I grew up on the westside of Detroit. A Black enclave.
Once the first smell of BBQ filled the air and warm sunbeams replaced the city’s frigid cold weather, Black children rushed through metal screen doors that squealed until they closed shut to play outside. Girls’ multicolored hair barrettes held on for dear life as we jumped rope on cracked concrete sidewalks and rode our 12-speed bikes through the streets. Heads tilted back, laughing with rainbow-stained tongues from popsicles purchased from ice cream trucks, we were enveloped in bliss.
As we moved into our teenage years, grief from mourning the lives of our friends who were shot and killed stole our innocence and freedom. Some of us remained within the borders of Detroit. Others, like myself, packed our bags to travel to our respective universities in pursuit of our careers.
Those were our memories.
They weren’t perfect, but they were ours.
They were also the same stories that satisfied the hunger of institutions that craved Black narratives, not for the emancipation of our communities, but often, for the purpose of appearing to be diverse.
The eyes of social scientists have always rested on Black communities. Scholar Eve Tuck discusses how social science works to document stories of pain, damage, and oppression in urban communities for commodification that result in humiliation. This satisfies academia’s “palate for pain.”
Fortunately, Black scholars have done decades of work to counter damage-centered research.
I stand between two worlds — Black in America and Black in Academia.
The intersection of my personal and professional identities constantly causes me to question, What does it mean for me — a Black doctoral student, researcher, teacher, educator, and the Black girl from Detroit — to work in predominantly white institutions with complex histories?
What happens when our stories leave home and cross into university worlds, even when they are told by us…