Growing up in Jamaica, Monique Kelly, one of the professorial candidates currently under consideration by the Knox College Department of Anthropology and Sociology (ANSO), subscribed to a popular idea of racial harmony. Because Jamaican nationalism is based on multiracial identity, the link between economic inequality and race often goes unaddressed. As a graduate student at the University of California-Irvine, Kelly began to question whether race was truly a non-issue in her home country.
“I started to wonder, is it really as rose-tinted as I remember,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s research on perceptions of race and color inequality in contemporary Jamaica found significant instances of colorism and racism written off as classism. Since this type of discrimination is not publicly acknowledged, it cannot be corrected.
Over the course of last week, three other candidates for ANSO and Africana Studies professorships presented research on similarly subtle aspects of racial identity, belonging and inequality.
Yannick Marshall, a candidate for a tenure-track professorship with the Africana Studies Department, gave a presentation entitled “Pleasure at the Site of the Injured Black Body.” In an open discussion with faculty and students, Marshall explored social perceptions of violence against black bodies. Junior Niky Washington connected the discussion to her experiences with social media. Washington said she is tired of seeing people of color under attack every time she logs onto social media. She cited viral images of migrant children running from tear gas.
“I can’t think of anything in regards to white children being shown like in school shootings, because no one would ever think to show those pictures, yet there’s constantly black bodies being shown under attack on social media,” Washington said.
Angie Mejia’s presentation, “Depression, Talk Therapy, and Emotional Management in the Lives of U.S. Women of Mexican Descent,” examined the nature of emotional work for Mexican-American women receiving psychotherapy from white clinicians. Senior ANSO major Stephy Austin appreciated the way that Mejia’s study combined psychology and sociology to discuss the taboo subject of mental health.
“Abusive relationships and relationship safety, in general, is something that we rarely talk about,” Austin said. “Her topics would explain a lot of how we as people socialize and why many people tend to stay in toxic ties.”
Ashon Bradford’s research explored the root causes of widespread racial and economic inequality in rural Louisiana and how those in power obscure them to prevent insurrection. Bradford acknowledged how his own upbringing in rural Louisiana led him to his research interests. Senior ANSO major Jaki Herrmann liked how his methods allowed students to apply sociological theory to contemporary subjects, like the Beyoncé fandom. Senior Domanique Rahman belives Bradford’s experience growing up in and researching small towns would make him a good resource for students studying sociology in Galesburg.
“His small town mentality could be a great way to further bridge ANSO students into the Galesburg community and visa versa,” Rahman said.
Knox has received criticism in the past for the lack of diversity students perceive among faculty. As of 2016, the Office of Institutional Research and the National Center for Education Statistics found that Knox’s student population was 41 percent students of color while just 13 percent of its faculty were people of color. While Austin is incredibly grateful to every member of the ANSO department, she believes that bringing on more faculty of color could positively impact students on a subconscious level. Rahman pointed out that while the ANSO faculty is all white, the majority of its students are women of color.
“I think the department looking at candidates of color shows awareness and growth,” Rahman said.
All of the candidates are interested in teaching a race and ethnicity course. If hired, Mejia said that she would support the creation of more courses focusing on race, ethnicity and sexuality. Kelly expressed a desire to work with the local community, assessing the material impact of Knox’s focus on inclusivity and diversity.
Austin said she was captivated by Kelly’s research and the difficult questions she would try to bring up on campus.
“Her topics would definitely challenge the minds and perspectives of Knox students,” Austin said. “Unpopular beliefs in and on the topics of race, politics, religion, gender and culture would have to be faced and conversed about in a mature way.”