3 Things Your WOC Professor Wonders Constantly
1. Is that student just having a bad day, or is he a white supremacist?
I’ve had white male students slam the door on me when I take them aside because they’re been disruptive.
I’ve had white male students complain to senior white professors about me.
I’ve had white male students try to intimidate me with their physical size, when they are not happy.
I’ve had white male students ask me after our first class, “Are you Chinese or Japanese?”
I’ve had white male students do all this, while my white colleagues would say, “oh no, him? He’s a GREAT student. He loves me so much!”
Don’t worry, it’s not just white men.
I’ve also had a Singaporean Chinese male student complain to me (while I was teaching in Singapore) that I was “overreliant” on postcolonial perspectives when teaching literature. (Singapore is a postcolonial country.)
2. Am I being somehow treated differently by my colleagues because of my perceived race/ethnicity?
Why did the university-wide grants committee award my senior colleague a sabbatical for a non-peer reviewed blog, and then threaten to take away my promised sabbatical when I replaced a co-authored monograph book contract with a prestigious university press with a single authored monograph book contract for my sabbatical project?
Why did my white, and white identifying colleagues celebrate when my white colleague had a baby on her sabbatical, but treat my forming Sabbatical Beauty on sabbatical as the ultimate betrayal?
3. Was I somehow treated differently by my white or white-identifying graduate school professors because of my race/ethnicity?
Why is it — that although I, by conventional R1 standards, was the most successful one from my graduate school cohort (before I quit academia anyway) — none of my white professors thought I was worthy of a fellowship?
Even though, unlike their three white male students from my cohort, I won every. single.(internal) graduate. fellowship. that I applied for?
I was also surprised that none of the ones who had taught me who I had asked also refused to give me a letter of recommendation after I graduated.
Also, when my former advisor invited me to give a talk at my alma mater, she could only get $100 out of the chair of my former department.
Three years after that $100 talk, I received a speaking fee of $2000 to give another talk at my alma mater, just with a different department.
Did this treatment also extend to having missed out on various opportunities while I was a student?
One would have substantially helped me in ways that I can’t even identify now, because it’s a life I’ve not lived?
Adeline Koh, Ph.D. is a former tenured professor. Her fields were postcolonial digital humanities, race and gender in postcolonial and digital spaces etc., before she quit because she was sick of always asking herself the questions above. Follow along the collection Yes, You Can Have A Ph.D. and Be Racist AF here. She quit in 2017 and is now living her best life with Sabbatical Beauty and Boss Foundations.
I’ll update this blog as I think of more things. If you want to publish something for the collection, please submit to it. Instructions on how to submit to a Medium Collection here.
In the meantime, please do share this content if it moved you. I appreciate it.
P.S. The trolling has begun. I will block all trolls; please post responses to them in comments 🙏🏽 (This isn’t your pity party, sorry trolls)