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Subversive Self-Care: Black Women Faculty and the (Im)possibilities of Healing in Higher Education
In the backdrop of pervasive violence and oppression against Black women in higher education, Black women faculty (BWF) at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) have endured relentless race and gender discrimination for decades. This long-standing injustice has spurred an examination of the healing practices of four BWF working at PWIs through the sharing of their stories. This research study is guided by two central questions: (a) What are the racialized lived experiences of BWF at PWIs? And (b) What are the (im)possibilities of (racial) healing in higher education? The study is grounded in the theoretical framework of Black Feminist Thought, providing a lens to understand the experiences of BWF while critically examining the power structures inherent at PWIs.
The research identifies four key themes that vividly depict the impacts of misogynoir and the strategies that participants employ to restore a sense of wholeness:
- Campus Climate: This theme illuminates the challenges and opportunities for healing within institutional contexts. It sheds light on the participants’ narratives, unveiling the institutional norms, policies, and procedures that perpetuate harm. Their stories underscore the pressing need to dismantle oppressive structures.
- Mind-Body-Spirit: Healing for BWF is a holistic journey, addressing not only intellectual and emotional aspects but also the physical and spiritual dimensions. The participants’ accounts align with existing literature on the harmful effects of racial microaggressions, emphasizing the urgency of healing interventions.
- Resistance: BWF actively engage in advocacy, community-building, and narrative reclamation to challenge oppressive systems. These acts of resistance embody their resilience and commitment to bringing about social transformation.
- (Re)covering Self: This theme centers on the participants’ journeys of self-discovery, self-care, and self-affirmation. It highlights their empowerment, identity reclamation, adept navigation of multiple roles, and prioritization of well-being. This underscores the vital role of self-empowerment and self-love in the healing process of BWF.
This research spotlights the complex landscape that BWF face in higher education and the unique and individual ways that they heal from (racial) trauma.