Monday, September 15, 2014

For Black Graduate Students, Does Pursuing an Advanced Degree Matter After Ferguson? (Vitae)

Unlike their white and Asian peers, black graduate students must grapple with how does their intellectual work matter when society views blacks, particularly black men, with contempt. Several black PhD students struggle with balancing their intellectual pursuits and urge to engage in activism -- service that could enhance their research and personal development as emerging minority scholars in academe. These concerns -- what does it mean to be black on campus and in America? should students ignore or fight against systemic racism? -- adds stress, anxiety, and fear.

Watching and reading about the killing of Michael Brown—followed by the indelible scenes of tear-gas canisters and armored tanks—she looked down at her research on theoretical cosmology and thought to herself: “I can’t do this.”

“Who cares about cosmic inflation during the first seconds of the universe’s existence when black people are getting shot left and right by police officers and vigilantes?” she remembers thinking. “I felt guilty. I wanted to go to Ferguson. I wanted to be a body in the streets and a barrier between the police and my people.”

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