My legacy affords me a history built upon exemplary teaching always tempered by the student. Unlike Dr. Cooper, I am not preparing students for higher education institutions. My students are matriculating through an institution of higher education to become teachers. They, however, are not seeking power. My students already have it. Thus, they conclude that I am too intense because I take with me to the academy my families’ insistence on classroom excellence. As an African American, I expect nothing less from teachers and students. My students, who are primarily white, are protected, however, by white privilege (McIntosh, 1988; Tatum, 1997). Why am I so demanding of my students? Because I am Black, some see racism. Insistence on excellence is an historical tradition strongly espoused by my foremothers.

A Question of Defining

     In 1892, Cooper wrote what has become an anthem. In A Voice from the South she wrote,

Only the BLACK WOMAN can say "when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole . . . race enters with me" (A Voice from the South, 1892).

Cooper was speaking for the Black woman. More importantly, she was defining for herself to whom she belonged. Her anthem designates what Shaw speaks to: that African American women are both "Black and female." Before and after Cooper’s stance, Black women have been defining themselves, all of themselves. What definition have they taken in the academy?

     A fellow graduate student at The Ohio State University, asked me in a class on Gender and Education, which would I choose: my gender or my race? My fellow students privileged gender over race. Thus, they often spoke saying, "gender, class, and race." From our different positions, my classmates did not clearly see themselves. More importantly, as Elizabeth Higginbotham notes, they did not see, nor others at times, the "racialization of gender and class" (as quoted in Robnett 1997, 40). Their position, however, was clear through their physical presence. Yet, as Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzalduia contend, "A theory in the flesh means one where the physical realities of our lives-all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity . . . .


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May 2000