting the Color in Colorado: On Being Black and
Teaching Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado–Boulder 139
Adrian Gaskins
11 Living, Breathing, Teaching Sociology: Using the Micro to
Illuminate the Macro 153
Sarah N. Gatson
i
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12 Can a Brotha’ Get a Break? Teaching on a Majority White
Research University Campus 166
Jeffrey J. Guidry
13 Just Because I Choose to Be Me 175
Reem Haj-Ali
14 Anatomy of “Difference”: The Meaning of Diversity and the
Diversity of Meaning 182
Rashmi Jaipal
15 Color in the Interstice, or, What Color, This Faculty of Color? 196
Leswin Laubscher
16 Reflections From a Minority Faculty in a Majority Institution 216
Cheryl B. Leggon
17 Tenure on My Terms 225
Antoinette Halsell Miranda
18 Teaching and Researching “The Politics of Race” in a Majority
White Institution 234
Byron D’Andra Orey
19 Negotiating Identity and Learning From a Native Pacific Perspective:
Contradictions of Higher Learning in Cultural Diversity Classes 247
Michael P. Perez
20 Learning to Play the Game 263
Anthony D. Ross
21 I’m Just a Black Woman Troubling the Status Quo 283
Shari Saunders
22 Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue on Historically White Campuses:
A Critical Race Examination of Race-Related Stress 299
William A. Smith, Tara J. Yosso, Daniel G. Solórzano
23 Walking Between Two Cultures: The Often Misunderstood
Jamaican Woman 328
Christine A. Stanley
24 Institutional Barriers and Myths to Recruitment and
Retention of Faculty of Color: An Administrator’s Perspective 344
Christine Yoshinaga-Itano
25 Summary and Key Recommendations for the
Recruitment and Retention of Faculty of Color 361
Christine A. Stanley
ii Faculty of Color
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22
Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue
on Historically White Campuses:
A Critical Race Examination of
Race-Related Stress
William A. Smith, Tara J. Yosso, Daniel G. Solórzano
The young black reporter looked at me patiently as I paused to gather my
thoughts. Noticing that I was clenching my cup, she smiled reassuringly
and calmly said, “I know this must be difficult to talk about, but please
let me reassure you, my point is to get this out to our readers, to let people
know more about what happened, and—” I interrupted, “Well, as I
mentioned to you when you contacted me, I don’t know exactly what
happened, but I do want to make sure that folks know what this man
was about. What he was doing. I think the link to what happened is his
work—our work.” I paused to sip my kava kava herb tea and take my
stack of paperwork and notes out of my crocheted bag. Angela, Corky,
Huey, and others had warned me about sharing too much information
with reporters, but this newspaper had a reputation for serving the black
community in Boston for many years. I hoped I was making the right
decision to trust this woman. “Well, Monday, March 6, 1972, was for
all intents and purposes just another day . . .”
We open this chapter with a counterstory preview to entice readers to en-
gage in a framework called critical race theory (CRT). CRT draws on
many areas of academic scholarship and centers the experiences of people of
color to document voices and knowledges rarely taken into account in tradi-
tional academic spaces or mainstream mass media venues. CRT scholarship
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combines empirical and experiential knowledges, frequently in the form of
storytelling, chronicles, or other creative narratives. These counternarratives
can often expose traditional educational discourse as racialized, gendered,
classed storytelling.
Indeed, traditional stories about race do not seem like stories at all. Such
“everyday” narratives perpetuate myths that darker skin and poverty correlate
with bad neighborhoods and bad schools. This chapter and counterstory uti-
lize CRT in education to challenge the silences of “race-neutral” storytelling in
order to discuss the race-related stress faculty of color confront when navigat-
ing through historically white universities.
Racial Microaggressions and Racial Battle Fatigue ___________
Racism is structured into the rhythms of everyday life in the United States
(Feagin, 2000). Pierce (1970) defines racism as a “public health and mental
health illness” (p. 266) based on the delusion or false belief, in spite of con-
trary evidence, that innate inferiority correlates with dark skin color. He ar-
gues that in examining racism “. . . one must not look for the gross and
obvious. The subtle, cumulative miniassault is the substance of today’s
racism .. .” (Pierce, 1974, p. 516). He further describes these assaults as
racial microaggressions. In adapting Pierces (1970, 1974, 1980, 1989,
1995) work, we define racial microaggressions as 1) subtle verbal and non-
verbal insults directed at people of color, often automatically or uncon-
sciously; 2) layered insults, based on one’s race, gender, class, sexuality,
language, immigration status, phenotype, accent, or surname; and 3) cumu-
lative insults, which cause unnecessary stress to people of color while privi-
leging whites. Critical race scholars have expanded on Pierce’s research to
address how people of color are experiencing and responding to racial mi-
croaggressions within and beyond the academy. For example, Carroll (1998)
extends Pierce’s work to describe that being black in the U.S. means living
in a society permeated by mundane and extreme racism and punctuated by
incessant microaggressions. She finds that African Americans are faced with
mundane extreme environmental stress—MEES. Smith (2004a, 2004b) fo-
cuses on the stress aspects of racism, explaining that constant exposure to
MEES reveals the cumulative effects of racial microaggressions. He argues
that the stress associated with racial microaggressions causes African Ameri-
cans to experience various forms of mental, emotional, and physical strain—
racial battle fatigue.
The stress ensuing from racism and racial microaggressions leads people
of color to exhibit various psychophysiological symptoms, including sup-
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pressed immunity and increased sickness, tension headaches, trembling and
jumpiness, chronic pain in healed injuries, elevated blood pressure, and a
pounding heartbeat. Likewise, in anticipation of a racial conflict, people of
color may experience rapid breathing, an upset stomach, or frequent diarrhea
or urination. Other symptoms of racial battle fatigue include constant anxiety,
ulcer, increased swearing or complaining, insomnia or sleep broken by haunt-
ing conflict-specific dreams, rapid mood swings, difficulty thinking or speak-
ing coherently, and emotional and social withdrawal in response to racial
microaggressions or while in environments of mundane racial stressors. Ulti-
mately, these symptoms may lead to people of color losing confidence in
themselves, questioning their life’s work or even their life’s worth.
Indeed, constantly battling racial stress takes a toll on the lives of people
of color. Izard (1972, 1977) documented that African Americans tend to per-
ceive incidents of racism as personal threats, and this leads to an increase in
their emotional stress level. Krieger and Sidney (1996) reported that 80% of
1,974 black women and men experienced racial discrimination and self-re-
ported attempts to respond to unfair treatment, showing that both experi-
ences of discrimination and efforts to respond to unfair treatment were
associated with increased blood pressure. Similarly, Williams, Neighbors, and
Jackson (2003) concluded that perceptions of discrimination appear to induce
physiological and psychological arousal. Systematic exposures to such psy-
chosocial stressors may have long-term health consequences.
Experiencing racial discrimination as a stressful life event can reduce
one’s personal sense of control and elicit feelings of loss, ambiguity, strain,
frustration, and injustice. Smith (2004b) concluded that this activates a
stress-response system, originally evolved for responding to acute physical
and emotional emergencies. However, given the pervasiveness of racism in
U.S. society and its institutions, this emergency stress-response system is con-
stantly “switched on” to cope with chronic racial microaggressions (and
macroaggressions).
The accumulative stress from racial microaggressions produces racial bat-
tle fatigue. The stress of unavoidable front-line racial battles in historically
white spaces leads to people of color feeling mentally, emotionally, and physi-
cally drained. The stress from racial microaggressions can become lethal when
the accumulation of physiological symptoms of racial battle fatigue are un-
treated, unnoticed, misdiagnosed, or personally dismissed. Our critical race
counternarrative, which follows, acknowledges experiences with and responses
to racial microaggressions and racial battle fatigue reported by faculty of color
in predominantly white institutions.
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Critical Race Theory (CRT) _______________________________
CRT provides a useful tool to identify, analyze, and challenge racism in educa-
tion and society. Through a CRT lens, the ongoing racism on college and uni-
versity campuses comes into focus, revealing that race conditions have not
improved significantly as we move further into the 21st century as compared
with reports from the racially tumultuous 1960s (Carroll, 1998; Smith, Alt-
bach, & Lomotey, 2002). Faculty and students of color must cope with daily
incidents of racial microaggressions from white students, faculty, and adminis-
trators as they daily navigate institutions developed to benefit whites (Bonilla-
Silva & Forman, 2000; Bowman & Smith, 2002; Ladson-Billings, 1996;
Smith, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000).
Originating in schools of law, the critical race movement seeks to ac-
count for the role of race and racism in the U.S. and to challenge the many
forms of racism and its intersections with other forms of subordination such
as gender and class (Delgado, 1995a). Latina/Latino critical race theorists
have expanded the CRT framework in law to discuss issues of subordination
on the basis of immigration status, culture, language, and sexuality (Arriola,
1997; Espinoza, 1998). Similarly, a multiracial coalition of scholars have
worked since at least the mid-1990s to extend CRT to the field of education
and implement its tenets into educational research, pedagogy, curriculum,
and policy (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Lynn, Yosso, Solórzano, & Parker,
2002; Solórzano, 1997, 1998; Solórzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001; Tate,
1994, 1997).
Acknowledging CRT’s roots in scholarly traditions such as ethnic studies,
U.S./third-world feminisms, Marxism/neoMarxism, cultural nationalism, in-
ternal colonialism, and critical legal studies, Solórzano (1997) identified at
least five tenets shared by CRT scholarship. These tenets acknowledge the crit-
ical strengths of other scholarly traditions while they reveal, critique, and ad-
dress some of these frameworks’ blind spots (e.g., Marxism’s blind spots
regarding race and gender, cultural nationalisms blind spots on gender, class,
and sexuality). The basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of
CRT in education learn from these academic and community traditions.
The intercentricity of race and racism. CRT starts from the premise that
race and racism are endemic and permanent in U.S. society (Bell, 1987)
and asserts that racism intersects with forms of subordination based on
gender, class, sexuality, language, culture, immigrant status, phenotype,
accent, and surname (see Espinoza, 1998).
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The challenge to dominant ideology. CRT in education challenges claims of
objectivity, meritocracy, color blindness, race neutrality, and equal oppor-
tunity and asserts that these claims act as a camouflage for the self-interest,
power, and privilege of dominant groups in U.S. society (see Solórzano,
1997).
The commitment to social justice. CRT seeks to advance a social justice
agenda. Such a goal emphasizes that the larger purpose of educational
research, teaching, and policy is the transformation of society through
the empowerment of oppressed groups (see Solórzano & Delgado
Bernal, 2001).
The centrality of experiential knowledge. CRT recognizes that the experien-
tial knowledge of people of color is legitimate, appropriate, and critical to
understanding, analyzing, and teaching about racial subordination. CRT
explicitly listens to the lived experiences of people of color through coun-
terstorytelling methods such as family histories, biographies, scenarios,
parables, cuentos (stories), testimonios, dichos (proverbs), chronicles, and
narratives (see Olivas, 1990).
The interdisciplinary perspective. CRT challenges traditional mainstream
frameworks by analyzing racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia in
historical and interdisciplinary terms (see Delgado, 1984, 1992).
Composite Counterstorytelling __________________________
Although CRT scholarship arguably serves counternarrative functions in gen-
eral, some scholars seek to be more explicit in presenting their research through
the genre of storytelling. There are at least three types of such counterstories ev-
idenced in the CRT literature: autobiographical (e.g., Aguirre, 2000; Williams,
1991), biographical (e.g., Olivas, 1990), and multimethod/composite (e.g.,
Bell, 1987, 1992, 1996; Delgado, 1995b, 1996, 1999, 2003a, 2003b; Yosso,
2006). For our purposes, we focus on multimethod/composite stories. Com-
posite counternarratives draw on multiple forms of “data” to recount the racial-
ized, sexualized, classed experiences of faculty and students of color (see
Delgado Bernal, 1998).
The counterstory that follows draws on findings from various research
projects to address the experiences and responses of faculty of color to the per-
vasiveness of racism and racial battle fatigue in and around college and univer-
sity campuses. Methodologically, we started by finding and unearthing
sources of data. Our first form of “data” came from primary sources, namely
Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue on Historically White Campuses 303
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interviews with African Americans, primarily professors, at universities across
the country.1
Next, we analyzed secondary data from social science and humanities
scholarship, addressing experiences with and responses to racism in higher ed-
ucation (e.g., Allen & Solórzano, 2001; Bonilla-Silva & Forman, 2000; Lad-
son-Billings, 1996; Willie & Sanford, 1995). In sifting through this literature,
we drew connections with the interview data and uncovered the concepts of
racial microaggressions (Pierce, 1970, 1974, 1980, 1989, 1995; Solórzano,
1998; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000) and resilience (e.g., Yosso, 2006). To
recover and recount the story evidenced in the patterns and themes of the
data, we added a final source of data—our own professional and personal ex-
periences.2This included our individual reflections as well as the multiple
voices of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Such experiential
knowledge echoed the related research literature and the interview findings,
which helped us to better understand the relationship between microaggres-
sions, stress responses, and resistance (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams,
1999; Prillerman, Myers, & Smedley, 1989; Smith, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c;
Solórzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001).
Once we compiled, examined, and analyzed these various sources of data,
we created composite characters to help tell the story. We attempted to engage
these characters in a real and critical dialogue about our data from the inter-
views, related literature, and personal/professional experiences. As such, the
characters personify our research and our analysis process. In the tradition of
Du Bois (1920) and Freire (1973), the dialogue emerged between the charac-
ters much like our own discussions in this process emerged—through sharing,
listening, challenging, and reflecting. We differentiate our work from that of
fictional storytelling. Certainly there are elements of fiction in the story, but
the “composite” characters are grounded in real-life experiences, actual empir-
ical data, and contextualized in social situations that are also grounded in real
life, not fiction.
Introducing the Characters and Setting the Scene __________
We tell this counterstory from the perspective of a composite character named
Alice Canon, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California–Los An-
geles. As part of an interview with a reporter from a black community newspa-
per, Alice is reflecting on her work with her colleague, Chet Toboa, a professor
of psychiatry and education at Harvard University. Professor Toboa disap-
peared about two years ago, in 1972, and this is one of several trips Alice has
made back to Boston. She is continuing to conduct what was a collaborative
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research project about the experiences of faculty of color in historically white
colleges and universities.3
Guided by CRT’s five tenets and the concepts of racial microaggressions
and racial battle fatigue, this counterstory invites the reader to approach the
counterstory as a pedagogical and empirical case study: to listen for the story’s
points and reflect on how these points compare with her or his own version of
reality (however conceived). We listen in to Professor Canons interview with a
newspaper reporter as she recounts the events preceding the disappearance of
Dr. Chet Toboa.
The Supposed Scandal: Questions About Chet’s Disappearance
“You probably have read the official versions of this scandal, but the story
begins well before Chet went ‘missing’.” The reporter wasn’t quite con-
vinced, so I showed her a few old newspaper clippings. “It was a scandal
that white folks couldnt get enough of for a while.”
I showed her the Sunday, April 9, 1972, Boston Globe article with the
headline of “Harvard Professor Missing.” The Chicago Defender newspa-
per and Jet and Ebony magazines each ran front-page cover stories, under
the headlines of, respectively, “Harvard Yard Suspected of Murder”; “1922
or 1972? The Professional Lynching of a Black Professor”; and “The Acad-
emic Klan: Powerful Organizations Suspected of Murdering Distin-
guished Black Professor.” 4I looked up from the clippings and sarcastically
stated, “Most of those in the academic, medical, social science, and black
communities knew this was a scandal as soon as the word got out. We
were asking questions that no one could answer in their superficial scandal
headlines: Was it just the typical race-related hatred for blacks in this hos-
tile era? Was it Professor Toboa’s standing up against some of the most
powerful institutions in the country? Was it his refusal to accept tenure if
his academic department did not hire another minority professor? Was it
his role in starting black professional organizations? None of us had an-
swers, but opinions were endless for how this terrible and unexpected situ-
ation occurred.”
“Of course there were the usual racialized assumptions. Many whites
claimed that this had nothing to do with race. Since Chet was a well-re-
spected Harvard professor whose research was international in scope,
some felt the only possible explanation was an international conspiracy
led by the Soviet Union. Other whites went as far as to suggest that it was
spontaneous human combustion that resulted in his disappearance.
When they were pushed further on this point to explain what happened
to the ashes, they suggested ‘the janitor must have swept them up not
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knowing what they were.’ I always thought that was the funniest theory.
Most blacks, Chicanos, and Puerto Ricans pointed to some combination
of racial conspiracies. Some suggested that orders were handed down
from President Nixon to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, as one of the di-
rector’s last assignments before dying in May of that year.” I could see the
reporter wanted to hear my theory, so I smiled reassuringly and ex-
plained, “As you probably know, Chet and I are first cousins and we basi-
cally grew up together like brother and sister. My theory isnt so
over-dramatic. But let me tell you about our research because I think
that’s what your readers will really dig.”
Alice’s Theory About the Disappearance: Introducing a Racialized
Research Agenda
As I mentioned, March 6, 1972, was a relatively ordinary day, at least in
Los Angeles. I was back in California, teaching a clinical seminar course
and it was about 64 degrees with blue skies. The meeting took place in
New York where it was slightly colder than usual. It dipped down to 33
degrees that night when Chet was seen watching Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Cham-
berlain assist the Los Angeles Lakers in a win against Willis Reed and his
New York Knicks. He attended with Bumpy Johnson, a longtime friend
who most folks thought of as a notorious Harlem gangster. Chet and
Bumpy met years before when Bumpy gave a generous donation to our
aunt who lived in South Carolina. She had been out of work and strug-
gling to make ends meet after some jealously angry white men burned
down her modest but successful business. The three white men fingered
for the arson mysteriously came up missing, never to be seen or heard
from again. Many black folks suspected Bumpy had something to do with
it since he was in Charleston visiting shortly after the situation occurred,
but—with a certain sense of pride—no one ever said an accusatory word. I
think Bumpy actually inspired some of Chet’s work. What a case study in
racism, that Bumpy. Like too many young black brothers subjected to
daily interpersonal and institutionalized racism, Bumpy’s initial responses
of anger and resentment led to his incarceration for a large part of his
youth. Bumpy in turn admired Chet, who had also grown up in Harlem,
but had channeled his anger to challenge racism through education and
participation in the civil rights movement. Anyway, Bumpy and Chet
ended up seeing one of Wilt’s last professional basketball games and LA
beat New York.” I smiled as I held up a picture of me around that time pe-
riod and another of Chet. The reporter commented that it must have been
quite a shock for folks to see a research team made up of a woman with an
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Afro and multicolored shawl and a man in a three-piece gray suit, let alone
an academic with a gangster like Bumpy Johnson. I responded that the
clothes dont make the man, and if anything, Chet’s dapper style was not
too different from Bumpy’s. If she only knew, I mused to myself, remem-
bering that some of my friends had crushes on Chet when we were finish-
ing ninth grade and he was the 6’4” zoot-suit-wearing high school
valedictorian.
I explained that Chet and I were developing a U.S. minority mental
health research agenda. As professors and clinicians of psychiatry, we had
documented the health effects of minorities living and working in extreme
conditions or dealing with the daily effects of racism. We had become in-
creasingly concerned with the mental and physiological health outcomes
of blacks, Chicanos, and Puerto Ricans, especially as they were becoming
“integrated” into historically white spaces and institutions. Chet also kept
a journal of his private therapy sessions as well as his personal conversa-
tions with other black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican professionals, profes-
sors, students, and other community members about what he labeled as
their experiences with “racial microaggressions.” I pulled out one of Chets
earlier articles and read aloud: “Chet defined racial microaggressions ‘as
subtle, innocuous, preconscious, or (un)conscious degradations and put-
downs, often kinetic but capable of being verbal and/or kinetic, and/or
purposefully malicious or violent.’5
I continued speaking, “So we were able to trace a rise in a new form
of stress-related psychological and physiological disease that resulted
from constant experiences with racial microaggressions. Chet’s prelimi-
nary diagnosis of the cumulative effects of racial microaggressions was
‘racial battle fatigue.’ Unlike typical stress, racial battle fatigue referred to
the cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distress-
ing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from
constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hos-
tile racial environments and individuals. Chet found a pattern that
showed that this race-related stress kills gradually and stealthily. It takes
an unending toll through various psychosomatic physical ailments, such
as hypertension and poor health attitudes and behaviors that combine to
give minorities a morbidity and mortality profile similar to those living in
the developing world rather than in the industrialized world.” The re-
porter’s raised eyebrows indicated she was interested in racial battle fa-
tigue and whether it was connected to Chet’s disappearance. I didn’t want
to let her know that I wondered the same thing myself. My research with
Chet initially began after a long conversation during a family reunion
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about the source of some of my physical ailments and Chet’s high stress
levels.
Revealing Experiences of Racial Microaggressions and Symptoms of
Racial Battle Fatigue at the Black Faculty Association Meeting: Friday,
February 4, 1972
“So the month before the March 6th meeting, Chet was preparing to ad-
dress the East Coast Black Faculty Association in Mather Hall at Harvard
University. As you may know, Mather Hall was named after Increase
Mather, who was part of the upper-crust Boston slave owning society and
a Harvard-educated preacher. He also presided over Harvard for 16 years
as its sixth president (1685–1701). The association held its meetings in
Mather Hall to remind them that within the institutional fabric of Har-
vard and outside of its campus, this multiheaded monster of racism and
elitism was ever present, despite their laudable achievements. This special
meeting was called to provide an update on the developments toward ad-
dressing the growing concerns about the racial violence aimed at black fac-
ulty and students at Harvard, as well as other schools across the East Coast
and the country. In addition, Chet and I wanted to seek further input on
the impending March 6th meeting. Chet was the current chair of the asso-
ciation.”
I paused and showed the reporter that I had the actual transcriptions
of association meetings because they had been trying out a new system
where they audiotaped their meetings and had a volunteer write up the
minutes at a later date. I didnt tell her that in retrospect I suspected that
one of the newer association members was an FBI informant and he had
suggested the audiotaping. Initially, I had told Chet it was odd, but he
didnt seem too worried.
As I continued, I referred to the transcripts. “The Sergeant at Arms
called the special meeting to order and Dr. Coleman, a black male history
professor interrupted and said, ‘Get on with it, Jesse. We know why we’re
here.’” I smiled thinking about how informal this formal group of black
scholars could be.
And then Chet, who was always known to be courteous despite the
circumstances, welcomed everyone and explained who would be at the
meeting on the 6th. He listed the senior-level administrators from each of
the universities across the country that had been invited and who had on-
going campus racial unrest, including Harvard, Cornell University, Uni-
versity of Michigan, University of California–Berkeley, and University of
California–Los Angeles. He also noted that key members from the De-
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partment of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) would be there.
HEW is a federal office that has broad popular support for unprecedented
amounts of federal funds that are allocated for social programs, so many
people were pleased they accepted the invitation. The list also included the
American Council on Education, which is the major coordinating body
for all the nations higher education institutions; the National Institute of
Mental Health, which has a major budget to fund research projects, new
service initiatives, and train mental health professionals; the American
Psychological Association, our professional organization that has signifi-
cant influence on the national practice of psychiatry; and the American
Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, which awards the credentials of spe-
cialist psychiatrists after the successful completion of its examination.”
“Now Chet turned it over to me because even though he was sched-
uled to be the main presenter Monday the 6th, I had done most of the
groundwork in organizing the meeting. We were trying to be strategic and
we knew that folks would probably respond more positively to a black
man, like you said, in a three piece suit rather than a black woman with an
Afro and a reputation for being a rebel-rouser and hanging out with An-
gela Davis, ‘Corky’ Gonzalez, Dolores Huerta, Huey P. Newton, Cesar
Chavez, Kathleen Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael—who was calling himself
Kwame Ture at this point—Carmen Valentin, and Jim Brown, the former
NFL fullback. Anyway, I outlined the six major points we prepared for the
meeting and Chet passed out mimeograph copies while I spoke. I’ll read
here my words:
As some of you may know, Professor Toboa and I have been
working together for a few years, following up on our epi-
demiological findings, which suggest that a positive correla-
tion exists between increased white-black, white-Chicano,
and white-Puerto Rican social integration and racial
microaggressions. With each civil rights effort, or with each
attempt at breaking down barriers of racial segregation in
historically white spaces, minority health seems to suffer. We
have identified that this experience of dealing with constant
racial microaggressions leads to a phenomenon we are call-
ing racial battle fatigue. These negative racial events and life
crises clearly contribute to minorities’ higher rates of affec-
tive disorders. Unfortunately, traditional research and
healthcare practices inappropriately focus exclusively on
poor diets, culture, poverty, and inadequate education as the
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source of blame in black and brown poorer physical health
statistics.”
And here,” I noted, “a colleague raised her hand and asked, ‘Am I under-
standing correctly that this work is based on the premise that staying at the
microsocial, proximal level of analysis offers a better prospect of obtaining
ecologically valid and practical knowledge about racial microaggressions,
emotions, coping strategies, and the racial battle fatigue phenomena?’
Chet responded, ‘Yes. However, I believe researchers must be free to
choose which approach they want to use, proximal or distal, just as it is ap-
propriate to ask which approach provides more useful information and in-
depth analysis.’
I explained to the reporter that many of our colleagues knew the
growing bias toward quantitative, large-scale research projects when it
came to swaying the interests of major government funders. Then I con-
tinued, “These transcripts don’t really pick up on the emotion of the
room, but I remember pretty clearly. It was quite tense and so, at first, I
emphasized a few words sarcastically to bring a little humor to the situa-
tion. I said,
‘We believe that each of these leading and prestigious institu-
tions’—and Chet looked at me sideways to remind me that
some of our colleagues might not appreciate that humor, so
I continued on in a more serious tone. ‘These institutions
and organizations need to 1) be more cognizant of the needs
and interests of minorities; 2) elevate minorities in the hier-
archy of each institution; 3) be held responsible for the
abundance of unsophisticated, anti-intellectual, racist, and
sexist scholarship funded, produced, and rewarded in these
institutions; 4) acknowledge that racism and white resist-
ance to integration should be seen as a public health crisis
for the stress, violence, and terror it inflicts on the aggrieved;
5) consider classifying racist behaviors as a psychological dis-
order in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Dis-
orders; and 6) eliminate the homosexual classification that
considers homosexuality as a physical disease, a “third sex,”
or a psychological aberration.’
I looked up from the transcript and explained, “That last statement caused
a mild disturbance in the room. People began to whisper to each other
their concern about grouping racism with homosexuality. A young conser-
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vative black economics professor, Gleason Golightly,6stood up to make
his objections clearly known for the record.” I turned back to reading the
transcriptions: “Professor Golightly said,
‘So what you are telling us is that for the purposes of dis-
crimination, sexual orientation—or, more accurately, sexual
behavior—must be treated like race. Do you really think
that is a legitimate claim? When I got up this morning I was
a black man. When I drove my car through South Boston
and was stopped, it was because I was a black man. When I
go to bed tonight, I will still be a black man. If we are going
to treat sexual orientation and race the same, then what you
are saying is sexual orientation—read: behavior—is like race,
a condition beyond the individual’s control. If you want us,
or this group that you will be addressing next month, to
accept this kind of reasoning, then why should we stop at
this form of sexual passion? If we’re going to ask for special
considerations for homosexuals, shouldnt everybody else’s
irrepressible sexual orientations be protected? Shouldn’t
adulterers, pedophiles, rapists, and other sorts of sexual aber-
rants be entitled to the same protections?’
I sat back in my chair and said, “The room erupted after Golightly fin-
ished his diatribe. Whatever discomforts association members may have
felt about this issue were replaced with even more contempt for Go-
lightly’s message and him as the messenger. Golightly’s positions usually
had an adverse effect for swaying people his way. This was also true for the
more conservative blacks who appeared moderate in comparison. The
Sergeant at Arms had to call the room to order.”
“Now I could never really hide my disdain for Golightly, but I was al-
ways cordial. So I spoke up, and the transcripts actually caught me here.
I’d been doing this for years, and usually only if you were sitting very close
to me would you hear it. I said, ‘Look here, ‘Notlikely,’ I am not fully
comfortable with including this as part of our proposal but for very differ-
ent reasons than yours. What I do understand is that if we allow these or-
ganizations to continue to mistreat and misrepresent one group, then
blacks will never be free.’” I told the reporter that at this point the major-
ity of the room rose to their feet to applaud my comments, much to Go-
lightly’s chagrin.
I referred back to the transcripts and explained, “Chet began to talk
over the ovation to bring order to the room and said, ‘I will briefly try to
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answer part of Professor Golightlys question and show the connection we
are trying to draw.’ Chet’s strategy was not to change Golightly’s name,
but to stare him down as he challenged his reactionary comments. Chet
looked right at Golightly and said, ‘Many psychiatrists, psychologists,
ministers, priests, rabbis, and even professors believe that homosexuality is
a curable condition. However, the various ‘cures’ they propose are highly
offensive and perilous, including castration, hypnosis, nausea producing
drugs, electric shock, brain surgery, breast amputations, and aversion ther-
apy. This is no different than the ideology held by the physician Sam
Cartwright, who believed that blacks had ‘drapetomania’ and ‘dysaesthia
aethiopis’ which justified our enslavement.’”7
“Then Chet addressed the rest of the room, using his fingers to infer
quotation marks over the questionable words in these racist theories:
‘Cartwright also theorized that the black skin of Afro-Americans in con-
junction with a deficiency of red blood cells led to smaller brain sizes in
blacks, which resulted in both less intelligence and lower morals. The
‘cure’ for the first disease was ‘whipping the devil out of them’ to prevent
them from ‘their crazy desire to run away from slavery.’ Cartwright be-
lieved that the second disease caused a slave to refuse to work and the
‘cure’ was to give the slaves harder work to stimulate the blood to the brain
and free them from their infliction. Even the so-called father of American
psychiatry and one of the ‘founding fathers’ of this country, Benjamin
Rush, believed that the only ‘cure’ for blacks would be when our skin color
turns white. This is why he and others believed that blacks and whites
should always be segregated from one another. What we are witnessing
today are the modern forms of these ideologies.’8
The reporter shook her head in disgust. I described the silence in the
room after Chet’s statement. “He pretty much put any lingering doubts
about whether we were on the right track to rest, but an awkward silence
and depression began to cover the room, so I spoke up and told them,
‘Look, if we can convince these powerful organizations about the errors of
their ways and the troubles ahead, then we can be more effective in influ-
encing national policies and practice about the health consequences of mi-
norities fighting against racism.’
I paused and explained to the reporter that through our interviews
over the years, Chet and I had collected more than 300 personal state-
ments from minority professors across the country in varying fields. So we
put up on the overhead projector the major themes we had found so far
and asked the association members to think about whether their experi-
ences fit into those themes or if we were any missing patterns that should
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be added. As I read a few examples of faculty experiences with racial mi-
croaggressions, I also noted the psychophysiological symptoms as each
person had described them.
A black male philosophy professor began the discussion about the
pattern of racialized classroom experiences. This older man explained that
his wife was concerned because he had been complaining much more than
he had in the past and he began swearing and just seemed to be withdraw-
ing both emotionally and socially. He explained,
‘This is a very sensitive area for me. You might guess cor-
rectly that there are not many black philosophy professors.
So I spend a lot of time sharing my struggles with black pro-
fessors in other fields and their struggles are all the same. In
spite of our efforts to demonstrate competency, black profes-
sors are challenged more on our intellectual authority than
our white counterparts. In most of these challenges, students
question our knowledge directly or indirectly in a way that is
inappropriate or disrespectful. These challenges might
include arguments on basic points of the discipline. For
example, students might argue that the sociological imagina-
tion is not defined as I defined it. They might question the
validity of lecture material or use more indirect forms of
resistance. For instance, this particular white student simply
thought he knew everything and that he certainly couldn’t
learn anything from me. He went so far as to say, when I was
trying to explain something, ‘That’s wrong, thats just
wrong, that’s not true.’ This is very, very difficult because
you cant go off on him because you’ve got to be respectful
and you’ve got to be this professional person, but it’s very,
very hurtful, particularly from someone who was not an
excellent student.’
The young reporter nodded as if she heard something familiar in the state-
ment. I continued reading the examples. “Here’s a black female develop-
mental psychologist who had been experiencing tension backaches and
elevated blood pressure and spoke about constant microaggressions in the
classroom. She said,
‘Our white colleagues do not understand how our classroom
experiences qualitatively differ from theirs. White students
expect the traditional hierarchy of society to prevail in the
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class. That is, white male on the top, and black woman on
the bottom. And they cant get ready for the fact that a black
woman is teaching this class! And that the white males are
not in charge....I think that if I were white, that I wouldnt
have to go through those sorts of things in my classroom . . .
but at every turn I have to remind students that I am the pro-
fessor. I’m not just the instructor...I have a Ph.D....I have
to tell students, ‘Look. I graduated summa cum laude; I got
two master’s degrees and my Ph.D....I published these
books and these articles, blah, blah, blah,’ to let them know
that I may be black, but what you think about in terms of
what it means to be black is not necessarily what I am, if it’s a
negative perception...being uneducated and being illiterate
and not able to think and basically being an affirmative
action kind of a person. So those are the kinds of things that
I think make my job more difficult. Much more difficult
than white professors. And it’s unfortunate that the so-called
standardized evaluation process that we have been using in
colleges and universities does not take these things into con-
sideration. In fact, if you raise the subject, the college will
look at you like you’re crazy because they don’t deal with that.
And they’re actually being honest because they don’t under-
stand the sheer level of complexity on the part of the profes-
sor and the student in dealing with these kinds of issues. So
I’m not blaming my colleagues. I’m just saying they’re really
very ignorant. Ignorant about what goes on in my classes and
the extent to which I have to use measures above and beyond
what they have to use to even survive in the classroom.’
The reporter continued to nod in agreement and I read one more example
of classroom experiences with microaggressions. “This next one is a black
female chemistry professor. This very accomplished woman had little con-
fidence in her university and maintained even less confidence in herself.
She shared a pretty blatant example with us.” I found my place in the tran-
script and began to read, remembering vividly the pained expression on
this womans face as she shared this incident with us. “She said,
‘The first time I walked as an instructor into a classroom in a
large research university, I immediately experienced such a
racially stressful event. I wrote my name on the board,
turned around, and, to my utter dismay, a white male stu-
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dent was staring at me with contempt and holding up his
middle finger to me. ‘Can this be happening to me?’ I asked
myself. I began my lecture, but I was having an out-of-body
experience as the young man continued to stare at me in
contempt, still ‘shooting a bird’ until, finally, I could no
longer pretend that this was not happening. So I walked
slowly toward him and deliberately stared him straight in
the eye as I lectured. It was the longest walk. . . but it would
be one that I would repeat many times in the years to come,
in different circumstances.’
I flipped through the next few pages of the transcription to make sure
I was staying on track. I continued, “A few of the professors also shared
their experiences that follow in with the theme of a subtle yet stunning
and cumulative nature of racial microaggressions. And these here certainly
suggest that the cumulative effect of microaggressions is racial battle fa-
tigue. For example, a black male psychiatry professor who admitted to
having sleep broken by haunting conflict-specific dreams said,
‘What is it like to be a black person in white America today?
One step from suicide! The psychological warfare games that
we have to play every day just to survive. We have to be one
way in our communities and one way in the workplace or in
the business sector. We can never be ourselves all around. I
think that may be a given for all people, but us particularly;
it’s really a mental health problem. It’s a wonder we havent
all gone out and killed somebody or killed ourselves.’
I shared one last example of the overall cumulative effect of racial mi-
croaggressions with the reporter. “A black male psychiatry professor re-
porting insomnia and rapid breathing in anticipation of conflict,
explained,
‘If you can think of the mind as having 100 ergs of energy,
and the average man uses 50% of this energy dealing with
the everyday problems of the world—just general kinds of
things—then he has 50% more to do creative kinds of
things that he wants to do. Thats a white person. Now, a
black person also has 100 ergs. He uses 50% the same way a
white man does, dealing with what the white man has to
deal with, so he has 50% left. But he uses 25% fighting
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being black, with all the problems of being black in America
and what it means.’
And then I told the faculty, ‘So that’s what brings us to you today, to ask
humbly if you would share with us some of your stories so we can add
your voices to the testimony we give next month. We would like for these
folks to hear your story about the racial attacks—or what we call racial mi-
croaggressions—you may have had to endure just trying to be a black pro-
fessor on a white campus.” I paused from reading the transcript and
shared with the reporter the inspiring scene that followed. “One after an-
other, each professor in the room stood up to share stories of the racial mi-
croaggressions they faced on and around historically white campuses. We
could see as we had read the examples out loud that these professors were
realizing they were no longer struggling with incidents and symptoms of
racial battle fatigue in isolation, now they had a name for their pain. Al-
though some were hesitant to share their psychophysiological symptoms
in that large group setting, they noted that our dataset reflected their own
experiences and remarked that our thematic analysis had reached satura-
tion. Even Golightly conceded to experiencing racial microaggressions.
Although he tried to dismiss their effect on his personhood, I noticed he
tended to yawn and demonstrate extreme fatigue after drinking multiple
cups of black coffee.”
I smiled at the ever-patient reporter and said, “So there it is. The
meeting adjourned and each person stayed until they shared their experi-
ences. Chet was frustrated at the multiple experiences of racism his col-
leagues had been subjected to, but he didnt let too much of this anger
show. Instead, he assured them that their voices would be heard at the
meeting Monday the 6th. Many expressed doubt as we headed off campus
whether folks from the organizations and universities would really listen,
but they thanked me for organizing the meeting and they thanked Chet in
advance for bringing their stories and this research to such a forum.”
Will Institutions Listen to and Learn From Effects of Racism? Waiting
for an Update: April 7, 1972
So I left a message for Chet the morning of Friday, April 7th, to let him
know I had arrived safely from my red-eye flight from California and that
I’d see him at the association meeting shortly. I was anxious to hear about
any recent reports stemming from the meeting. I didn’t tell the reporter
that it was strange that he hadnt called to give me an update earlier, but I
didnt think much of it because I knew he believed his university phone
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and perhaps his home phone had been wiretapped. I also knew Chet usu-
ally volunteered at the hospital a few days a month and also visited the
prison hospital on occasion, so I figured he may have been busy. He would
often remind me of how he would much rather be involved in clinical
work, challenging racism as a kind of street therapist who helped young
black youth learn to recognize and respond to racial microaggressions be-
fore racism took its toll on their mental and physical health.9
I described to the reporter that the association meeting was scheduled
for every first Friday of the month while school was in session. “So since
we hadnt had our usual meeting in March, everyone was in attendance for
that April 7th meeting. Most of us assumed Chet would be on time in one
of his customary three-piece Brooks Brothers suits and his camel brown
Allen-Edmonds shoes, with his calming and reassuring smile despite how
grave the circumstances. By the time I got to Mather Hall at 11:50 a.m.,
the room was packed. Since no one had heard from Chet since last
Wednesday, members thought that he had been planning something spe-
cial in response to what was rumored to be disappointing news. At noon,
the Sergeant at Arms called the meeting to order but Chet did not show.”
The reporter asked me to pause briefly so she could start a new tape. I
took the opportunity to drink some tea as I noted to myself that recount-
ing the story today was the first time that a lump in my throat had not de-
veloped. My emotions had grown numb over the years thinking about the
racial microaggressions that I have continuously experienced. But I have
always gotten exceptionally angry when I think about how Chet was
treated.
Once the new tape was recording, I continued, “After waiting for 20
minutes we decided to check his office. Several colleagues volunteered to
join me and walk across campus to check on him. As we approached his
building, the Cambridge police met us in the hallway. They were looking
for Chet’s office. One of the Harvard faculty members said that we were
on our way to get him for a meeting and inquired what was wrong. An of-
ficer indicated that a missing persons report had been filed and they were
sent to investigate Dr. Toboa’s whereabouts. By this time there’s almost a
mob of folks heading up to Chet’s office. And of course there was no eleva-
tor in that building, so we were all crammed together going up the stairs to
the third floor! When we got there, the door was wide open. On his desk
was an opened envelope, with a return address labeled ‘Committee on
Campus and Community Culture and Climate.’ We learned this letter was
delivered via certified mail Tuesday, April 4th, but there was no letter to be
found. Instead, there was a note written on the back of the envelope, in what
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looked to be Chet’s writing. It referred to Supreme Court Justice Browns
opinion in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 and simply read: ‘It is only in
black people’s minds that racial conditions in America are oppressive.’10
I excused myself momentarily to refill my mug with hot water and
searched through my bag for another kava kava herb tea as the young re-
porter looked at the writing on the empty envelope, still sealed in the po-
lice protective covering. I brushed away a few tears as I stirred some honey
into my tea, lost in my thoughts for a moment before I sat back at the
table and continued. “Not much is really known about what happened to
Chet. The department secretary reportedly saw him when he picked up
his mail earlier that day. No one saw him leave his office or the building,
even though folks were there until late in the evening.”
“Noticing that there were various awards and certificates strewn all
over the floor, the police asked us not to touch anything, and I think that’s
what caused us to finally start getting scared that something may have
happened to Chet. So we were pretty much silent, almost frozen with fear
and concern, but you know, right then in the silence of the moment, we
heard Chet’s little transistor radio playing on the shelf.” I closed my eyes
and began to sing softly the song that was playing:
“People get ready there’s a train a comin’
Dont need no baggage, you just get on board”
I opened my eyes and saw a blank stare from the young reporter, so I ex-
plained that Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions recorded “People Get
Ready” in 1965. The song symbolically described how people felt in the
midst of the civil rights movement, that there was a train coming, that his-
tory was moving with a sense of inevitability. I continued singing:
“People get ready for the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em
There’s hope for all those that love Him most”
I paused again to explain that the song goes on from there to issue a warn-
ing, and I sang this part to the young reporter as well:
“There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For theres no hiding place from the Kingdoms throne.”
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I smiled thinking that since this interview was being recorded, someday
my singing might become part of an FBI file, as seemed to be the trend in
the last few years with many of my politically active friends. Realizing the
reporter was waiting for me to continue, I explained, “Well, as you might
imagine, the police quickly regained their composure and finished digging
around his office, asking each of us to ‘stay in touch.’ I walked with the
other faculty back to Mather Hall and broke the news to the larger group
that Chet had gone missing, and many of us were brought in for question-
ing over the next few weeks.”
The reporter thanked me for my time and confirmed my summer
contact information for possible follow-up questions. She noted that this
would probably be a series of articles. She hadnt connected the date Chet
received the certified letter, April 4th, with the anniversary of the assassi-
nation of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I was sure that would be a future
follow-up question. Both Dr. King and Dr. Toboa were about nonviolent,
peaceful resolutions. Both had visions of a better condition for all people.
Each tried to break down the same system, which took an ultimate toll on
each of their lives. I had learned not to worry too much about such
ironies, but deep down, I knew it was no coincidence.
Alice’s Epilogue
I walked to a small campus cafeteria to grab a quick bite before heading to
the airport. The interview had gone longer than I anticipated. Out of the
corner of my eye I saw a familiar face across the yard. It was the janitor I
had met in Chet’s building. I thought back to when the university decided
to move another professor into Chet’s office and asked me to prepare his
work for the archives. It had been such a short time since Chet’s disappear-
ance, yet the office was almost all cleaned out by the time I got there.
The janitor was sweeping up Chet’s office as I arrived. He smiled and
tipped his cap. Maybe he recognized my picture from one of Chets family
photos he used to have in his office, I dont know, but he knew who I was
immediately. Before leaving me to go through the stack of Chet’s papers, the
janitor handed me a small book that he said I might find useful. Given the
huge task before me, I didnt even open the book until a few hours later. I re-
alized it was Chet’s personal journal and I wondered how the janitor came
across it and why the police never mentioned it. I flipped through it briefly,
stopping at one of the pages titled “I almost killed a white man today.” Chet
sketched out a scene, which apparently took place at an airport, where a
white man verbally accosted him. He had just returned from a trip to Mc-
Curdo Base in the Antarctic, where he was studying how military personnel
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and scientists adapted and survived the stressors of extreme climates after a
year of residency. Chet had mentioned some of this early work to me, and
how he was comparing the extreme climates of Antarctica with the extreme
climates of racism that blacks had been trying to survive for centuries in the
Americas.11 I sighed, thinking of how Chet must have looked in his full-
grown beard, snow shoes in his bag, facing an extreme climate of hostility in
the Boston airport terminal. Certainly there have been multiple incidents he
described to me where he was belittled in front of colleagues with comments
like “When I was talking about those blacks, I didn’t mean you, you’re dif-
ferent,” or nonverbal exchanges such as being followed at the supermarket
or not served at a restaurant. One night he was detained while walking to his
apartment near Harvard. Police insisted that he “assume the position” be-
cause he “fit the description” of a burglar. I turned the pages to read a more
recent journal entry. It was apparently inspired by the poem “Whitey on the
moon,” by Gil Scott-Heron.12 Most of the lines had been edited from the
original poem.
Whitey needs more room
Those rats done sent us all to hell, ’cause Whitey needs more room
Bit my sister then wished her well, ’cause Whitey needs more room
Cant live in those precious hills, ’cause Whitey needs more room
Ten years from now still taking pills, ’cause Whitey needs more room
No relief from the front-line, Black
One step forward 10 steps back
Feel my blood pressure going up
And as if all that crap wasnt enough
Those rats done sent us all to hell, ’cause Whitey needs more room
Bit my sister then wished her well, ’cause Whitey needs more room
Never got our 40 acres and a mule, ’cause Whitey needs more room!
Need national guards just to go to school? Hmm. . . only Whitey’s in
the room!
You know I’ve just about had my fill of Whitey needing room
I think I’d like to take my shot and send Whitey—Pow! Bang!
Zoom!—to the moon.
Thinking back now about that creative entry, I marveled at Chet’s multi-
ple hidden talents. For me, the journal was a gentle reminder that things
are never quite what they seem. I waved at the janitor, hoping he might
have a moment and walk over. The janitor smiled and tipped his cap, but
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headed in the opposite direction. My questions would have to wait be-
cause I knew the plane would not. As I hailed a taxi to the airport, I real-
ized that something in the janitor’s smile back when he gave me Chet’s
journal and again today gave me an unexplainable sense of calm. The
gloomy feelings I had from recounting so many memories of Chet began
to ease, like the Boston sky, where the sun had finally broken through the
cloud cover only to begin its descent into the horizon.
Discussion_____________________________________________
Through this counterstory, we introduce the concepts of microaggressions
and racial battle fatigue as a way to examine some of the implications of
racism on the health and lifespan of faculty of color in historically white col-
leges and universities.
Our counterstory characters confirm that a few or even one microaggres-
sion may cause serious emotional and physical stress. Yet as Carroll (1998) re-
minds us, in a society plagued by racism, people of color endure a lifetime of
mundane, extreme, environmental stress. In this context, people of color ex-
pend a tremendous amount of psychological energy managing and negotiat-
ing microaggressions.
The counterstory examines some of the effects of racial microaggressions
on faculty of color by allowing brief entry into a moment in the lives of two
composite characters—Professors Canon and Toboa. The composite charac-
ters analyze and personify data on racial battle fatigue. Indeed, as the black
faculty recount their individual experiences with racial microaggressions, their
collective experiences begin to demonstrate how a lifetime of microaggressions
and their corresponding cumulative stress leads to racial battle fatigue. The
psychophysiological symptoms of racial battle fatigue may cause lowered self-
esteem, social withdrawal from perceived racial stressors, and many negative
health complications, which can diminish one’s quality of life and even
shorten one’s lifespan. The research presented through the counterstory shows
that faculty of color report various psychophysiological symptoms as a result
of battling an accumulation of racial microaggressions on historically white
college and university campuses. Lomas (2003) explains that this tradition of
listening to and recounting testimonios (life experiences) of subordinated
groups can transform both the storytellers and listeners/readers. She asserts
that “in making sense of the text as a whole the reader is forced to go outside
the text itself and examine the real world in relation to the text” (pp. 2–3). In
format and content, the counterstory told in this chapter attempts to build on
the transformative capacity of narratives.
Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue on Historically White Campuses 321
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This chapter and counterstory show that people of color experience racial
microaggressions, but the cumulative effect of this seemingly innocuous form of
racism—racial battle fatigue—remains underresearched. Without further re-
search in this area, the racial battle fatigue symptoms experienced by people of
color will remain misdiagnosed or even dismissed. As historically white colleges
and universities maintain structural barriers that deny access to students of color
while perpetuating a discourse of tolerance and diversity, racial microaggressions
and ensuing racial battle fatigue will continue to be an area in need of study. For
example, research should address some of the coping mechanisms people of
color engage in response to racial microaggressions and racial battle fatigue.
CRT, with its epistemological insistence on recognizing the knowledges of
people of color and methodological flexibility in utilizing counternarratives,
represents a useful framework for challenging both macro and micro forms of
racism in education. Counterstorytelling holds pedagogical potential in its ac-
cessible story format embedded with critical conceptual and theoretical con-
tent. CRT counterstories can foster community building among subordinated
groups by recognizing shared experiences with racism, sexism, classism, and
other forms of subordination. The evidence is clear: External stressors can per-
manently alter physiological functioning. For people of color, racism increases
the degree of stress that one endures and this directly correlates to the physio-
logical arousal that is an indicator of stress-related diseases (Smith, 2004b). It
is our humble hope that this counterstory and the painful realities of racial
battle fatigue shared herein can help strengthen traditions of social, political,
and cultural survival and resistance.
Endnotes
1) Each interview is from one of four data sources and has been slightly edited only
to reflect the language use of the era: Feagin and Sikes (1994), Harlow (2003),
Smith (1993–2005), and Smith (2004b).
2) We acknowledge that our own racialized, gendered, and classed experiences in-
form this counterstory. We do not purport to be neutral or objective in the
process of sifting through the data and finding themes and patterns.
3) We use historically white institutions instead of predominantly white institutions
to distinguish that the gross numbers or percentages of white students have less to
do with the majority populations than with the historical and contemporary
racial infrastructure that is in place, the current campus racial culture and ecol-
ogy, and how these modern-day institutions still benefit whites at the expense of
blacks and other groups of color.
322 Faculty of Color
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4) While the early 1970s were rife with very real racial violence and scandalous
headlines, the headlines listed here are fictitious.
5) See Pierce (1975, 1995).
6) We humbly and gratefully borrow the character of Professor Gleason Golightly
from Chapter 9 of Bell (1992). Such a conservative “minority” viewpoint up-
holds white privilege by blindly clinging to the majoritarian story while dismiss-
ing the lived reality of people of color. Although whites most often tell
majoritarian stories, people of color often buy into and even tell majoritarian sto-
ries. Being a “minority” majoritarian storyteller such as Golightly often means re-
ceiving benefits provided by those with racial, gender, and/or class privilege.
7) See Citizens Commission on Human Rights (1995).
8) See Citizens Commission on Human Rights (1995).
9) See Pierce (1970).
10) We paraphrase Justice Brown’s majority opinion of the court in Plessy v. Ferguson,
163 U.S. 537, 538 (1896).
11) See Carroll (1998).
12) For the original poem, see Scott-Heron (2001).
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Chicanas/os are part of the youngest, largest, and fastest growing racial/ethnic 'minority' population in the United States, yet at every schooling level, they suffer the lowest educational outcomes of any racial/ethnic group. Using a 'counterstorytelling' methodology, Tara Yosso debunks racialized myths that blame the victims for these unequal educational outcomes and redirects our focus toward historical patterns of institutional neglect. She artfully interweaves empirical data and theoretical arguments with engaging narratives that expose and analyse racism as it functions to limit access and opportunity for Chicana/o students. By humanising the need to transform our educational system, Yosso offers an accessible tool for teaching and learning about the problems and possibilities present along the Chicano/a educational pipeline.
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The status of civil rights in the United States today is as volatile an issue as ever, with many Americans wondering if new laws, implemented after the events of September 11, restrict more people than they protect. How will efforts to eradicate racism, sexism, and xenophobia be affected by the measures our government takes in the name of protecting its citizens? Richard Delgado, one of the founding figures in the Critical Race Theory movement, addresses these problems with his latest book in the award-winning Rodrigo Chronicles. Employing the narrative device he and other Critical Race theorists made famous, Delgado assembles a cast of characters to discuss such urgent and timely topics as race, terrorism, hate speech, interracial relationships, freedom of speech, and new theories on civil rights stemming from the most recent war. In the course of this new narrative, Delgado provides analytical breakthroughs, offering new civil rights theories, new approaches to interracial romance and solidarity, and a fresh analysis of how whiteness and white privilege figure into the debate on affirmative action. The characters also discuss the black/white binary paradigm of race and show why it persists even at a time when the country's population is rapidly diversifying.
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The minority (nonwhite) can tell stories about institutional practices in academia that result in unintended benefits for the majority (white). One institutional practice in academia is affirmative action. This article presents a story about a minority applicant for a sociology position and his referral to an affirmative action program for recruiting minority faculty. One reason for telling the story is to illustrate how an affirmative action program can be implemented in a manner that marginalizes minority persons in the faculty recruitment process and results in benefits for majority persons. Another reason for telling the story is to sound an alarm for majority and minority faculty who support affirmative action programs that the programs can fall short of their goals if their implementation is simply treated as a bureaucratic activity in academia.