Thread of my #BlackintheIvory experiences in no particular order


The next 4 times a white colleague has decide they will greet me: “What’s up Brother Man!”

2/In grad school senior faculty asked me to read autobio of Clarence Thomas w/them b/c they “wanted the Black POV”. I read the book & my only comp for the extra work was a 30min convo & brown bag lunch in their office.

3/I’m the first African American to:

-Graduate with a PhD in Ecology from my dept (2011)
-To be hired on the TT in my dept (2014)
-Receive a grant to study California condors as PI

4/Walking back from lunch, white colleagues & one wants to make the explicit point that there’s a qualitative difference b/w “Nigger” & “Nigga”. Yes, they used those words out loud & seemed to think it was necessary to explain this in my presence.

5/Colleague sees me holding @DrIbram’s Stamped From the Beginning and says, “Oh, I could never read that. I’d get too annoyed, ya know.”

6/In a meeting abt faculty anxieties for tenure, senior colleague in response to anxieties says:

“Implicit bias does exist, but at the end of the day you’re judged by your work.”

7/In the field, colleagues remark that yestday dusk, when I opened the brown gate my “skin was such an incredible match” that I “almost blended into the background”.

8/Come to the office wearing a dashiki. Colleague sees me, stops in the hallway, smiles and says:

“Oh, we’re dressing ethnic today, are we?!”

9/1 yr into uni fellowship I show up for my app Anthro w/chair at the agreed time to discuss switching to Anthro from EEOB. Chair opens 🚪, pauses confused, asks:

“Can I help you?”

Don’t remember the rest of the meeting except how red he was the whole time.
10/Me, in a faculty meeting: “How many AfAm students have we had in the last 10yrs?”

Colleagues: 🦗🦗🦗

Me: “How many in the last 5yrs?”

Colleagues: “Well, there was one, what was their name?” Then 🦗🦗🦗

Checked on my own time. There have been zero.


Not narry a soul:

Senior WC: “Here’s an article on skin color I thought might be of interest to everyone”

12/WC sees me reading @rdunbaro’s An Indigenous Ppl’s History of 🇺🇸:

“I read that recently! It was good, but I thought it was a bit biased. In the other direction of course, but still.”


Not one sentient individual:

WC: “Here’s a link to something to made me feel good.”

Open link to story on positive images of Black fatherhood & confronting stereotypes.

14/Q&A period w/university DEI officer.


Not a single carbon-based life form:

WC: “This may be a bit of a silly question, but is it okay to reach out directly to students of color?”

15/During the 1st ever discussion of student race/gender demographics:

WC: “Well, there’s certainly room for improvement, but you know, we’re a lot better off than my last institution.”

Student demographics:
-89% white
-75% male

16/My big sis died while I was in grad school. Opened up a bit to a prof who’s class I was taking & mentioned my sadness for her 2 sons.

WProf: “I’m so sorry. So does this mean you’ll have to take care of your nephews now?”

Sis been married for 10+yrs.

17/2 wks into COIVD shutdown of uni


Not 1 descendant of Australopithecus:

Colleague email: link to meme abt productivity

Link: “Newton did some of his best work during the bubonic plague”

18/Visits a wildlife & fisheries dept.

Observes grauadting class photos in hallway from 1960s.

Counts # of Black faces.

6 in 50+yrs

19/On an undergrad trip to oceanography research center.

3 Black folks incld our counselor.

Walking back to our cabin.

Maintenance guy pulls up:
“Can I help you fellas?”

Counselor explains our presence on campus.

MG drives off w/o apology.

20/Discussion period of student demographic presentation.

Colleague: “So how do you recruit students of color?”

Not done, just taking a break for a bit. thanks for reading. I’ve been holding most of this in for years.
Before I get going again, what I want white folks to take away is not anger/harsh judgement of individuals, but action against systems that birth these experiences. & for most white folks reading this, that action starts w/confronting your own whiteness. No stone throwing pls.
21/Calls out WC in working group for pattern of racist behavior.

WC promptly quits group over email.


2wks later receive invitation to a mediation meeting w/chair b/c WC & my relationship had “reached an impasse”.


Not 1 bipedal organism:

WC approaches with phone out:
“Hear is a pic of [person in their family]. You might notice that he’s ‘differently complected’.”

Family member is Black.


23/Week after tree of life murders & latest 👮‍♀️ murder in Louisville.

Whyte STEM Colleague: in attempted solidarity email (paraphrased):
“The best & maybe only thing we can do is continue our academic work.”

24/WC in working group when I point out that recruiting FOC isn’t just adding Brown ppl & stirring:
“Could you prepare a list of recommendations or best practices that we could use to guide this process?”

Me: ...

Other WC: “That’s not really Jonathan’s job.”

25/Recommends confederate flag pic be removed from course add flyer b/c there’s no context for the use of such a problematic image in the course title or description.

Disclaimer: these are stories spanning 15 yrs in academia & are not unique to any institution I’ve been/am currently assoc w/. This shit is systemic & not contained w/in 1 indv/institution/dept. It’s literally everywhere. Don’t try to scapegoat or rationalize this.
26/Asked multiple times throughout my PhD by grad school colleagues/faculty:
“So where in Africa is your reaserch based again?”

Diss was on human/wildlife interactions in Rajasthan, India

27/WC reacting to junior faculty concerns abt tenure process:
“I don’t know of any horrors stories in the tenure process.”

28/Uni announces speaker series w/all white & 5/6 male participants. Speaker series described as “promoting diversity”.

Writes letter. Gets 100+ co-signers. Program changed to include Black folks.

29/Wed. Nov 9, 2016. Listening to 2 WC discussing results. Discussion concludes thus:
“This is upsetting, but you know what? We’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, we’ll be fiiiiine.”

30/Currently only tenure-track African American faculty in uni college of 290+ faculty. There’s only been 3 AfAm TT faculty in the college in 8yrs.

None of my WC knew this until I told them.

31/Me:”So, u agreed to be faculty advisor for a student club for the guy who said [list of 45isms]?”

WC: “To be fair, he had only made the comment about Mexicans when they asked me.”

32/Having convo w/colleague during coffee break at research meeting. WC interrupts our convo:
“Sorry, I don’t think I know you. Who are u? Who are u w/? What are u working on?”

2nd time this WC has met me.

33/Several weeks after 2016 election.

WC: “I think ppl are mostly overreacting to this whole thing.”

34a/ Aftermath of collective call out in working group.

I ask each WC to share when they 1st realized they were white.

Every single WC describes a moment when they realized Blackness was bad.

34b/ And the account in 34a is more illustrative of how whiteness functions more than an outrageous moment of a direct racism.

How we doing? Y’all still good?
You can follow @outtherejch.
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