Wednesday, June 15, 2016


After spending over thirty years at CCNY and during my last year as a lecturer and project director, I organized a conference on multiligualism, the education of indigenous groups, and speakers of “minority” languages. Representatives from indigenous communities and educators working in the northern part of Quebec and in the Yucatán region of Mexico were invited to speak to students and faculty. It was my last year at the College (am I glad I left that place!). To my surprise, one of my colleagues in the Bilingual Teacher Education Education Program 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 and her obvious racism where the people of color were dismissed without any sense of shame or reflection on her actions.

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 the role of minority administrators, much less with an out of he closet Puerto Rican gay man. Had I been straight, my sense is that she would have acted quite differently.  For the colleague, listening to the European speaking about minorities was more important than the direct educational experiences and ideas of "Indians" from Mexico and Quebec. As a gay 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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