From Anita Allen: “People get discouraged from making certain efforts where opportunity is limited by forces of history, traditions, social roles and stereotypes. If my daughter wanted to become a philosopher, she would need to hear words of encouragement similar to what she would need to hear if she wanted to become a plumber, heart surgeon or politician: It is very hard for women, even harder for African-American women, but you are smart and strong enough to do it, and I am here to help you.”
Stories about treatment of African American women in academia:
“My dissertation chairman was Richard Brandt. Once after I had earned the doctorate and was meeting with him, he stood over me, lifted my chin toward him and remarked that I looked like a maid his family once employed. Around the same time, early in the Ronald Reagan administration, an effort was made to rid Washington of the sex trade and shops that flourished along the 14th Street corridor a few blocks from the White House. I worked in nearby McPherson Square at the National Endowment for the Humanities and, as a volunteer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. One day I was walking near my office with a white male friend, a philosopher at an Ivy League university. We were stopped by the police, who profiled us as a hooker and john. I had to answer questions and show ID.
Is the denigration of black women philosophers a thing of decades past? Are we beyond being asked to fetch coffee for department chairs and worse? Regrettably, no. In October 2017 a very senior Harvard-educated white male philosopher, whose wife is also an academic, wrote to me seeking feedback on an op-ed he hoped to submit to The New York Times or The Washington Post. He did not like my feedback. He ended an email lamenting his failure to get anything more than “duncical shit” as feedback on his work by letting me know that he had recently imagined seeing my face in the photographs he used in masturbation! Incredible, right? I wrote back to explain why I was offended and to sever ties. I assume that if such a thing could happen to me, some very, very serious harassment and racism must be happening to young women in the field.”
There is, justifiably, more visibility in American culture these days on the inequity of opportunity for people of color. Over the centuries, it has been primarily white men who controlled access and opportunity to careers, wealth, adventure, education, etc. But women, and women of color, are rising in fields and need to be heard. They have a unique perspective. So checking out the work of these women would be valuable!