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Fuck being nice.

Negroes, Sweet and docile, Meek, humble and kind: Beware the day They change their mind! Wind In the cotton fields, Gentle Breeze: Beware the hour It uproots trees!

photograph of Tolbert Ann Dukes, my maternal grandmother

I've had enough...

Last night, my white professor decided that he wanted to read the word Nigger aloud to a classroom full of Black students on the campus of a Historically Black University.

I'm not going to get into all of the reasons that it's problematic as the fuck. I'm not going to tell anybody else how they need to feel about it...

But to sit in a classroom full of Black scholars, and to watch the uncomfortable bodies shifting accompanied by subtle whispers, all while not hearing one person speak up about his poor decision...made me sick...


Sweet and docile,

Meek, humble and kind:

Beware the day

They change their mind!

Because race is a social construct and Blackness isn't monolithic, I sat with my own feelings for a minute to really unpack whether I was going to address him in that moment, some other time, or at all...I hop on Google to find articles about best practices, trying to find different ways to address this...I missed the remainder of the lecture because I needed to know what the fuck to do in this instance...

Much to my chagrin, I found no fucking helpful answers... and I realized in THAT MOMENT that I had to listen to myself...I had to let my emotions tell me what the issue was so that I could properly address it.

For the rest of class, my body was so fucking tight, but I decided to address him at the end by asking to speak with him after class.

Wind In the cotton fields,

Gentle Breeze:

Beware the hour

It uproots trees!

We walked to his office, and the conversation commenced. Trying to be "professional" and "non-combative," I watched myself try to mold the words in a way that didn't challenge him. I was policing my own voice, and my blood began to boil. I heard several internal voices, rushing me with questions.

"Why are you biting your tongue?"

"Why are you allowing him to explain himself?"

"Why are you trying to be diplomatic about this?"

"Why didn't you break his ass down like a simple muhfucking fraction in that classroom?"

"Why are you so bothered by this?"

"He that angers you, controls you."

"What do you hope to achieve with this conversation?"

"How will this affect your ability to safely navigate this space?"

"Is this worth the energy?"

"What will it matter if you say nothing?"

"Why didn't anybody speak up?"

"Did you hear how easily he read it aloud?"

"Did you see how he assumed that it wasn't an issue?"

"Is this really an issue? Are you being too sensitive?"

"Is this trying to police someone else because I don't feel empowered in this space?" "Are you really going to allow his poor decision to affect your decision to be well?"

With every question, I felt the heat in my body rise. I'd been hot since the words fell out of his gahdamn mouth and the room of my colleagues remained silent.

I try to breathe deeply into my root chakra, so that I can slow down these voices and find my stillness.

But the heat is rising in my body, and my solar plexus and sacral chakras are literally on fire.

I breathe once more, and begin to speak...

Tapping into that corporate shit (aka that codeswitching passive aggressive ass inauthentic language) that I mastered during my time with MAC... I start formulating the "can you explain to me how?" "will you describe your intentions when?" questions...When all I really needed to scream in that moment was

WHAT IN THE ENTIRE FUCK were you thinking?

But instead, I hear myself softly ask "Can you please explain your professional and pedagogical practices regarding teaching historically challenging information? Particularly, what is your best practice for exploring texts that are riddled with problematic language?"

"Why are you being so fucking polite?"

"Sweet and docile, Meek, humble and kind...what a joke."

"Aren't you fucking tired of code switching?"

"Why aren't you lighting his ass the fuck up right fucking now?!"

I hear these thoughts bellowing disruptively in my mind. So much so that I'm concerned that my actual sentiments are emanating from my body and written all over my face. If looks could fucking kill...

He begins to shift uncomfortably in his seat, much like the students he failed to acknowledge during his class discussion..Shifting and searching for the precise words to quell this energetic storm that's brewing.

"Well, I typically allow the voice of the author to speak and therefore make no adjustments to reading the text."

Sounds about white...

image from my FB memories- 2015ishl

Maynnnnnnnnne fuck this shit...

"Although I'm not the representative on all things Black, I'd like to encourage you to examine the aspects of your identity that you may inadvertently be expressing in a privileged way. Particularly the aspects that directly impact your students. I took absolute issue with your decision to read the word, as it had no relevance to the discussion at hand. More importantly, it's disheartening to watch you, as an informed scholar, to fail to recognize how your position of power (as a professor) and your racial identity contributes to the systemic structures in academia and society that support the oppression and disrespect of others. Perhaps reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed might be a great place to start in terms of examining the dynamics of power as it pertains to your role as a professor at an HBCU. At no point, did you examine how your race and role in the classroom, in combination with this reading this and others, affects your students, their engagement in the course, and their ability to learn in a SAFE environment. Moving forward, I would ask that you, as our professor, make time to teach the material beyond your comfort zone, while examining how aspects of your identity influence your perception about what matters and what is appropriate. Take time to convey the significance of the texts from different theoretical perspectives AND be mindful of how these novels that we're discussing are ACTUAL people's experiences, that continue to impact the very lives of the same Black and Brown students that you sit before.

He says some more shit, but I'm pissed and trying to hold back the tears that are sitting in the bottom of my throat. He eventually mentions that "...this has NEVER been an issue in any of his other classes...

and my blood continues to boil as I try my damnedest to not talk crazy... but I continue...

"I hope that I'm not being presumptive by assuming that you are an ally because of your affiliation with an HBCU, however part of being an ally is recognizing how you, whether purposefully or inadvertently, contribute to students' success and ability to learn beyond your personal purview. As a Black woman, I've historically been responsible for knowing your shit, my shit, their shit, and our shit AND how to bridge gaps between all of it. I don't want to do that in this program, and that is what I mean when I say that your privilege as a white tenured male professor is showing."

At this point, my face is swollen and tears are pooling in my eyes... and I don't give a fuck.

He shifts some more in his seat, rests his hands thoughtfully across his chin and finally makes some soft utters about taking this into consideration...I honestly didn't listen. I couldn't. I wouldn't let him give me some generic ass response... He talked briefly, but I knew I needed to excuse myself.

I thanked him for being open to the feedback, and gathered my things, only to walk out and see my classmates gathered, wanting to know what came of the discussion... but all I could do was weep. I am still sad. I am upset. I feel hopeless. I am tired of explaining.

Negroes, Sweet and docile, Meek, humble and kind: Beware the day They change their mind! Wind In the cotton fields, Gentle Breeze: Beware the hour It uproots trees!

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