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Ethnic and Racial Studies

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Women social justice scholars: risks and rewards of committing to anti-racism

Philomena Essed Published online: 13 May 2013.

To cite this article: Philomena Essed (2013) Women social justice scholars: risks and rewards of committing to anti-racism, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36:9, 1393-1410, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.791396 To link to this article:

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Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2013 Vol. 36, No. 9, 13931410,

Women social justice scholars: risks and rewards of committing to anti-racism

Philomena Essed

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(First submission October 2011; First published May 2013)

Abstract This article draws from the experiences of women, located in different countries, whose scholarship expresses a commitment to anti-racism and social justice. What are the challenges they face? How do they negotiate multiple commitments? Anti-racism scholars are border crossers and ethical leaders with a deep sense of care. Their experiences suggest that one does not necessarily have to engage in activism out there. The very commitment to anti-racism, as a scholar, becomes a form of social justice work. The ability to have a transformative impact both inside and outside of the academe enriches their sense of fulfilment as scholars.

Keywords: anti-racism; academia; social justice; women; scholars; ethical


Introduction I am an assistant professor, the only person of color in the department, the only one to write about racism. Attached you will find two recent publications that will give you a sense of my work. I dont know why I am turning to you when we have never met, maybe because you are a faculty of color, maybe because of your work on racism? I was hired into my current position after a very competitive procedure, but I feel treated like the diversity hire. No support, no mentors, no race in the curricula. I really dont know whether I can survive this kind of environment. Maybe I should leave academia altogether? What would your advice be to a young academic of color in a white elite institute in Europe? (paraphrased from private correspondence, 2012)

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It is not unusual for an email like this to land in my inbox. It arrived the same week as a desperate email from a very bright PhD student in another European country who had attended a workshop that I had facilitated earlier that year. She had exhausted all funding possibilities for her PhD research, but received only rejections. She wondered whether it had been a mistake to be open about the fact that her project was about whiteness and anti-racism. I recognize their stories. I have been there. This was in the Netherlands, in the 1980s and 1990s. In order to work in an academic climate, hostile to anti-racism (Essed and Nimako 2006), I too contacted women pioneers elsewhere, but not by email. As a regular traveller around the world, I simply took a tape recorder along for conversations with local women leaders about their experiences with social justice work. The interviews, conducted in the mid-1990s, included women scholars who, like me, were committed to counter racism. Their stories validated my own experiences, but also suggested that the largely negative reception of anti-racism by the academic world seemed universal. Eventually I did not publish about the conversations. The community of anti-racism scholars in most of the locations was very small and it would be difficult to guarantee anonymity. Today, the area of race-critical research has grown, including publications about the politics of researching race and racism (Twine and Warren 2000; Bulmer and Solomos 2004). But neither diversity nor anti-racism are embraced in the still largely whitedominated universities, whether in Australia (Ahmed 2012), South Africa (Janssen 2009), the UK (Puwar 2004), Canada (Henry and Tator 2009), the USA (Collins 2012) or Europe1). Apart from occasional autobiographical accounts (Williams 1992; Kobayashi 2009), little has been written about the experiences of women scholars whose commitment to anti-racism co-defines their identity and choices as scholars. Thinking of new generations of race-critical scholars, I feel encouraged by Burawoys (2005, p. 266) suggestion that we envision students more purposefully as the audience who might read our work that we can turn their seemingly private troubles into public issues. I cannot stand in the shoes of the young women who contacted me, but I can imagine where they are. For the purpose of this article, then, I return to that space, where they are now, and where I was in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the doubts and questions I had, urging me to have conversations with other anti-racism women scholars. Challenges of the 1990s still seem relevant today. In particular, I focus on how women combine a sense of political urgency about racism in society with the requirements of scholarship. I was less looking for opinions about social (in)justice than for examples of lived practices of dissident scholars (Mohanty 2003). The women, ten in total, were at private and state universities in developing countries, and in western countries.

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Some I contacted through colleagues; others were among my own circle of acquaintances. Anti-racism, scholarship and social responsibility There is a firm tradition among feminist academics to commit to social justice. Initially, they were preoccupied with gender, but over the past twenty years, they have recognized multiple identities and mutually related struggles (Bhavnani 2001; Young 2011). Focusing on social justice involves, among other things, addressing issues of inequality, power, responsibility and ethics (Blackmore 2006, p. 187) and challenging the normalized practices through which inequalities are maintained. This is not an easy task. Many people are inclined to conform to societys expectations (Hogan 2001; Banks 2008). Consistently challenging injustices, as a scholar, and particularly racism, is a difficult path that not everyone may be able or willing to walk. But some do. The choices they make often place their work outside the mainstream. In their study Courageous Resistance, Thalhammer et al. (2007) developed a theory of the conditions that make it more or less likely for individuals to take an active stance against injustice. Preconditions include internal factors, such as awareness of wrongs; the disposition people have about authority or helping others; and whom they consider members of their in-group. A value-based orientation towards authority (using ones own values to question and evaluate policies and leadership behaviour) makes it more likely to follow moral principle and resist. This holds also for a sense of empathy and responsibility for people far beyond their immediate familial communal circles (Thalhammer 2007 et al., p. 23). Generally speaking, academia values scholars for producing an exemplary research portfolio, teaching competently, and to an extent, being seen as a good colleague (Frost and Taylor 1996, p. 486). As a good colleague, you do not rock the boat, but make yourself marketable and above all presentable, hence uncontroversial and unpolitical (Said 1994, pp. 73 4). Anti-racism scholars take a different path. Anti-racism is a form of leadership. It emerges from the need, or desire, to influence others while seeking to create a more just, humane world. It is about setting a different example of being an intellectual or academic, namely by grounding scholarship in a lifelong commitment to social justice in general and racial justice in particular. Justice is a muchdebated theoretical concept (Nussbaum 2006). More pragmatically, Susan McKevitt (2010, p. 40) captured social justice to mean addressing structural disparities in the human condition that create disproportional acquisition of economic, social, or political power, the effect of which leaves people exploited, marginalized, and denied dignity and respect by the dominant culture. Social justice scholars probably have what South

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African political activist, medical doctor, academic and business woman Mamphela Ramphele (2008, p. 135) calls a basic activist instinct: to question, to challenge conventional wisdom, and to take risks. To question is what we do as scholars, at least it is what scholars are supposed to do. But to challenge conventional wisdom brings in the dimensions of contest or conflict over perspectives and versions of truth and knowledge. Challenging the status quo comes with risks: you can be marginalized as a scholar, face political retaliation, or sometimes even lose the support of friends or family. Sudbury and Okazawa-Rey (2009, p. 3) argue for activist scholarship as a model of active engagement between academia and movements for social justice. In the next section, I introduce the women by way of picturing variations of social justice in and through their work. The majority are women of colour; two are white. Various studies suggest that women of colour who become scholars (in white-dominated societies) are particularly motivated by the opportunity to use their talent and positions to bring about change (Christian 1994; Astin and Leland 1991; Thomas 2001). They are professors of linguistics, comparative literature, adult education, sociology, performing arts, history, law, psychology and anthropology. At the time, three were located in North America (USA, Canada); three in South America (Venezuela, Columbia) and four in Europe (Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands). The individual women, names pseudonyms, will be identified by region in order to further protect their anonymity. But there is also something to say for a regional approach. Goldberg (2009) coined the terms of racial Americanization, racial Latinamericanization and racial Europeanization to highlight key regional qualities of racism as intertwined with national accents and historical differences. Here I mention a few very general contextual features relevant to anti-racism. Racial segregation was, and still is, at the heart of US race relations. Yet, the 1990s solidified the myth of the colour-blind society, marking the turning point in the USA where, in dominant views, race, and hence racism, would come to be seen increasingly as a problem of the past (Bonilla-Silva 2003; Brown and Carnoy 2005). In Canada, the first country to officially embrace multiculturalism policy, the myth prevails that their supposed tolerance precludes racism (Johnson and Enomoto 2007). As is the case in most Western European countries, racism is primarily seen as a US problem. Self-proclaimed European civility and tolerance go hand in hand with the categorical denial of racism (Wodak and van Dijk 2000). In countries such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, women of colour are most likely to be the only ones in their department, if hired at all. In Latin America, there has been an emerging recognition of the ramifications of colonialism and the need for policies to restore indigenous rights.

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Throughout the 1990s, there was a growing assertion of blackness in Colombia, which is hardly the case in Venezuela. One key feature of what Goldberg calls racial Latinamericanization is the historical project of whitening. Different than the one-drop rule in the USA, in various countries mestizaje (mixed race) is recognized, if not romanticized. At the same time, the celebration of mixture threatens to draw attention away from the materialities of racial injustices, of the debilitating exclusions produced and effected by racisms (Goldberg 2009, p. 240). In light of the above, anti-racism scholars generally work against the grain whether because racism is seen as a problem of the past, or as a phenomenon that has never been. Anti-racism as social justice work in academia Sudbury and Okazawa-Rey (2009, pp. 7 8) maintain that activist scholars regularly leave the classroom and campus in order to work in community-based movement spaces. Lentin (2004) too places antiracism outside of academia. But when Radha S. (education, North America), a strong anti-racist voice throughout her career in the area of human rights, became a professor, she brought her activism along into the academic context. She wanted all her activities to somehow relate to women of colour, because of their marginalized position in academe. But she also craves a community basis outside of the campus to make her feel more grounded and to feel that her research connects to current struggles. Because if youre not responsible for any community youre not answerable to any community. Law Professor Gilly S. (North America) fluently integrates antiracist practice and scholarship. She campaigned against and has written about the racially discriminatory use of the death penalty in the USA. Her teaching helps young lawyers to hopefully take on some of the same ideals and the same perspective on practice. The need for safe spaces for women to talk about racism and other forms of oppression motivated Martha A. (humanities, North America) to establish an international biannual summer institute for the empowerment of women, especially oppressed women, including women of color, indigenous women, rural women, refugee women, women from the south. Alternating between different hosting countries, the aim of the institute is to see women move from reactive to proactive positions, towards strategizing and networking. Mercedes L. (psychology, South America) researches (the combination of) racism and sexism and the psychology of the oppressed, commenting that as subjects to teach, these are far from mainstream issues.2 Her commitment to anti-racism is foremost in the area of knowledge production and raising awareness. She lives in what she calls a contradictory manner, trying to combine family life, working

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at the university and being committed to another cause which is working for women, for blacks and other groups in the community. Zara D. (choreographer and educator, South America) too, is committed to affirming black self-esteem and culture. Through dance, the institute she directs seeks to rescue the traditions of the black communities, which were banned during the period of colonization. Because I am continuously going back and forth between [the institute and] the community, I share with them what I have and also I pick things up from them and bring them back. Much like Zara, Renata A. (history, South America) is concerned about the negation of their African past and restoring cultural heritages of black populations. This is particularly relevant against the background of land entitlements, which are related to cultural rights. Her research is about black women and slave women during the 18th century and the uses they made of their bodies in order to resist slavery. Wanda R. (humanities, Europe), who, among other things, has written tirelessly on anti-Semitism, racism and gender discrimination in Europe, has been successful in bringing her academic work into organizations and communities. She has contributed to exhibitions, talked to the media and advised institutions. She has addressed mass demonstrations against anti-Semitism. Wanda and her assistants have taken their work to schools to speak to young people. For instance, they have been invited by history teachers who do little projects with those kids like what did the Second World War mean for different sorts of populations. Much like Mercedes in South America, Welena G. (anthropology, Europe) qualifies her country as one where the level of consciousness both with white people and with black people is below-below-below zero. An anti-racism activist for a long time, in the feminist movement and through her work as a government official, she yearns for the opportunity to focus on study and writing. Because in her own country it would be a sheer impossibility to study with a woman professor of colour, she applied to a graduate school in the USA where she completed her PhD. Florence R. (sociology, Europe) teaches on racism and related critical topics and does voluntary anti-racism community work, such as providing basic human rights information to a group of women, domestic workers from Africa, Asia and Latin America who are fighting against racism and discrimination and all the injustice they incur. Stephanie V. (anthropology, Europe) does not aspire, at this point in her life, to engage in anti-racist action beyond her academic skills, part of which she says are always very militant. An example is a project with an organization that is campaigning against racism. She used to

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be in feminist groups in the old days, but now she sees her foremost work as academic, which she firmly defines as part of society, and in that sense, as a site for political interventions. Below I highlight in more detail some of the characteristics of being a social justice scholar with a strong commitment to anti-racism.

Multiple-identifications, crossing borders The likelihood of making justice interventions is greater when diverse others are seen as members of the in-group (Thalhammer et al. 2007). Social justice scholars are deliberate border crossers (Kim 2007). With border crossing, in this context, I mean that they do not necessarily identify by destiny but by choice, even when their affiliations violate community expectations. Mercedes from South America and Gilly from North America, both daughters of a white and a black parent, identify as black, while other siblings opted for passing in order to enjoy the privileges of whiteness. One African American woman chooses to live and work among immigrants, in a community called Little Dominican Republic, which she calls the community of my choice. Another African American woman spent a lot of time using her skills on behalf of the new constitution in South Africa. Her friendships are around the world, sisters and brothers of my choosing, over the years, that have been there for me. Radha from North America gives an example of identification across class: When I sit in a faculty meeting and people are functioning in a way that shows that they are totally unconscious of even a working class, let alone communities of color and I sit there and I think you know my uncle who is cleaning the hospital, hes got this horrible job and hes just hurt his back. I think of all these people, or the place where I do my shopping in the market and I . . . the rage that I feel, thats how it affects me . . . its hard to get through faculty meetings sometimes. The way in which people from dominant groups can be so unconscious! They can just sail through their lives and talk about their gardens and their cottages and it . . . it doesnt matter to them that so many people are out of work for instance. Florence, an African woman who lives in Europe, identifies with women of other ethnic backgrounds as well when she participates in a group with white feminists. Cross-ethnic identification is not uncommon among black, migrant and refugee women in Europe (Essed 1996). Both Florence and Radha found that, among dominant women, a sense of care and compassion, often perceived as female

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traits, does not necessarily extend beyond what they experience as their own ethnic in-group. This is one area where there has been remarkable change. Over the past twenty years, white women scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have become more conscious of the politics of race and racism (McKinney 2005; Hipfl and Loftsdo ttir 2012). The double edge of care and compassion Whereas early feminists have been critical of the expectation that women should be caretakers in and outside of the home, more recent publications make the case for an ethics of care (Groenhout 2004). In academia, service work is a double-edged sword. It takes away from research time and can be detrimental to faculty of color as they progress toward tenure and promotion (Turner, Gonza lez and Wood 2008, p. 143). It can be emotionally draining, but it can also fulfill the need for connection and the desire to give back. Care is not solely an external expectation. There can also be the internalized desire to personally care about the well-being of the students. Gilly, a black professor in North America, claims that: Women have a level of compassion that men dont. We bring our intellect and our compassion together on the work that we do. Its a powerful combination. This is not true for all the women. Before returning to Europe, Welena worked for a while at a US liberal arts college, in the department of womens studies. She did not go along with the expectation that professors were to be accessible to students at any time or hour of the day. Office hours were it: I dont want to see you on Sunday morning nine oclock, which some of the students did with some of the white womens studies professors. Some authors indeed warn against the gender trap, where [w]omen professors in departments . . . become cast as nurturers, known by their students for their excellent teaching and advisement (Preskill and Brookfield 2009, p. 72). Rather than problematizing women who care, one can also ask: so why would it be wrong to care? Higher education in many countries can be criticized for failing to support students in a more holistic way. In the womens stories, one can find that they indeed highly value an ethic of care (Oliner and Oliner 1995). Radha is particularly concerned about women students of colour. Sharing with them their experiences of otherness and everyday racism is not only a question of compassion, but also a way for her to persevere in a white university environment. Referring to her relationship with one of her students, an older black woman who talked about horrendous things people say to her on a daily basis, Radha comments that she can sometimes not bear the pain of whats happening to them and you cant do a thing about it. But they can
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also laugh and joke about it and simultaneously, also, theyre empowering, because I wont feel so alone. For Wanda, too, humaneness is a conscious choice emerging from the trouble she had as a student with male professors. She wanted to give a different leadership example to her own students with nice tea meetings and fun together. But she also wants them to work. She says: I probably try to package my power and my authority in a way that they can accept it. It doesnt always work. Much like Radha, Florence also identifies with those in poverty. She always has about ten extra copies of required readings with her for students who dont have the money and the students really appreciate that. She puts a lot of effort into evaluating their homework in ways that, as one student told her, doesnt make you feel so small as they experience with other professors. Various women care beyond duty and make themselves available to students in need. Wanda says: I know a lot about them because they tend to tell me about their love affairs and abortions and I dont know what. . . . This takes a lot of time, but I think its very important. And I certainly do feel very responsible, probably too much. In light of this, she feels ambivalent about the fact that many women students see her as a role model who has it all: career, husband and a child. In reality, there are all these pressures and the moments when she feels tired, and sick and exhausted, and guilty because there is not enough time for her child and not enough time for work. Women want to be successful in social change without compromising their academic requirements. But male cultures are normalized at universities (Currie, Thiele and Harris 2002) and, more so than in the early 1990s, the pressure is on, around the world, to produce more and reflect less, to accept a corporate model of the university (Currie et al. 2003), thus creating academic professionals who feel that they have no time to organize politically (Smith 2009). A commitment to social justice struggle can add to existing pressures. Gilly, for instance, feels scattered and has trouble writing, while allowing herself to be over-committed to the point where I cant really spend enough time on any given thing. More than anything, Wanda wants to reach the real world, the general public, but she experiences this as a conflict with the demands of scholarship, because, as she explains, simplifying and generalizing would mean losing scientific value. So I find it quite hard actually. I have a big impact on my students, which is very nice, she says.

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Gender challenges Academic transformation is a slow process, whether it concerns race (Jansen 2009), gender (Husu 2001) or a combination of these factors (Ahmed 2012). In her 2001 study of sexism and survival in Finland, one of the most advanced countries with respect to gender equality, Husu writes that open forms of gender discrimination are rare. At the same time, womens relative invisibility to their male colleagues, experiences of lack of encouragement and relative isolation that were pointed out by the early 1980s studies again came out frequently (Husu 2001, p. 325). In the experiences of women justice scholars, there are the familiar gender challenges that might have little to do with being a social justice scholar. For example, Martha was the first (black) woman in the history of her university to take the position of dean of administration. She did her job very well, was very effective, popular with the students and was complimented by the headquarters in terms of getting reports in on time. But she experienced resistance from the men she worked with: the dean of academic affairs, the dean of students and the assistant dean of administration. It was male bonding (Hearn 1992) across race, two black and one white: They were extremely jealous. . . . They resented me not only for being a woman in that position, but being effective at that position, and then getting a lot of attention for doing a good job. One problem Gilly points to has to do with the all-consuming nature of a commitment to social justice, with particular gender expressions, meaning, in the words of Christian (1994, p. 175), that women are struggling with the issue of finding a suitable mate who could contend with a woman who has a doctorate, and whose professional life would involve much of her time. Gilly knows many socially and professionally committed black women who, like her, do not have a family. She wonders whether theres a price that we pay for the commitment that weve made. The fact is that our brothers, I think, are threatened by [our] strengths and zeal. Wanda is explicit about how gender reinforces the marginalization of her critical research. Although respected outside the university for her anti-racist scholarly work, she does not experience the same inside, where homosociality among men (Kiesling 2005) prevails. Speaking fast, she summarizes in two long sentences: I constantly have to persuade the academia that youre not only doing politics, but that youre actually also a serious scientist, which means that you have to be double as good as the others are, which in my case means you have to be four times as good because as a woman doing this kind of political work, which is a tremendous

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pressure, which is very discouraging if you see some stupid man sort of getting all the feedback he would ever want with kind of purely linguistic nonsense, which has absolutely no social sense at all and youre doing those huge research projects and people just sort of ignore them or say well this is political this is not science. So, I find this a very wearing and tiring kind of debate and also its discouraging, actually, because its so hard to get into certain areas where you do want this feedback naturally, its not that you dont care, you can tell yourself that you dont care but thats not true, you do care actually.
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Ethical dilemmas Florence indicates that, because she is a black woman, she is almost pushed into anti-racism work when she comments that white feminists manage to forget that there are migrants and people with different issues. . . . So, I really dont want to work in this group, but somebody else has to do it, otherwise theyll forget that. What choice is there? She adds: When the theme of racism is not dealt with, who is going to suffer most from it? So, I thought, its all right to do that. But anti-racism can be risky, which is what Mercedes from South America experienced. She has published several articles about black women, and one of the issues she dealt with was the fact that black women straighten their hair, which brought about a lot of conflict, not only among black women, but also in the press and everything it has been very polemic. Black women were not ready to question the politics of black hair. Mercedes also discusses the ethical dilemmas she faces as a black researcher when she comes across internalized racism. I sometimes doubt and think: well, I have this in my hands, this information, what do I do do I publish it, or the specific source do I let the public know in general? Naheed Islam (2000) struggled with anti-black racism, expressed in the interviews by members of her own community, Bangladeshi in the USA. It would be a betrayal of anti-racist politics to remain silent: Ultimately such silences subvert an analysis and understanding of how racism operates and how racialized systems of domination and inequality are maintained (Islam 2000, p. 59). When Welena taught in the USA, she also chose principle over playing it safe. One of her students wrote an essay about her discomfort with the fact that her role model, a female rabbi, treated her black domestic in a denigrating way, . . . basically like shit. Welena suggests maybe you could raise this issue with your rabbi and she offered the student an opportunity to talk it through with her. But the girl never came to my office hours and I noticed in class that she really

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withdrew from me and that apparently it had been too threatening an invitation to her. Reflecting about the situation, she adds: I get enraged when I read this stuff, but I do try when I react back to them to keep my rage within limits. I try not to scare them off, but, you know, I do to a certain extent watch my words, but I am not going to change the message. This has become more of a challenge in Europe, where Welena has experienced, for instance, people trying to censure her by asking her to change the title or contents of a talk when she has been invited to present at a cultural event. This came on top of a certain degree of self-censorship that she already applied in order not to alienate a large part of the (white) audience by saying unpleasant things.

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On the margins Welenas story highlights different forms of marginalizing anti-racism: total exclusion versus marginal inclusion. In Europe, she was rejected for a position in lesbian studies: People said to me that I was too onesided. She interprets that they basically meant: You are too much engaged in doing black stuff and we dont go for that. The womens department at a prestigious college in the USA, on the other hand, made it a point to hire radical and anti-racist women of colour, but all came in on temporary contracts. She adds: This is like what bell hooks calls eating the other. . . . Their exoticism is consumed and then they fly in new women of color professors. Radha feels alone and marginalized as a woman of colour doing race-critical research. Mercedes has had a similar experience. Both are at overwhelmingly white universities in North and South America, respectively. Whereas Radha can connect to a (small) community of anti-racism scholars, Mercedes work on anti-racism is new to her country. This difference, of course, is relative. Dominant group resistance against acknowledging racism is strong and new generations continue to hit the same brick walls. Mercedes says that sometimes she does not have any black people on her courses at all. Furthermore, white normativity reinforces that black students who do attend might have internalized racism themselves (Speight 2007). Says Mercedes: Those who do participate are very shy. In fact, they dont want to reaffirm the fact that they are black. But she does find that students have a very positive attitude, and a very receptive place of work, perhaps because they are also critical of work and they are in a learning process.

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One of the most consistent similarities across countries is that all the women feel they can have a positive impact on their students.

Small victories To use dance educator Zaras words, helping a person to discover him or herself is like making a sculpture out of this living person. Gratification is to see this in-inside person emerge, come out, proceed to interpret, perform or to dance. Radha talks about the moments when you see that you really ignited someones curiosity, its like throwing them a ball and they run with it. And then they produce astonishing things like these brilliant theses that come out. Mercedes highlights that the transformative potential of a critical framework to contribute to societal change gives her the most satisfaction. Women see change happening in communities. Various women talk about memorable incidents that have been particularly acknowledging of the fact that anti-racism scholarship has meaning beyond the walls of the university. Gilly pushed for a policy to acknowledge disproportional harmful damage of policing black communities. Her story about two students that she took with her to a meeting with a drug policy task force illustrates the triple joy of pioneering as a social justice scholar: she introduced something new; served the cause of racial justice; and witnessed student growth. [The premise was] there is more crime in the black community and so therefore there should be more police and therefore there should be more repression and so be it. What I went through drawing was the harmfulness of that impact, which is decimating the communities, sending young men off to prison for umpteen years destroying families, the constant terrorizing of the community by police forces I used different words to say that but, I was proposing that the language of disproportionately harmful be used. And this one judge who was at the other end of the table said I cant agree with that, I think we need more studies, we need more research before we can know whether [this is] disproportionately harmful . . . . Now one of my students, white, wants to be a prosecutor. The other student is a black student, from the Caribbean, and Caribbean blacks tend to be very conservative. . . . I was glad that they were here for that discussion. But little did I know that the two of them went off together and were just infuriated by the response of this man to my suggestions. And they decided to write their paper on the disproportionately harmful impact of drug policy in New York City on the minority

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community. And so, thats a specific example of how I think my perspective on race and racism reached two students who were skeptical at best. But, who then were given, I think maybe through their affection for me, partly, as their teacher, but also seeing the environment in which this policy was developing, that they should really look into this. . . . The paper was excellent. Radha mentions a similar sense of fulfilment and acknowledgement that she experiences within the university, when her students intervene from a race-critical point of view. One example concerns white feminists critiquing the assumption that young women look at their female professors as role models. This absolutely brilliant student of mine, the only other woman of colour at the conference, stood up and declared: You dont know what it is like to have a woman of color for a professor. Both Florence and Wanda mention how rewarding it feels to be acknowledged for your work. Wanda refers to invitations, that she is well known, and that it feels good actually to be cited in the radio or in the media. Moreover, there is a specific other form of satisfaction: the power of voice. She feels vindicated for some of the effects of her anti-racism work, when: talking about it in lectures means that these people have to listen to me and I can sort of tell them what I want to tell them. Even if I dont change them they have to listen and this is very satisfying from a kind of aggressive point of view. Conclusions Most of the women I interviewed do not commit one-dimensionally to anti-racism, but in relation to womens struggle or economic disadvantage. Different than in the early 1990s, when notions such as intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991) and gendered racism (Essed 1991) were still new, the necessity of understanding intertwined or plural identities as sites of struggle is now widely acknowledged (Alexander and Knowles 2005; Parekh 2008). Community work outside is not a necessary condition for being a social justice scholar. Academia itself is part of the community and, as such, a site in need of race, gender and class justice (Benjamin 1997; Currie et al. 2002; Samuel and Wane 2005; Harris 2007; Gordon 2009). As tempered radicals (Meyerson 2001), women also try to achieve change within academia through radical curricula, egalitarian and compassionate relations with students, organizing events, or speaking up against racism. Anti-racism, inside and outside of the university, is for all of the women inseparable from their commitment as critical scholars. Some explicitly define the very nature of their teaching and research as social

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justice work. But all the women seem to feel that applying their work outside the university walls makes their sense of scholarship more fulfilling (Thomas 2001). There is a deep sense of care for students and a commitment to see them holistically, engage with them on an equal level, and listen to their concerns. Care is not just a question of altruism; for some women it clearly helps them to feel that they are giving back. Bonding with students can help anti-racism professors brave racially or politically hostile environments. There are risks involved in social justice scholarship: your work becomes marginalized among mainstream scholars because it violates the normative stance of distance and neutrality. There can be loneliness as you are the only one engaged in anti-racism activism. There can be a measure of self-censorship in order to avoid direct confrontation, and there can be tension around whether to publish sensitive data that can make marginalized communities even more vulnerable. Women of colour are in a different position as anti-racism scholars. Even without having made that choice, there are push factors in that direction, for instance, when they are seen as role models by other women students of colour, as the only one, when they become the professor whom students share experiences of racism with, or when they notice that there is no one to represent ethnic minority needs. However, a commitment to anti-racism, because it falls outside the mainstream, reinforces the marginalization of women scholars of colour. This is the dilemma of the young woman professor at the opening of this article. But for women of colour, there is also the extra acknowledgement by community and students (Hicks 2011). The women I interviewed treasure the transformative potential of antiracism scholarship and the reward of witnessing students intervene confidently against racial injustices. Their work can have a real impact inside but also beyond the walls of the university. Notes
1. This was conrmed again recently at the European Network against Racism (ENAR) and Open Society Foundations (OSF) symposium on the Varieties of European Racism(s) in Europe, Brussels, 27 28 September 2012. Participants consisted of scholars, lawyers and policy makers. See also ENAR (2013). 2. Interviews in Latin America were conducted with the help of interpreters.

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PHILOMENA ESSED is Professor of Critical Race, Gender and Leadership Studies, Antioch University, PhD in Leadership and Change Program. ADDRESS: www. Email: