After Ferguson, some black history grad students wonder: Does Pursuing a Ph.D. Matter?Historians in the News
‘This is Still Happening?’
Maco L. Faniel is a second-year doctoral student in history and the only black male in his program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. For weeks, he says, he has been walking around with a lot of anger about the police killings. Those incidents speak directly to his dissertation topic, on how state violence is an indelible part of the machinery of white supremacy.
“When Ferguson broke, I was writing about George Jackson, Angela Davis, and other black intellectuals who were imprisoned because of racism,” he says. “I sat down to do my research but I didn’t have the energy because I was so focused on the ‘What the fuck? This is still happening?’”
At a welcome-to-campus picnic, Faniel wore a “Don’t Shoot” T-shirt. He says he’s frustrated by the campus silence on police brutality, and he feels resentment toward white professors and fellow students who do not have to share the fears he carries of being arrested, beaten or shot when he walks off campus.
“As much as I try to explain how white supremacy works to some people in my cohort, I feel like they don’t get it. It makes me feel like my work is in vain as a black man in the academy,” Faniel says. “There is nothing I can do that will protect me from being shot down. No matter how good my grades are, no matter how well I code switch, no matter how professionally I dress, my black body is always out of place and I can be shot like a dog.” ...
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