Sunday, March 4, 2012

CCNY and Diversity

During my last semester at CCNY I organized a conference on the education of indigenous groups, speakers of “minority” languages. Representatives from these communities and educators working in the northern part of Quebec and in the Yucatan region of Mexico were invited to speak to students and faculty. To my surprise, one of my colleagues decided to ask the same students to attend a conference given by a European linguist at a different university. But to be undermined in my role as director of the special teacher education project working with the same students was/is less important than my "very progressive" colleague's limited understanding of what diversity was/is all about.

It seemed as if for her, a white faculty member teaching courses on multiculturalism, diversity had to do with students and not with speakers or minority administrators. For the colleague, listening to the European was more important than the direct educational experiences and ideas of "Indians" from Mexico and Quebec. As a Puerto Rican at CCNY I had my share of both explicit and implicit race related ideas and actions, but this time I was not only undermined by a white colleague but the students were told that it was more important to listen to some European speaking about minority languages than to some colored peoples' ideas and experiences. Racism can take very strange forms. Sad, very sad indeed.

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