Author: On Being Brown and Out/Raged

I am a mother, partner, academic, scholar, poet. This is my space, my personal space, my professional space, my political space where I get to articulate my stance on various social justice issues affecting women of color and marginalized faculty in academia. I am brown. I am an immigrant. I am out/raged about many social injustices. I am yet another feminist killjoy. My concerns are local, global and transnational. Mostly, my concerns are humanistic concerns. What I do for a living is raising a generation of students to speak their minds, speak truth to power, find their own truths, and read literature that empowers them as human beings. My first book The Postcolonial Citizen: The Intellectual Migrant is written in multiple genres, has multiple registrars and has multiple receptions. I am working on a second book tentatively titled as The Anxious Canon: 9/11 Literatures. I am also co-editing a collection of essays titled as When We Speak: Marginality and its Discourse on Civility. When I am not thinking about writing for an academic audience, I turn my attention to writing for the public, about things that matter to women of color, feminists, social justice warriors, immigrants and migrants like xenophobia, racism, elitism and sexism. I am also a poet. Poetry has always grounded me and given me the creative outlet when I am offended, wounded, and need to reach deep within myself. I hope to blog here and share my thoughts, rants, and outrages with you. I hope you will read them. Just like the work of a mother is never done, so is the work of a killjoy feminist.

The Pandemic, India’s Lockdown and the Fear of the Indian-Americans

India announced its lockdown for its 1.3 billion people on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020 for the next 21 days by giving only a four hours’ notice. “There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address. “The entire country will be in lockdown, total lockdown . . . This is a curfew” he said.

This is a double-edged sword for millions in a country where the wealth gap is enormous and physical distancing is hardly an option for many.

What is, however, inevitable is that in spite of the lockdown, that there will deaths. The poor will die, and some rich and famous will too. But on the forefront will the elderly.  In fact, it is the deaths of the elderly in India that has kept me and countless other Non-Resident Indians (NRI’s) awake at night in our adopted homes abroad.

What would happen if one, or even both of our parents, or the only surviving parent in India living alone or in a retirement community get infected by the Coronavirus? Or worse, what if they just get sick and die now? Passenger flights across the US and those flying overseas could be completely shut down due to “the recently revealed vulnerability of the nation’s air traffic control system to the pandemic” as reported in the Business Insider.

The truth is that none of us will be able to go back due to the lockdown in India.

The US has one of the largest Indian diasporas outside India. An estimated 4,460,000 Indians live in the US, followed by Saudi Arabia which has the second highest NRI population at 4,000,000. The truth is that while many of us have been making a living here, and those fortunate enough have stable jobs and professions and have been building their assets, many have left the biggest assets back home –– our parents.

For these parents, “between the broad smiles, behind the cheerful exterior and in those moist, rheumy eyes lies an untold story. A tale of loneliness, anxiety, fear and uncertainty . . .” This is a story that goes both ways. It is a story of acute alienation that every migrant and their parents, if alive cannot escape. It is a fear of dying alone.

In the phone calls that many of us have made to our parents back home, there are uncanny moments of silences.  These are unspeakable silences of sadness and terror. These are the inevitable silences of acknowledging that death may be closer than we thought as those visions of our aging parents getting more frail, more dependent, more vulnerable, more susceptible to sickness and diseases have become more tangible.

And then there is the fear of every migrant and every NRI –– the inevitability of missing the most important deadline to say our last good-byes. And even worst. The impossibility of being able to travel back home now to perform the last rites due to the lockdown.

This global pandemic has made the emotional distance between here and there grow smaller, yet the physical distance marked by lockouts and closing of borders grow much larger. There is heightened anxiety, followed by agitation and part paralysis felt by millions whether in Mumbai, London or New York, as we have been following the mandates of “stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

“What if we cannot save the lives of our parents from so far away?”

The NRI parents remain awake too. The death of the 59 year old celebrity Indian chef Floyd Cardoz on March 25th, 2020 in New Jersey have reached the Indian shores. And with this tragic news, many parents are silently asking, “what if one of their children abroad get infected by the Coronavirus and die?

These questions of mortality emerging from fear and uncertainty have been asked in silence. A fear of losing those we love who live so far away is a fear that is punctuated with isolation and the desperation to be mobile again. It is a fear that every migrant goes to sleep with and wakes up and hopes that it will disappear –– knowing fully well that this fear is permanent. The fear of losing a parent or a loved one in another nation and the possibility of not being able to go back home is no longer imaginary. The lockdown has made this possibility real.

My father is 92. My mother is in her early 80’s. They have grown more frail, vulnerable and even childish over the years. My mother is always anxious. My father is an eternal optimist. I have lived away from them for the last thirty years and watched them age. They have become much slower and more forgetful. Like all migrants I have always felt this unsurmountable rift due to the 8,000 miles of separation between us, accompanied by an intense pain and sadness as I leave them back in India and come back to my life in the US. For the last decade or so, every leaving has always felt like maybe this is our last good bye.

Like others, I am used to making our routine phone calls to check on my parents. When we have talked in the last few days over the phone, I noticed something had clearly shifted as they expressed their anxiety about the 21day lockdown. Last night my mother said that she heard on the news that no planes were flying anymore.

There was an eerie silence between us. Nothing more needed to be said after that.  She had named our mutual fear.

On The Cost of Silence

For MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

First they came for the adjuncts, and I did not speak out —because I was not an “adjunct” faculty.

Then they came for the untenured and I did not speak out — because I was not an “untenured” faculty.

Then they came for the senior faculty and I didn’t not speak out — because I was not a “senior” faculty.

Then they came for the “activists, the outspoken, the union members” and I did not speak out — because I was never one of them who spoke for the “oppressed.”

Then they came for the Humanities  and Social Sciences — the Foreign Languages, Art, History, English, Sociology,  Anthropology, Philosophy, Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies, I did not speak out— because I did not belong to “these less profitable disciplines.”

Then they came for the Sciences that were not generating enough revenue, but I did not speak out — because I was in the “Sciences” but in the more profitable sector.

Then they came after a few in the Business, Health Sciences, Sports and Nursing, particularly those who showed signs of empathy for their “less fortunate” colleagues,  but I did not speak out — because I did not have any empathy for the less fortunate.

And then they came after me and my discipline — and there was no one left to speak up for me.

“On Going Out Of Business” OR How to Screw Your Faculty Who Are Not Good For Your Business (SATIRE)

Action Plan: A Memo from President Mickey Hedgefunds
 MEMORANDUM
To: Faculty at Freedom College
FROM: President Mickey Hedgefunds
DATE: October 11, 2019
SUBJECT: Our Business Is Going Down
By now you must have all read the October 10, 2019 New York Times article “Radical Survival Strategies for Struggling Colleges” that made it clear that “Mergers, acquisitions, shorter degree programs and major shifts in course offerings are just some of the tactics being employed to lure more students.”
Let me cut to the chase. Our business is going down. Like other colleges our business is “flagging.” Our flow of customers has fallen to an all time low.
Make no mistakes, our business is going down! And you are all commodities up for sale. We have not determined each of your appreciation or depreciation values yet, because it all depends upon how much our “new” customers are willing to pay for your various useless services.
If your majors/programs have been revenue-generating in the last five years (based on the reports prepared for us by the premier consulting firm Screw Your Faculty that we had hired 2 years ago for 1.5 million), then rest assured that your valuation and buy-out incentives will be much higher than the rest of your colleagues who are just occupying spaces. Screw Your Faculty have rated the departments and programs that are teaching our customers “to imagine this and imagine that” to have very low yields, and have made a special recommendation that many of these faculty offices should be rented to local businesses to generate revenue. Our CFO have concluded that renting out office spaces will help the college significantly in addressing it budget gap of 1.5 million dollars.
Our business is going down! And we need to change the name of our college immediately from Freedom College to Freedom Corporation, LLC. A new survey by Bogus.com has indicated that the majority of our current customers have never heard the term “college,” but 89.3% of them are familiar with the model of a limited liability corporation.
Our business is going down! And your retirement benefits are being too expensive to maintain for the long-term survival of our corporation. So, we have decided to cut them into half. Our BOT, which mostly comprises of CEO’s from Fortune 500 companies, have endorsed this idea with much enthusiasm.
Our business is going down! And who needs tenured faculty when they can be replaced by all newly minted PhD’s and adjuncts living below the poverty level and are eager to join our limited liability corporation. Our BOT has also approved that we can now hire cheap contract labors for programs that are experiencing growth. As a bonus we will provide our new employees with free parking permits and dental insurance for free flossing for their first year of service at Freedom Corporation.
Our business is going down! And we need acquisitions and mergers. Although the Chronicle has clearly said that “A Merger Won’t Save Your College,” but we don’t care. We have just begun negotiations with “The Home Based Business Institute,” a for-profit company located in Los Angeles for a potential merger with Freedom Corporation where our customers can be their own bosses. This is exactly what “private companies [sic] do to increase their size and cost-effectiveness.” We will market this new program in “Home Business Management” with a simple message: If your goal in life is to become rich, then you have come to the right place.
We will also be offering a certificate program in “Fulfillment by Apricot” (FBA Program) ––which will allow our customers to market their own products through the world’s largest retail platform in the world. Our budding entrepreneurs will only be paying a small monthly storage fees while FBA will be handling all customer service queries. This will be one of our distinctive programs minting money like never before!
Our business is going down! And we desperately need to create various training facilities to create a workforce where our customers will become entrepreneurs. For instance our newly formed “Innovation Council” has decided to bypass your cumbersome faculty governance process and have just approved a new major in “Storage Management” starting in Spring 2020. If you have not noticed, storage facilities are a booming business.
Our business is going down! And we are changing the mission of Freedom Corporation to reflect the mission of trade schools. While we can no longer afford to provide our customers an all rounded liberal arts education, we are committed to “graduat[ing] students who will make a tangible and constructive difference in the world.” Our new customers will be enrolling in courses for writing memos, designing brochures and pamphlets, a two-week language proficiency requirement to say “hello” and “thank you for your business” in at least two different foreign languages, along with a brief practicum in public speaking. In addition, our students in the Nursing and Health Sciences programs will fulfill their requirement in “Empathy Studies” by selecting ONE COURSE ONLY from art, theater, music, philosophy, English, creative writing, religion, sociology, political science and history.
Our business is going down and just like those “other institutions” we are also “trying to cash in on the growing impatience among students and their parents about how long it takes to earn degrees.” In our 3+1 year model, our customers will graduate with a Bachelor in Entrepreneurship Management along with a Master’s degree from “The Home Based Business Institute” PLUS a certificate from our distinctive Fulfillment by Apricot program. This will be our model of survival of the fittest!
Our business is going down! And we have to pay attention to who exactly are our new customers. My cabinet (that does not include any faculty) has discovered that we need to lure the large demographics of first generation students of color.
We will be reaching out to you soon to write brief letters in Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese, Hindi, Somali, Cantonese, Mandarin, Maay-Maay, Hmong, Swahili, Thai, Cambodian and others. Our Spanish faculty will be writing letters to our large demographics of Hispanic customers, but we would like the rest of you to acquire some customer service skills. We strongly encourage you to contact our “Provost for Letter Writing” indicating interest in the language of your choice. Provost Rosetta will provide you with a brief software called “Hoogle Translator” to help you write these letters. In these letters we highly encourage you to mention that our goal is to make the American dream accessible to our “first generation” customers of color by guaranteeing that they will become rich if they chose to join Freedom Corporation. We will also be inviting their entire family (admitted students only) for a potluck dinner organized by our “Empathy Studies” faculty and sponsored by our Multicultural and Equity in Education Programs.
Finally, I cannot emphasize enough that our business is going down! But we cannot not hire more administrators. The gains from cutting your retirement benefits permanently is allowing us to now hire two new administrators: Provost of Brainstorming” and “Chief Amazement Officer” for the promotion of neoliberal innovations.
Please join me with a great applause in embracing these changes as we shift our outdated nonprofit model of serving our students in our precious Freedom College to serving our customers in our “for-profit” model (where everyone is we guaranteed more debt) in Freedom Corporation, LLC. I am looking forward to seeing you at the faculty retreat where I will unveil my plans for our Freedom Corporation, LLC. Please bring your own granola bars and Kombucha drinks. These are hard times!

 

This satire has been published in Entropy.

On Diversity and Inclusion Statement for Liberal Studies— A SATIRE

A Diversity and Inclusion Statement for Liberal Studies

September 27, 2019
(Published in Inside Higher Ed)

 

 

To: Provost JollyMolly Daft

RE: Draft of our diversity and inclusion statement

From: Department of Liberal Studies

Dear Provost Daft,

It is the hiring season again, and we have revised the diversity and inclusion statement that your administration is forcing us to add. We reluctantly do so, but in the spirit of transparency you impose (but do not hold yourself to), we would like to offer full disclosure about our campus culture to our potential job candidates. Thank you again for approving the rare tenure-track position in Liberal Studies.

Revised Statement:

We are a predominantly white, elitist and ableist liberal arts institution located on stolen Native American land in a small but beautiful rural area in Wokeland, N.Y. The campus is surrounded by hazelnut trees, peach orchards, German bakeries, French cuisine and statues of tall white cisgender wealthy men (several of whom were slaveholders) whose ill-gotten monies have helped uphold our elitism. We will be hiring a dynamic faculty for a tenure-track position in Liberal Studies.

We are legally required to say we are open to diversity, so we encourage people of color to apply so we can ultimately hire a white cisgender male candidate who (coincidentally!) had the same Ph.D. adviser as our department chair. We are especially interested in candidates willing to participate in various activities related to our collegewide symposium on “What is all this fuss about race, gender and white privilege?” generously funded by benevolent right-wing billionaires with no interest in politics.

All candidates are required to provide a brief statement about the following: a) their scholarship about social justice that can be implemented without producing any discomfort and b) anticipated contributions to our diversity and inclusion efforts related to our All Lives Matter initiatives.

We will interview promising candidates from a highly selective pool of stellar diversity candidates whom we have narrowed to the white people. This will meet the requirements of an inclusive search process required by our HR department.

Given the unlikely chance that we do hire a diversity candidate, we have made a commitment to create equal opportunities for their success. These commitments include, but are definitely not limited to:

  • various modeling appointments and Photoshopping opportunities for our public relations campaign;
  • having our newly hired candidate pose on college brochures and promotional materials to highlight our commitment to marketing diversity;
  • asking the new faculty member to respond to racist incidents on the campus; and
  • making sure they are bogged down in committee, advising and other service work we don’t ask of other new hires.

This approach is consistent with our long-term practice — and our new dean’s reaffirmed commitment to paying lip service to diversity and inclusion.

In addition to the above requirements, candidates of color must be willing to serve as symbolic figureheads on diversity committees, where their presence will be noted, their voices unheard and their written objections to various racially biased ideas and incidents respectfully ignored.

We assure our newly hired marginalized faculty member that they will experience long periods of isolation and frequent micro-invalidation in our department and throughout the campus. This isolation will provide them with the time and space to move their research agenda forward. Our all-white faculty members in Liberal Studies have agreed to be willing participants in this isolation. (They assure us it isn’t personal; it is just about the “right fit.”)

We will interview our top 10 to 12 candidates at the National Liberal Studies Conference to be held in New Orleans from Dec. 24-27, 2019.

We look forward to receiving your application. Our commitment to diversity lip service remains a top priority.

Respectfully,

Dr. Don White (Chair, Liberal Studies)

Dr. Becky Wise

Dr. Tommy All-Smiles