Dr Boyce Watkins: How the black scholar’s voice is suffocated by racism in academia
by Dr Boyce Watkins
I was thinking the other day about my days teaching at Syracuse University. I thought about the days when I started off as a naive young scholar, believing that I could change the world behind the walls of the Ivory Tower. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the same rules of racism and white supremacy not only apply in academia, they are actually magnified.You see, many scholars and academic departments run a little like the United States prison system and the NCAA, two other organizations that exist without much governmental oversight. In all three venues, racism often runs unchecked, and there isn’t much recourse for those who are consistently marginalized by institutional culture that is inherently built on an undeniable belief in black inferiority.
Rather than being embraced for having new ideas and objectives, young black scholars are treated like uninvited guests into someone else’s home or like intellectual orphans who should be happy to be given a place to live. When I was in the business school at Syracuse University, they hadn’t, at that time, given tenure to one single African American in over 100 years of operating history. The Ku Klux Klan could not have had a worse hiring record.
The problem for us as black folks is that we REALLY NEED our scholars. We need them solving critical problems in our communities. We need them speaking out on important issues. we need them writing about topics that matter, instead of suffocating under the reign of intellectual babysitters who’ve imperialized their agenda. When our scholars disappear, the black community loses. The fact is that about 98% of our PhDs are nowhere to be seen when it comes to dealing with things that actually matter to their people.
I made this video to describe my experience with white supremacy in academia with the hope that it helps someone else. The truth is that the chains of Blackademia won’t disappear unless you cut them off. Sometimes, you may also have to cut off your own foot in the process.