and the Professoriate
and vision in Emory's intellectual community
was concerned that as in many other areas of politics on this campus,
things were going to get unnecessarily polarized.
Doner, Associate Professor of Political Science
don't want to say no, it's not a hostile environment or yes, it
absolutely is, but we don't come to Emory thinking we're coming
to Candy Land.
Stewart, Assistant Professor of Religion
tenure-track assistant professors hired between 1987 and 1996
and Managerial Positions
held by African Americans in 2001-02
and Managerial Positions
held by Whites in 2001-02
Freedom, Privilege, and Responsibility
the university ready to chart a new course beyond the status quo?
Eugene K. Emory, Professor of Psychology
Begins at Home
at Emory and Oxford
Mark Auslander, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Oxford
2001/January 2002 issue
Reflections on Contemporary Race Theory
Mark Sanders, Professor of English and African American Studies
2000/January 2001 issue
Exchange: How did you get involved in these small-group
Rick Doner: I was concerned that as in many other
areas of politics on this campus, things were going to get unnecessarily
polarized. That the more active parts of the African American community
began to see whites as monolithic against them, and many whites
didn’t understand what was going on. So a few other people
and I thought about trying to get small groups together where people
could talk about what was a case of racial hostility, did a case
constitute a pattern, how do we really understand what’s going
on at Emory. I figured that really there were two narratives of
these things, and that one of the challenges was how to get folks
to see why a black person would view a case in such a frame and
why a white person would say, Is that what you’re talking
At the first meeting, the question we posed was, How do we move
forward? And we moved forward by going backward. People told their
stories a little bit. It certainly was not as though there was any
meeting of the minds, but it helped. There were a couple of whites
and African Americans that had never had a chance to be in this
kind of discussion before. As hokey as it sounds, just talking about
it and hearing why somebody else felt the way they did was helpful.
There were a number of people who said, We’re not going to
agree on how we see the world, but we want to hear each others’
stories and then move forward. So somebody suggested that we do
another meeting of this group and try to create some basis of trust
and then figure out how to maybe constitute this as a kind of model.
AE: What do you think have been the most important
aspects of those conversations?
RD: One is recognizing the fact that there really
are different lenses here. One of the things that interests me is,
If this is a racist place, what’s the data? Now that’s
a trick question. Let’s say someone makes a remark at a dinner
party. It was intended as an innocent comment. But maybe a listener
later thought about it and thought maybe it revealed a racist attitude.
Was it a racist comment? It’s in the eyes of the perceiver,
to some degree. He might have thought it was racially motivated
because he had been in other situations with this same group of
people when something else questionable was said. So if something
happened in another situation, he might presume it’s part
of this pattern, and he’s heard stories of things happening
to other people somewhere along those lines in other departments,
and so on. Some of these incidents are confirmed and some are not.
So there’s the question of how do you figure it out?
The tendency I think is for white people to feel like we’re
being called the oppressors. And I don’t think that’s
by and large productive. How do I respond to that? I may have privileges
that you don’t have, but am I the oppressor? No, or hopefully
not. So there’s getting people to trust each other a little
bit, so that when stuff happens as it inevitably will, the person
who feels aggrieved has the standing and security, if she’s
a junior faculty member, to go to a senior faculty member and say,
Look, you just said this to me and I frankly take offense at it—is
that what you meant?
As a white person, you’re just not going to hit these things
by definition because you’re in the majority. And even when
they do occur, you are not predisposed to see certain things as
a big deal. And I imagine some of those little things are themselves
open to different interpretations. There are plenty of people who
are confused about it, and the people who are confused need to come
out and say, What’s going on? I don’t understand.
AE: Why was it important to you to step up
and do this?
RD: I think the faculty needs to take the initiative.
One thing I’ve heard again and again is that the faculty have
to be more engaged, in terms of guiding students and figuring this
stuff out. It’s really a challenge. My big passion is that
this place have good, ongoing, deliberate debate. We have not had
enough good debate in which people really talk to each other and
argue strongly. I see this as an opportunity to engage.