Am I Being Paranoid? Being a Woman Of Colour In Academia

[W]hen one is constantly given alternate banal explanations for their ‘overly-sensitive’ perceptions, one loses the epistemic ground they stand on. They cease to give credibility to their own perceptions.

This self-doubt about how to comprehend and articulate one’s experiences becomes much harder to escape, when skepticism is cast by people who self-identify as ‘allies.’ If our own allies, well-acquainted with the concept of microaggressions, and well-meaning in their commitment to end discrimination, cannot see our experiences as the very sorts of experiences that they should validate, then it becomes much harder to trust our perception of reality.

From this blog post.

7 thoughts on “Am I Being Paranoid? Being a Woman Of Colour In Academia

  1. Things I’ve learned over the years:

    If you feel you’re being marginalized or discriminated against, you are.

    If you think someone’s a sexist, he or she is.

    If you think someone’s a racist, he or she is.

    And the people who ask you to think twice before rushing to judgment are the most racist and sexist people there are. Stop listening to them and stop doubting yourself. Then stop doubting others. If these things weren’t real, nobody would believe them.

  2. With all due respect, anon, that simply can’t be correct. I’ve heard (personally) people say that they believe Obama is a racist. (I’m confident he’s not).

    And while it’s very reasonable to think that having certain life experiences informs one’s sensitivity to such things, one’s self-concern can cloud it. That (and intellectual humility in general) is often enough to prompt pause – which is not to say it’s enough to prompt silence.

    A certain level of self-doubt is evidence of intellectual maturity (lacking, sadly, in so many of my students).

  3. ajkreider, with all respect to you, this sounds like exactly the mainstream analytic status quo line that the OP and I are speaking out against.

    If the stories of women who have undergone sexual assault, harassment or microaggressions are to be heard, if everyone else’s story is at last to be heard, we need to listen and trust more than we doubt. And yes, that does mean that we need to put aside the constant demand for ‘intellectual humility’ and ‘a certain level of self-doubt’. There’s more than one way to be intellectually mature. What we need now, and maybe I would say always, is to trust the victims and help them learn to trust themselves.

  4. I’m not sure how much we are disagreeing. I wasn’t speaking about whether we should trust people’s reports of being the victims of harassment, sexual assault, offense, etc. I agree we should so trust (defeasibly, of course).

    The article, I take it, was not simply about whether one’s feeling offended is “justified”. The feelings are the feelings. Being hurt is being hurt. It was about one’s ability to read something into the person doing the offending. “Did they act so informally because of my skin color”. One’s epistemic authority seems to me to drop off dramatically concerning the divining of other’s mental states. This applies to someone’s being a racist, a sexist – as opposed to a systematic racist or sexist feature. I think this applies to being discriminated against as well. Many would argue that the systematic features are what we should care most about.

    Perhaps an example. Many of my students refer to me informally by my last or first name alone. Across the hall is an African American professor who sternly corrects students who so address her, (“It’s Dr. . . . ). I think that, given how black female voices are undervalued (even academic ones), it’s quite understandable for her to take offense at the informality. It would be a mistake for her to conclude something about the students being racist, etc. That’s how they act with all professors.

  5. Would love to read it, RM. Is it online somewhere?

    I would suppose a key issue is the areas over and extent to which the victim has epistemic authority. I’m inclined to reject the idea that that authority extends to victimizer mental states in all cases, Or at least that a non-victim can have good epistemic defeators for certain victim claims relying on judgments about those mental states. But, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

    Even if one has such defeators, it might be wrong to raise them with the victim – though that would be a different kind of injustice (non-epistemic).

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