There’s been a lot of heat on PDD, on the DNT, and apparently, even on NPR, about the “Unfair” campaign to raise consciousness about the existence of structures that result in white privilege. As a result, questions of race and class and gender are flaring to the foreground.
Just for a brief counterpoint, I want today to take a look at a program that “does it right” — that recognizes that race is one variable, an important one, but only one in a matrix of privilege and works to destabilize that matrix. [For the record, the UnFair campaign "does it right" too, -- it's just doing a different "it."] It destablizes that matrix of privilege by working to see students admitted into graduate programs and eventually into the professional and faculty worklifes — into the educated, economically middle class, essentially.
“The McNair Scholars Program is a graduate school preparatory program which began providing services nationally to students in the 1989-1990 academic year. As of October, 2011 there are 200 McNair programs working with 5,419 low-income, first-generation, and minority undergraduate students, encouraging them to consider careers in college teaching and to prepare them for doctoral study.”
Wednesday night, I and four other faculty from UMD and CSS spoke to these scholars; they were energetic, if shy, and ready to change the world. They are preparing, at age 20, to go work in biology labs across the nation as summer research assistants, to conduct university-supervised human subjects research on our responses to media, to explore politics and revolution in Latin America (after visiting Panama for primary research). Their opportunities are immense. And with those opportunities, they will make immense change personally and to the communities that have fostered them.
Maybe more to the point, in this program, we see ways to make big strides to fix a diversity of structural inequalities and missed opportunities. The McNair programs create those opportunities anew for tomorrow’s students. Get involved, if you can.