..White Mask, Black Mask. How BLACK is it in Higher Education?

Сәлем!

That is hello in Kazakhstan. I see you guys! Thank you so much for reading. Kisses.

Hope you guys had an amazing weekend!

Yes – I was out again. But only on Sunday.  I was a good girl and went hard with my work last week.

Before I get on to the main gist of today’s post – Black in Higher Education,  let me tell you about Sunday brunch at Mama Leah’s.

Mama Leah’s is an American/Nigerian restaurant in Old Kent Road. Oh. My. Days. I don’t think  I have a single complaint about this place, honestly. The interior is just 💋. (There are some pictures below..) it’s one of those restaurants that you know thought went into. It was your average, open a restaurant and just put chairs-people-will come-kinda-place. Nah.

The arrangement, the setting – the food. Superb. Honestly, for once, I really have zero complaints. The chef – they just need to give me his number so when I move into that big mansion of mine, I have unlimited choices! I recommend their sweet chilli prawns. Oooh boy!!

OK – The Post.

Soo!! On Sunday, there was a twitter discussion about being Black in Higher Education. Although I have blogged about this previously (see Here..). This post is not another one – It is just an opportunity to share Sunday’s experience with you.

So,just what is the problem?

The discussion was sparked by an article on this website, Black Ballad. First and foremost, I have to say thank you them. Thank you for bringing this issue to light and creating a twitter discussion. Thank you for not sweeping it under the carpet – and thank you for giving people the opportunity to share their experiences.

The Article:

Investigating The Strained Relationship Between British Higher Education And Blackness

Interesting Title – Very deep discussion. I won’t bore you with a regurgitated summary – please check it out and see for yourself, HERE. Also, check out the discussion on Twitter – #BlackinHE You will see some thought provoking comments.

The problem is as black people, we are under represented. Pure and Simple. There is no logic about it and there is no calculated response. In the post I indicated above from earlier this year, I mentioned that a survey showed there were only 85 black professors in the  UK. 17 of those are women. Whoops – OUT OF 18,500. Yes boo – EIGHTEEN THOUSAND. You don’t believe me? Please, google it. Respected sources by the way. I won’t quote and then get people hounding me later. There have even been seminars held on it. Go and google it.

So a few questions spring to mind.

1. By this statistic, are we to believe that of all the academics that work in the UK Higher Education system, only 85 are good enough to rise to the position of Professor?

2. Going by the above figure, would it then be correct to assert that from that 85, there are only 17  women “good enough” to be Professors? *Sigh*

3. It is 2015. I am beyond disgusted that this can even be happening in this era!

I don’t know about you, but this seems to not only be a ridiculous figure, but it seems to be one which really emphasises that Black people are having a hard time being recognized for  their hard work.  It is just another confirmation that academic merit is clearly not the criteria, evidently.

Some of the tweets I came across – over shocking, but true. Let me give you an example which is close to home for me. I know of one Lecturer who has been bypassed for Senior Lecturer position, several times. Now let me tell you – this Lecturer’s publication list is NOT a joke. This lecturer has written books that have probably helped you in your law degree.  And to make matters worse, he is a BRILLIANT legal mind.

This under representation is not just in academia though. It is evident, EVERYWHERE. There is a difference in ‘saying’ you’re diverse and ‘being seen to promote’ diversity.

Diversity is not about adding one or two Black/Asians to EastEnders and saying you are “diverse”. It is not about accepting ONE black person to Oxford or Cambridge and saying you’re ‘diverse’. No boo boo cakes. It is about inclusion. It is about someone being qualified for a role. It about recognising that someone is actually qualified for a position. I refuse to accept that there are only 85 Black Scholars who are qualified for the Professorship in the UK. Let’s leave academia to one side and place this under representation / Issue of Colour into another context.

Just today, I saw a photo tweeted online of a Nike Advert. Surprise, Surprise, Serena Williams was in it. BUT – she was in the background ( to borrow this term) like an “extra”. See for yourself:

Maria Sharapova was joined by a host of fellow tennis stars on the streets of New York on Monday to recreate Nike's famous 90s advert

I really want you guys to stretch your minds and see the message that this picture is sending out. I am not blaming the photographer – I will just break it down for you in general speak to paint a picture of what it’s saying. Here goes :

1.So as a photographer, you have one black person in the entire picture – does it  not make more sense to bring that individual to the forefront so illuminate the picture?

2. Serena has a strong masculine (I often hear her described this way, no disrespect intended..) figure and she is wearing a bright dress. You leave her in the back, with the car door covering her. Oh, ok cool.

3. The other people in the picture that are wearing illuminating items, for example, bright orange trainers, you bring them to the forefront. Oh, I see that. No – that makes sense.

4. So in trying to help a brand (in this case Nike) re- create a commercial, the best positioning is this:

Lets put Serena Williams, ranked the #1 Tennis player in the world (women’s) and place her in the back like she is an extra. No-one will notice. Hold up boo boo- I thought she won the French Open recently. Oh she isn’t? Oh, she didn’t? Whoops, maybe I got it wrong. My apologies.

I rest my case for today on this matter.

To wrap up: 

Let me leave you with some thoughts.

I would never discourage anyone that decides to do a PhD – you guys know me to be a big advocate for that. However, keep your eyes wide open as you go in. It is NOT BEANS. It won’t be handed to you on a plate. You will be qualified for positions, and you may get bypassed for someone who is less qualified, but a different colour. You may have publications that reach the ceiling and still get bypassed for the blue eyed boo boo cakes. Prepare your mind but most importantly, prepare yourself. It is a long journey.

I’m  trying my best to apply some diplomacy here. You guys get the picture.

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, a PhD is NOT a passport to Professorship. It isn’t even a passport for Academia.  If you need a recap – read it HERE. You can see from the statistics above that those who are there at present are not finding it funny. Having said that, I also do not want to discourage you. I mean, I am on this journey and I knew what I was getting myself into. I am just trying to get you guys to see what I see. Oh, did I tell you I was the only black person GIRL in my department. Oh – well there you have it. Just like I was saying to my friend Claudette ( I see you girrrrrrrl! *kissess*) yesterday –

“We aren’t breaking these academic barriers to success, simply to prove a point. No no baby girl. That defeats the objective. WE are just coming to take everything you think we are “ineligible” for!”

Finally – please check out Black Ballad. I came across this website a few days ago and honestly – it’s fab. The website discusses Culture, Fashion, Beauty – particularly aimed at the “Black Woman.” I have even picked up a few things to improve my Sunday-Service-Big-Girl-Oppression- Outfits LOLLLL!!

I know you guys would love it.

You guys have a nice day now!

Kisses

*Nike image from Google.

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Fols ✌

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