When Being Multilingual Goes Bad by Calvin Eaton
A recent incident at Duke University
underscores the discrimination that international students and students of color have to endure even while obtaining an expensive graduate degree from a prestigious university.
As NBC News reports: Megan Neely, (a white woman) director of the Master of Biostatics Program stepped down (without personal apology) as director of graduate studies for the master’s program after sending an email to faculty admonishing Chinese students not to speak their native language in public settings on campus. The tone deaf and clearly racist email admonished faculty to urge students to speak English 100% of the time to “improve their English”. Neely’ s letter was a response to complaining faculty who were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand,” the email reads
Marginalized identities have had to deal with “implicit” and overt instances of discrimination and other microaggressions for decades so this being the type of conversation happening behind closed doors in 2019 is no surprise. White supremacy culture’s power structures says that often times white people’s well intended advice is toxic, xenophobic, and racist. It is rooted in pro-white colonialism and biased toward any one that doesn’t exude these ideals including the speaking of standard American English.
But make no mistake, these instances of bias and stereotypes are not just “no big deal. They have larger implications like impeding upward mobility, gaining access into grad schools, progressing in grad school and even getting a job. In this instance at Duke this white woman professor’s toxic ideals (English is better in America) is in a position of power and has the authority to shape these Chinese student’s trajectories and life. It is ironic that the same institution that allegedly wants diversity when it admits international students is complicit in forcing these students to abandon their native culture and language and assimilate to American ideals.
It is ironic that the same institution that allegedly wants diversity when it admits international students is complicit in forcing these students to abandon their native culture and language and assimilate to American ideals”
Unfortunately nothing can protect marginalized identities from blatant or covert forms of discrimination. Not level of education. Not socio-economic status. Nothing. This is why it is so important to #speakoutnow every single time. Calling these individuals and institutions out on their racism is absolutely necessary because their level of power is what makes board rooms, programs, and workplaces devoid of professionals of color.
To think that in 2019 speaking your native language at a prestigious university that admitted you from another country would be a cause for complaint and blacklisting by a white Dean in power. The hypocrisy, colonialism, and gall is too much to be believed. #smh
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- White Supremacy Culture