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"Rich tokens": The Recrljitment and Retention of Women-of-Color Historians Brenda E. Stevenson The "double-minority'' label has created certain challenges for the woman-of-color historian which has had an undeniable impact on her role in the academy as a scholar, teacher and colleague. While this discussion addresses some of the pressing issues surrounding the preparation, hiring and retention of women-of-color faculty, it is not a canvass of all of them, nor does it originate from a dehberate, systematic compilation of documentary information. Rather, it is derived from personal and impressionistic sources, informal surveys of students and faculty, and varying evidence of recruitment strategies and priorities. Some of the most significant problems women-of-color faculty face center on popular perceptions of them as double-minority professionals. For scholars, the indictment begins early. I do not recall, for example, the number of times I was informed that I would have no problem finding a job once I had completed my graduate studies, regardless of my qualifications , because I was an African-American female, a "double minority." Suddenly, or so my colleagues would have me believe, to be black and female no longer meant having two strikes against me. As far as they were concerned, it meant my automatic success on the job market. Even then I was struck by the great irony this situation presented. While I endeavored to work as hard as possible in order to eliminate racist and sexist obstacles that were obvious to me, others, who did not face these same road blocks, angrily assumed that I was less capable or less diligent than they, but would acquire greater rewards. Bigotry again had raised its ugly head in the minds of supposed friends and foe alike. These haunting scenarios from graduate school still come to mind because the specter of the "double minority," and the debilitating problems which accompany it, follow women-of-color historians into and, I daresay, throughout our professional careers. Thus, while in the last several years the numbers of bright, energetic, well-trained historians, who also happen to be women of color, entering the professional world of academia has increased, many still face profound obstacles for successful integration into university departments. Behefs and fears about the "double minority" are due in large measure to the degree of tokenism in which elite universities invest when choosing women of color as graduate students and as faculty. Our small numbers, coupled with the great attention the even smaller amount of available affirmative action positions has received, produce an © 1993 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 4 No. 3 (Winter) 1993 TRENDS: BRENDA E. STEVENSON 153 exaggerated impression that women of color are overwhelmingly successful in the academic job market, and only because of our ethnicity/race and gender. There seems to be no certain way to end these misconceptions or the conditions which foster them. The two most popular solutions have both proven to be problematic. One possible answer, for example, would be to increase the numbers of minority women admitted to and, hopefully, completing graduate programs; thereby providing the academic market with a larger number of applicants. Others mandate that search committees do away with race and gender as significant descriptive variables when seeking and evaluating candidates. The long history of racism and sexism operative in the academy, however, which traditionally has meant the exclusion and/or invisibility of the "other," has hampered the success of the first suggestion and completely invalidates the second. Only 508 African -American women, for example, claimed Ph.D. degrees in any field in 1990 out of the 36,027 awarded. Within the history profession, women of color traditionally have represented the smallest cohorts, only claiming between 20 and 38 percent of the Ph.D. degrees awarded to members of their race or ethnicity during the last fifteen years.1 The continual heated debates and retrenchment regarding affirmative action policies for both student and faculty recruitment in the face of such sobering statistics amply document the kind of discouraging opposition suggested here. Those who fundamentally oppose diversification in the academy attempt to undermine the intellectual promise of minority students and the professional credibility of women-of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 152-156
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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