- Defining MomentsSpeaking Up For and Speaking Out Against
Unbelievably, it has been nearly 25 years that i stood staring out the windows of a fancy upscale country club restaurant located on the top floor of an international bank in the tallest building downtown. I was desperately seeking some semblance of familiarity to quiet the rising fears and assure me that I had not landed in the middle of nowhere in this West Texas city.
It was a beautiful spring April afternoon and I had stolen away for just mere moments from a wonderful, delightful, and charming group of people, who were eager to welcome me to their faculty and to the College of Education. I had received several offers from other universities across the country to join the faculty, but this college genuinely courted me. This was an all-White faculty, yet everyone (including the Dean) seemed excited about my credentials, experience, research focus, and passion about diversity.
Even being a few doors away from the group, I could still hear the laughter, easy conversation that flowed evenly throughout our dining room, the clinking of glasses, and feel the camaraderie of people who already felt more like friends than colleagues.
I have been a multicultural child of the world for more than 40 years, a citizen of multiculturalism for 25 years, and a social justice activist scholar and servant for the last 15 years. On this multicultural journey, I have become angrier, more impatient, more radical, and more revolutionary toward counseling, education, life, privilege, human arrogance, and the historical abuses of women and girls, people of color, and other groups of people who have been marginalized, oppressed, and have suffered. Yet, I am humbler and more hopeful, forgiving, grateful and gracious, kind, and inclusive than ever before.
Yes, nearly 25 years ago, I took that job as a tenured track faculty member. I became a counselor educator. I entered the academy with the vengeance [End Page 107] of a West Texas dust storm—pumped-up, a combination of tumultuous and forceful energy committed to making a strong difference in the world. I felt powerful, almost incorrigible and poised and prepared to shake it up like the big dust storms that periodically rush and engulf the South Plains of West Texas.
In class, semester after semester, I passionately spit out aphorisms of bits and pieces of counseling philosophy quilted from the wisdoms of my experiences and those of counseling icons such as Carl Rogers to my counseling students: "Spirituality is that which you do to be okay when you are not okay;" "It is one thing to be put yourself in someone else's place, and another thing to be there; Empathy is being there." "Entering the inner world of a client is a sacred journey, and you must enter unobtrusively and leave it as you find it;" and "You can't take anybody any farther than you have been."
These words set the tone for my students on what it meant to be a counselor and to remind them that the human spirit is priceless and fragile, and of their responsibility to tread with caution and respect and a sense of awe for its amazing resiliency.
Regrettably, the laughter, clinking of glasses, and camaraderie lasted about two years, and little by little, my heavenly experience became a living hell. I had literally entered a war. In actuality, I was an African American woman immersed in a culture of deceit, arrogant chauvinism, and White privilege. I was unprepared for confronting White supremacy and patriarchy, foolishly naïve and ignorant, and perhaps blind to those silent toxic diabolical forces innate to academe—the ones that in time launched an assassination on my confidence, spirit, and integrity—mercilessly stripping me of love of life.
I vividly remember the day Debra (a White female colleague) took me to lunch at a nice upscale restaurant under the guise of offering me mentoring and feedback on my progress as a junior faculty member. The food was fabulous, and conversation was uplifting and affirming. She gave me lots of kudos for my research, service, and teaching and my making progress toward...