Sunday, December 2, 2012
When I was an undergraduate at California State University, Fresno my mentor Dr. Chang commented that UC Berkeley professors are generally not addressed as Dr. This remark was in response to the insistence of specific colleagues of his to be called doctor. At Berkeley, it was a given that the professors were PHDs. In fact, even the department secretaries there had PHDs, he stated facetiously.
Nonetheless, I called my professor Dr. Chang out of respect for his position. Especially being that he was one of a few historically underrepresented faculty at Fresno State. It also had a nice ring. Sort of like Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Dr. King, Dr. George I. Sanchez, etc.
When I recognize ethnic and racial minority academics or professional doctors with the Dr. handle it is not out of a fascination with elitism (well maybe a little) but to acknowledge their exceptional accomplishment in a society of unequal educational opportunity. I, myself, do not insist on being called Dr., but if I am I will not object. I do, however, feel uneasy being recognized as such in the case that there were a medical emergency where I may find myself and someone pleading, “IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?!” I could perform the Heimlich maneuver in the case of a person choking or cpr for a cardiac arrest—btw: is it 5 chest compressions per breath or 7?
I participate in the graduation ceremonies at California State University Channel Islands to serve as an example to students, particularly Chicanas/os, of the possible. I gladly pose with graduates as I imagine many never before viewed a Chicano in doctoral regalia.
When I graduated from Fresno State, I was impressed by the pomp and circumstance of the faculty procession into Bulldog stadium. I knew then that I wanted some day to be a part of that parade. Now I am and realize how actually few people of color are in such painted pageants.
As I was struggling to complete my dissertation, I posted a picture of the Claremont Graduate University’s doctoral regalia for inspiration. The pursuit of a PHD was not based on potty intentions but the desire to serve as a presumed voice of authority in my community when needed. Nor did I feel that being an academic was a professional career that would separate me from my working-class roots. As long as I depend on a wage, I will always be of the proletariat in solidarity with other workers, many with no degrees who make far more than I will ever realize.