With some effort — not inordinate effort, mind you, but some — I have put together a two year long speaker series for my other department. That is eight outside speakers a year, four per semester, for two years, for a program that has no budget of its own.
I have done this for the sake of the students, the program, and the accreditation board, but my immediate motivation was the complaint of a whiteman who is cross appointed as I am and is bored. My own remedy for boredom involves visits to libraries, conferences and symposia elsewhere, but I decided we might also upgrade our activities here. Partly in the hope that this whiteman might learn to do the paperwork necessary to invite some of his alleged famous friends to visit and thus spend his energy productively rather than in hostilities against his least favorite colleagues, I created the series.
The whiteman enthused for several months that he “gave the series his full support” (as though he were in any position to pass judgment upon it) but he has lost interest in it because it is actually happening and does not need to be discussed by telephone at the midnight hour. Due to the whiteman’s loss of interest, the series does not include any of his special, famous friends (he has not contacted them, which it was his job to do). I am already aware that he may at some future time use this fact to claim discrimination.
I have realized that this whiteman is one of those people who like to complain about things, but do not want their stated issues addressed in any way. And then I realized that that is what various of my advisors, when I was younger than I am now, assumed about me when I had questions about the general situation. They did not realize that these were serious questions — they thought I was just having a bad day. They told me then how to get by on a bad day, and I thought they were giving global advice on living.
It was never quite clear to me how they had achieved so much in life if they were in fact following the advice they gave me, but I understand now. They were not giving serious advice, only instructions on how to get by. Were they doing this so as to conserve patriarchal equilibrium, perchance?