Thursday, April 19, 2012

Conscious Conversations part II : my side of things

Went for the second year in a row and it was refreshing as usual to hear black people give voice to their experiences of racism at UCT and I could certainly empathize with issues that people brought up such as biases with grading, lecturers who are white not paying attention to non-white students academic needs via consultation etc, being rendered invisible or being ignored. One thing that I really found strange was how some instructors, lecturers etc have spoken to me very rudely for absolutely no reason at all (aside from the fact that they are absolute douchebags with not a shred of decency). I have sought questions and they have raised their voices at me as if I have committed a crime of some sort by my very being there. At that point, I begin to query. Is there some part of their ignorant minds in which they firmly believe that by virtue of me being black and female, I do not belong in the sciences. That when I approach them, they have nothing but scorn and disdain to offer, both of which filter very easily through the tones of their voices. I think the answer is certainly yes. That has more to do with me being black than female because I know how polite and gentle their approach is with the white women in the department. They are better able to communicate well with them.

I remember when I went to consult some a black man (from outside of South Africa) about a test question which I felt was marked wrongly. Before he spoke to me, he dealt with another student who was white female and very petite. His register was very gentle and he treated her in the same manner of respect I would afford anyone else and then it was my turn to ask. All of a sudden, his tone of voice turned angry as though someone had spit on his face and he started yelling "No I cannot correct that or give you an extra mark" (I was just chancing for half marks by the way, the answer was only partly correct). The tone of his voice was quite shocking, it came from what I perceived as nowhere really. Yet it was the part of his ego that was so insulted that a black woman would dare come to university and obtain good grades. Fool! He was only the second person to confront me this way.

In the physics department, here at UCT this kind of unjustifiable douchebag behaviour has been seen in four people, one of them the deputy head of department. Three others, two white and the other coloured. Raising your voice or speaking in a harsh tone is something you would expect from a primary school teacher who seeks to intimidate. It is an adult-to-child kind of speech that with doubtful effectiveness because it only breeds fear, disrespect and distrust between participants of this kind of dialogue and no helpful, meaningful solutions or resolutions. I view it as patronizing when committed by one adult to another even when one is far younger and I have little to no respect for anyone seeking to put-down another individual in the name of elevating themselves. Its douchebaggery 101 some of these mofo's should be teaching not physics. In any case, its a way to separate the men from the boys. The people with character and those who have very little of it. The gentlemen from the scum. If anything I should be grateful that indicators such as this exist.

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