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July 09, 2004



I suspect that if you were to ignore race and sex, you might find a similar correlation between the likelihood that a given individual insists on being called "doctor," and the field of study in which he got his degree. If I have a real Ph.D., e.g., one in Math or Chemistry, call me Xrlq. But if I got my union card in Oppression Studies, with a concentration on the role of lesbianism in the defeat of American imperalism in Viet Nam, well, that's Dr. X to you.


I’ve often thought that it must be very pleasant to be personally unaffected by, I don’t know, what would one call it, prejudice…that’s almost too simplistic, isn’t it. I am far from being the first in my family to graduate from college, but I am the first Ph.D. in my family (we’re not teachers). I’m very proud of my accomplishments, all four of my degrees. I put the whole academic bio on my syllabus but always invite my students to refer to me informally. I’m a very formal person at work, a suit everyday, no casual Fridays here, tattoos covered, only one set of tasteful & appropriate earrings. But school has always been like a comfortable second home for me and so I dress accordingly. I’m usually mistaken for a student and an undergrad at that. I will admit that I am often annoyed and still puzzled by the look of shock on people’s faces when they realize what I have accomplished academically, professionally and personally. I often wonder what part of it confuses them the most, the fact that I am female, Mexican, young or very short (it’s silly but I really think that makes a difference). Actually when I was a student, I often got that look from my mostly white, older, male professors. I’d start talking and I could see the look of amazement spread across their faces. What where they expecting, I would wonder, an accent, incoherent babble?! I frequently find myself in the enviable position of having favor bestowed upon me, from the GM, CEO, Program Director at school…I’ve wondered if it’s because of what I know and what I do…or if I am like the cute little monkey pet that can do tricks…hey look at that, she can dance, juggle, spin plates and play an organ grinder all while being a minority and female! Impressive, a round of applause! Sorry, I just made myself mad. But rest assured Hugo, I don’t loathe people like yourself for not having had these kinds of experiences nor do I disdain your “privilege.” Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like if…and I wonder if there will come a day when…wouldn’t it be lovely if it were a non-issue for both of us. (Insert sigh here.)


I understand that. It is the same for me as a "disabled" person with a bung leg. I have to spout three times the research of anyone else to convince people to stop staring at me and engage with what I am saying. Once I have established my credentials, so to speak, there usually isn't a problem.

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