Race-work, Race-love

Detractors and Supporters in Race-Work: The Dissertation

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 at 10:59 am

“Why the sigh Blanca?” My dissertation advisor asked after a long discussion regarding my dissertation topic. Correction: on the literature review that comes before honing down on the topic.

When I finally got to the point where I thought I can finally work on my dissertation, the process proved me otherwise. You can’t just jump into the topic. You can’t just start writing and delve into your research. No. I learned that first you have to figure out where that idea came from. Who has been writing on your proposed topic? What are the other factors that affect this particular topic? Then you have to write up what you found. Show your advisor. And have him come back and tell you go back to the drawing board. Go deeper into the forest. So why the sigh? I just want to get to work already!

As far as I can see I made it to the threshold
Lord knows I waited for this a lifetime
And I’m an icon when I let my light shine
Shine bright as an example of a champion

The Roots – The Fire

Instead I said, “At the end of the day all I want to do is good work. Work that maybe someone can use” But what I really meant was I feel like this is the moment I have been waiting for my whole life. I have been thinking about race for as long as I can remember – since I was a little kid – and I have been thinking about higher education since I was in college – and now I can finally write about it. Do some research about it. Of course I did not know back then that a doctorate was even possible. I had no idea how a professor became a professor. I had no idea that an interdisciplinary study such as Higher Education existed. Back then I did not know what I could do as an anthropology major. Instead, I became actively involved on campus and worked on issues that affected students of color. I thought perhaps being a college administrator was in my path. And it is. It is how I support myself financially. I wanted to do more.

Eventually, I stumbled upon a Higher Education program at NYU and Teachers College. I found that people actually did research in this area. And I thought maybe I can do this too. Today, I tell my students that a doctoral program allows you to explore the questions we have as children. They don’t think it is possible until I actually sit them down to write this question out. They go out and do some research and then they present their findings. Some of these projects are sometimes the most beautiful projects I have seen.

A dissertation is a bit more detailed than a college research paper. Learning this process is frustrating. There is no manual. No one hands you a pamphlet and says here is what you need to do. Sure there are books out there that attempt to guide you and market themselves as “Get your dissertation done in 12 months” but with my professors—that is near impossible. But that’s ok — while the process is tedious, I know I will be a good researcher at the end of this work. So you learn the structure as you go along. Like trying to run in jell-o. Eat your way out of it.

So I sigh. I was just told to go back into the forest and get more information.

This race-work is killing me.

There’s something in your heart,
and its in your eyes
It’s the fire, inside you
Let it burn

The Roots – The Fire

While I want to do good work, I also feel the need to use my work to provide a little bit of peace in this racist world. This sounds like a lot – but it also sounds like not enough. I am often told I think about race too much. That I do too much. In relationships, one partner told me “It is not that you are not enough. You are too much. I need someone simpler.”

HA! Sounds funny. My good friends all said at this – “Too much? He hasn’t seen nothing yet!”

Takin the advantage never coppin out or cancelin
Burn like a chariot, learn how to carry it
Maverick, always above and beyond average
Fuel to the flame that I train with and travel with
Something in my eyes say I’m so close
To having a prize
I realize I’m supposed to reach for the sky
Never let somebody try to tell you otherwise

The Roots – The Fire

So there are detractors – the process of the dissertation itself, people around you.

But these are the same things that can help propel you – the process of the dissertation can be ameliorated by committing to a dissertation group. You take the negative people away from your life and all of a sudden a crop of new positive people enter. Music helps that fire continue to burn. Statistics can either detract you or push you forth. And then there is you. Can you be your own worst enemy?

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2008, 3199 Latinos in the US were conferred a doctorate in some discipline. So how can I give up now?

I can’t.

This is the way I do my race –work. This is how I can help race-love progress.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” – Cesar Chavez

See how much race-work we have to do? In 2008, 114,979 Latinos graduated with a college degree. This is out of 48 million Latinos that live in this country. So much more work has to be done. We can’t have the largest minority population be the most uneducated.

So while I sigh because I want to do “good work” – I also know that I am part of a larger battle that refuses to abate. The war against the education of people of color. Earning this doctorate means a lot more to me than just doing good work.

In the mean time, I’ll continue to dig deeper into the forest. Who knows what I will come up with?

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