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Dear Friend:

Africana Studies

I appreciate you taking the time from your busy schedule to read and comment on my recent “Open Letter to the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware. Thank you so much for your gracious compliments and also for your expression of concern that the letter is perhaps a bit “emotional” and some readers may dismiss it as a “hissy fit.” Let me address the latter point by sampling Leslie Gore’s classic song It’s My Party!”

“ It's my tenure denial and I'll have a hissy fit if I want to, a hissy fit if I want to, a hissy fit if I want to. You would have a hissy fit too if it happened to you.” Lol!

In all seriousness, I totally agree with you that some will dismiss me as disgruntled and emotional. As recently demonstrated, such reactions are reserved only for white male Supreme Court nominees.

In all seriousness, I totally agree with you that some will dismiss me as disgruntled and emotional. As recently demonstrated, such reactions are reserved only for white male Supreme Court nominees. Truth is, dictating how the oppressed respond to oppression is part and parcel of systemic oppression. Case in point, what I failed to note in my Open Letter was the advice I received from a black male senior professor after I was denied tenure: "Arica, you have to be grown up about this,” he stated” You have to act like nothing happened and go away quietly."

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Insisting that people must be silent or, if they come forward, they must be dispassionate about injustice furthers oppression and is itself an act of violence which denies the oppressed their humanity.

I also think there will be those who will dismiss me as braggadocios because I toot my own horn; “Oh my so unlady like,” they’ll chide. And of course black women should never display such confidence and pride in their own abilities. But as the saying goes, “Well behaved women never make herstory.” So think of this as my Mary McLeod Bethune moment—irreverently defiant as she struts gracefully through the "whites only" section of a southern train station with her nose high in the air--the best go fuck yourself ever!

And most assuredly, some black folk will disapprove of my decision to speak my truth because I have broken the cardinal rule which states, “Thou shalt not air our dirty laundry in public”; but I will not be complicit in a conspiracy of silence regarding my own oppression in the name of racial solidarity.

In closing, I sincerely appreciate your concern but I think the poet Langston Hughes said it best when he stated, “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. . . If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

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Arica L. Coleman