A view from the pedestal or from the depths?

January 27, 2010

I’m excited about a soon-to-be published Journal on Race, Ethnicity and Religion.

Why a Journal on Race, Ethnicity and Religion?

This short article by the editor is well worth reading.  What caught my attention was a comment about academia:

The view of the academic landscape from the pedestal of privilege is radically different than the view from the depths of disenfranchisement.

Working in higher education, here’s how I’ve seen that play out:

From the pedestal: Pride at the number of racially and ethnically diverse students attending a university.  From the depths: The pain and struggles of those diverse students on a predominantly white campus.

From the pedestal: The excitement of welcoming a faculty person of color to the university community.  From the depths: The silencing and alienation that occurs when faculty of color raise issues that don’t comfortably fit the white paradigm.

It’s worth considering on a daily basis from where our viewpoints are being generated. Many of us  have both pedestal and depth viewing points. As a white person, I look out from the pedestal a great deal of the time. As a woman, I’m still struggling in the depths against the pervasiveness of misogyny and sexism.

Where’s your pedestal? Are you aware when you are on it and what’s placed you there?

Where are the depth points from which you feel anguish?  Have you found ways to be resistant and resilient while being in the depths?

It’s worth thinking about.

Facebook page for Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion


  1. As a person of color working with peers (both racially and professionally), I can speak to the dichotomy of experience which you mention, namely that of simultaneously being on both a pedestal and in the depths. Ethnic minority professionals working within the majority culture are, by virtue of their education and upward mobility, often placed on a pedestal by community members. At the same time, this distances them from said community. Talk about mixed messages!

    Being a bridge between cultures isn’t easy. For lack of modeling, the bridge design may be haphazard, the materials suspect. And there’s usually a lot of traffic back and forth. If the bridge is narrow, there can be traffic jams, people jostling back and forth, struggling to assert themselves and establish their right of way. Traffic, whether it’s smooth or not, creates wear and tear on the bridge itself. There’s also constant danger of the bridge being disconnected for whatever reason at either end.

    No easy answers. Plenty of questions and opportunities for self-reflection and discovery.

    Thanks again for the conversation.

  2. Hello, traveler. Your bridge metaphor is a powerful one and highlights the accumulative impact of constantly having to navigate different “worlds”. I imagine it could be challenging to keep track of who one is in the midst of the messages coming back from the different cultures that could be conflicting and/or confusing. Thanks for writing and for being a bridge-walker!

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