Seen and Unseen

As I read the article “The Invisible Labor of Minority Professors,” cultural taxation emerged not simply as a burden that faculty members of color face and that academic institutions perpetuate, but as a method, whether conscious or unconscious, to reinforce their absence and underrepresentation in academia. In the article, Audrey June notes how faculty who experience cultural taxation oftentimes carry such a heavy load that they do not have time to execute research or publications. Given that research and publications are usually requirements for tenure and or a promotion, cultural taxation burdens faculty members of color by withholding opportunities for advancement from them, reinforcing their underrepresentation as tenured professors. The heavy and often unacknowledged burdens of cultural taxation and the way in which labor outside of the classroom does not qualify faculty for tenure or higher wages may also motivate faculty members of color to withdraw from institutions. With increased withdrawal, support for other faculty members of color decreases while frustration and discouragement increases, which may lead to further withdrawal.

The addition of faculty of color is helpful, but it is only one step in a larger process to expand the racial inclusiveness of faculty members in academic institutions, because the retention of faculty members is equally important. The solution to the problem of cultural taxation and underrepresentation in academia is one that I do not yet have a complete answer to. However, a starting step for colleges should be the redefinition and expansion of the type of work that merits tenure and promotion as well as the addition of faculty members of color.


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