The Black One: Microaggressions in a Criminal Justice Program

The Black One: Microaggressions in a Criminal Justice Program

Teresa Francis Divine (Central Washington University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5942-9.ch008
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Some faculty are like father figures to the students. The other younger White males are scholarly and tough but brilliant. Then, there is you, the Black One. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as White men. Hispanic men are 2.3 times as likely. In corrections alone, people of color are overrepresented. This chapter will discuss the disparities in the criminal justice system and why students of color are attracted to the field. Microaggressions in a criminal justice program show up as machismo, as a joke, or even as witty, but never as racist. This chapter will tell the narrative of being a Black woman in a predominately White male department and why Black scholars belong in a criminal justice education.
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I was born and raised in the Bronx. I grew up during the crack epidemic and I know its impact on families personally and intellectually. I was attracted to criminal justice because of my experiences growing up in youth programs and later becoming an activist in my community. I always wanted to fight injustices. After attending community college. I decided to do the rest of my education out of state. The College campus was an exciting place. It was a place to read, write and protest for me. So, when I was done and had the opportunity to teach at a university I was overjoyed.

I was hired right out of graduate school as an adjunct and later I had the chance to take a tenure track position at the same institution. My current university is all I know and while reading up on mircaggressions. I realized I am living many of the examples provided it the writing on the subject. So, it was imperative that I share my experience.

I am a lawyer in a criminal justice program at an unnamed rural university in the United States. As I write this, I remain in the program and plan to apply for a full professor position. Furthermore, I care about the people I work with. This chapter is not an attempt to vilify individual colleagues. Instead, it is meant to illustrate how decent caring individuals can treat “other” people of color in the academy.

The university’s criminal justice program prepares students to enter policing, corrections proceed to law school and graduate school, work in the courts, and pursue careers as law office paralegals The student population is diverse; faculty members have interdisciplinary expertise.

As a teacher and scholar, I am especially committed to addressing the needs of students of color. I am committed to students of color because I grew up in the inner-city and I am very urban. Although, I may not fit the mold of the traditional academic, my academic work contributes to understanding the needs of low income first generation students at predominately white institutions (PWIs). Despite my commitment to teaching, research and service, I often feel categorized in the department. Our department’s team have been told that each of us have a role. Some faculty are father figures to the students. Others remind the students of their grandparents. I am the Black One. This category excludes me from the other categories. For example, the younger white males are placed in scholarly classifications termed as “tough “and “brilliant.”

The criminal justice program has 590 majors. Approximately 7% (41) of the students are African American/Black and 6% (35) are multiracial. There are several Latinx faculty who are tenured, tenure track and adjuncts in the department. A few faculty consider themselves multiracial. However, I am the only Black One.

This chapter will:

  • Examine how criminal justice programs address Black faculty members.

  • Shed light on what Black faculty bring to criminal justice programs.

  • Argue that the narrative surrounding Black faculty members be framed by Black teacher-scholars.

  • Encourage reflection on how criminal justice departments can create a more welcoming environment to Black faculty and students.

I thought the situation discussed in this chapter may be considered Macroaggression. However, after applying the definition provided in the article Racial Microaggresions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice (Sue, 2007) “Racial microagressions are brief and commonplace indignities whether intentional or unintentional that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue, 2007, pg. 273).

Although not intentional, I found the situation requires me to work through numerous microaggressions in the workplace. To be clear, my colleagues do not dislike me. In fact, we enjoy each other’s company. Workmates supported me when a parent died. We have shared stories meals and beers together. Yet, I often feel attacked in backhanded minimizing ways that chip-away at my belief that I am a supported and a valued member of the department. Examples of general microaggressions include:

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