It is necessary to question the presence of people in color in the academy as an unquestioned good. Does tenuring more native or ethnic studies scholars necessarily contribute to a decolonized academy, or does it serve to further retrench a colonial academic system by multiculturalizing it? Does our position in the academy help our communities or does it enable us to engage in what Cathy Cohen describes as a process of secondary marginalization, creating an elite class that can oppress and police the rest of the members of our communities? Have we fallen into the trap Elizabeth Povinelli describes of simply adding social difference to the multicultural academy without social consequence? Does our presence help challenge the political and economic status quo, or does our presence serve as an alibi for the status quo? In asking these questions, I do not suggest that there is politically pure space from which to work outside the academic-industrial complex, and yet still constitute a subversion that matters. However, it is an imperative to ensure our opposition within the academy is more contestatory and less complicit.
I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.
My nights are for overthinking, my mornings are for oversleeping.