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Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons From Higher Education

reviewed by Rosa M. Banda & Alonzo M. Flowers III - April 01, 2021

coverTitle: Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons From Higher Education
Author(s): Nicholas D. Hartlep & Daisy Ball
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0367149370, Pages: 260, Year: 2019
Search for book at Amazon.com

Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons From Higher Education, edited by Nicholas D. Hartlep and Daisy Ball, offers a compilation of critical race auto-ethnographic accounts from scholars of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, varied academic experiences in both rank and discipline, and across institutional types. The critical race auto-ethnographic accounts are undergirded with racial battle fatigue (RBF), defined as “physiological, psychological, and behavioral strain exacted on racially marginalized and stigmatized groups and the amount of energy they expend coping with and fighting against racism” (Smith, 2008, p. 617). These critical race auto-ethnographic accounts cement the reality that despite the characterization of institutions of higher education as the marketplace of ideas, “…RBF is part of the fabric of higher education” (p. 6). The permanence of RBF is clear and present with resounding evidence chapter after chapter.

The authors share their own auto-ethnographic accounts in Chapter 1. While Hartlep details his own RBF as he operates within White spaces in a minority-serving institution, Daisy details how she witnesses RBF. The editors also note the salient themes throughout the book: “Hiring practices, White epistemology and alternative ways of knowing and being, sense of (not) belonging, experiencing microaggressions, [and] (In)visibility and/or being ‘ignored’” (p. 8). The aforementioned salient themes are evident in the chapters. Critical to this book is that the author(s) offer actionable strategies at the end of their respective chapter(s).

This book is divided into five parts. Part One is “The Racialized Experiences of African Americans in U.S. Higher Education” and includes Chapters 2, 3, and 4. In Chapter 2, Ford grapples with her existence as an African American woman in the academy by sharing: “Blacks being forced to explain our simple presence in a ‘White’ space. It is exhausting” (p. 17). This explanation and exhaustion are framed in double consciousness, resistance and dissociation due to trauma, and “John Henryism” as it relates to tenure and promotion. In Chapter 3, Palmer notes his initial skepticism with Critical Race Theory (CRT) in education as a graduate student. Yet his first faculty experience illuminates the central premise of CRT—the permanence of racism—as it pertains to interactions with students, one asking if he really needs to be addressed as Dr. Palmer. These microaggressions were evident with his White colleagues as well. The progression of his career also brought forth the realization of interest convergence as a Black scholar and his institution. In Chapter 4, Hayes notes the exhaustion of battling whiteness. He offers: “…what is different in this new space is that the pathology of Whiteness is not coming from White people, but other faculty of color, who are complicit in maintaining White supremacy” (p. 43). Hayes argues that the anchor of the “whiteness” pathology found in academe leads to RBF, not solely at the hands of White colleagues but also due to the complicity of colleagues of color. Offered actionable strategies include, but are not limited to, the need for faculty to increase authors of color taught in classroom contexts, for institutions to implement faculty cluster hiring, and to examine how we each pose a serious threat to whiteness.

Part Two is entitled “The Racialized Experiences of Asian Americans in U.S. Higher Education” and includes Chapters 5, 6, and 7. In Chapter 5, faculty Cho and Men share “weird” comments from colleagues at their community college. Despite having no similar physical appearance, a nearby instructor sent a student to Dr. Men’s class when the student should have been in Dr. Cho’s class. The authors also share accounts pertinent to the “model minority” stereotype and the “invisible minority,” invisible labor, and “Asian privilege.” In Chapter 6, “When You Name a Problem, You Become the Problem,” Chikkatur discusses whiteness at a small, liberal arts college which she encounters as a result of a co-written blog. Quickly Chikkatur becomes central to a co-written blog whose topics included their own racial identity development and interactions with White colleagues. The blogs received negative reactions from colleagues whereby Chikkatur realized “…In speaking up about racism, we blame the problem, rather than the racism being the problem” (p. 73). In Chapter 7, Sato notes the “…real psychological, physiological, and emotional consequences” (p. 85) associated with a non-tenure track professor who deals with RBF. Sato explores the racialized burden in his service experiences and interactions with leadership at a predominantly White institution (PWI) that did not seek to “…effectively address the systemic imbalance of power between the dominant and marginalized groups” (p. 87). Synthesizing his own experiences, Sato frames his experiences as being ignored, pacified, and deflected and offers actionable strategies including, but not limited to the need for institutions to create accessible forums to report incidents of discrimination without fear of retribution, for faculty of color and Indigenous faculty to develop networks who understand the -isms found within the academe space, and for institutions to value and support all types of faculty work.

Part Three, “The Racialized Experiences of Latinx in U.S. Higher Education,” includes Chapters 8, 9, and 10. In Chapter 8, Boveda uses reflexive journaling to chronicle her experiences of RBF within minority serving institutions (MSIs) via Grosfoguel’s (2013) westernized university. Boveda posits: “In addition to the racial stratification that exists within Latinx communities, Latinxs of conspicuous Indigenous and African heritage also contend with racism in the United States” (p. 103). Boveda details her Afro-Latinidad immigrant roots and how such an identity offers complexity to the need for intersectional competence as both a researcher and student. In Chapter 9, Martínez-Carrillo notes the need for “counterspaces” as “borderless spaces” (p. 115) as she, a Mexican scholar, is “empowered [me] to cope with RBF” (p. 117) as she navigates academe. Martínez-Carrillo chronicles the institutional support, mentoring, and counterspaces that offers guidance and solidarity. In Chapter 10, Quiroz offers a gendered and racialized account of tenure that often became a reason to “dance with bigotry” (Macedo & Bartoleme, 2000) until she resigned after a colleague’s overture. Even after tenure, Quiroz continues to encounter resistance and is often called on to voice the opinions of her entire population. Offered actionable strategies include, but are not limited to, the need for funding agencies to ensure that Hispanic serving institution (HSI) monies adequately serve the intended Latinx population, filling the gap between policies and practices pertinent to both research and institutions, and transcending individualistic approaches to solve racism.

Part Four is “The Politicized Experiences of Native Americans in U.S. Higher Education” and includes Chapters 11, 12, and 13. In Chapter 11, Pete and Bull share their experience with RBF at a tribal college and university (TCU). The authors argue that “This system [TCU education system] creates a similar working environment to that AI [American Indian] faculty face at PWIs, where they are asked to conform to non-Native educational beliefs and become token representatives of their cultural background” (p. 138). While Salisha’s narrative highlights her experience with colleagues’ ideas as more valued by department leadership, Shandin notes how the corporatization of higher education has hindered progressive culture. Shandin argues: “The result of the population dynamics and intergenerational propagation of lost tribal identity and worldview is tumultuous and conflict-laden relationship between tribal, inter-tribal, and non-Indian societies” (p. 141). In Chapter 12, Quigley explores research and resistance as a Native person. Quigley details how Smith’s (2012) book, Decolonizing Methodologies, “awakened” the need to embody “indigenous epistemologies” as a Native American researcher. In recalling research experiences, Quigley also chronicles a personal journey that commits to ensuring that higher education does not silence the voices of Indigenous people. In Chapter 13, Lopez recounts his childhood experiences with his dad as a dean of students and mom who was a faculty member at an American Indian college. Lopez highlights academic experiences associated with “institutional and tribal expectations to liberate” (p. 165) and institutional abuse of Indigenous faculty via assimilation. In the quest for liberation, Lopez notes the “…responsibility that comes with the faculty circle” (p. 165) and the RBF he experiences. Offered actionable strategies include, but are not limited to, the need to be inclusive of cultural values in strategic orientation, resist hegemonic structures by valuing Indigenous methodologies, and for institutions to be aware of the service obligations that Indigenous faculty have to their respective tribal communities.

Part Five, “The Racialized Experiences of People of Color in Diversity-Related Faculty Fellow Positions and Non-Tenure-Track Positions in U.S. Higher Education,” includes Chapters 14, 15, and 16. In Chapter 14, Buchanan accounts the experience of a perceived Knight (v. Alabama) case hire in a rural, small town in Alabama with a “blinking light”—a side of town where White residents posted crude signs about Black people. In addition to details about her colleagues not acknowledging or making eye contact with her, Buchanan delves into two personal stories undergirded by RBF: One when an older White female building janitor questioned “How did you get this office?” (p. 180), and when a White female student referred to Buchanan as a “Hitler” for not changing a grade on an assignment. These experiences, Buchanan notes, reflect the indignities associated with RBF. In Chapter 15, Pipkins likens her account of RBF to Ellison’s “Battle Royal” chapter in 1952’s Invisible Man. Pipkins reflects on White gluttony for Black culture and bodies: “this gluttony occurs simultaneously with rejection, dispossession, and erasure of the Black people that created it—a constant state of racist cognitive dissonance” (p. 193). Such dissonance, illustrated in Pipkins’ experiences, is evident in policies associated with hiring practices and pilfering of rightful ownership of intellectual property. In Chapter 16, Camacho notes that “the multidimensionality of my identity” leads to the need to “navigate the contradictions of respectability” in academe (p. 202). Camacho’s counternarrative as a Latina scholar activist posits that respectability within higher education affirms the following: “Our places of learning do not allow for the full participation of self, and faculty can be both the gatekeepers of White supremacy and agents of change” (p. 203). Camacho details the intergenerational trauma and risks associated with RBF. Offered actionable strategies include but are not limited to the need to invite the entire person to one’s institution, hire diverse faculty, and implement trainings for faculty search committees to understand White logic and unearned privileges.

Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons From Higher Education does more than offer a compilation of critical race auto-ethnographic accounts from scholars of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, varied academic experiences in both rank and discipline, and across institutional types. These autoethnographic accounts offer a raw and vulnerable view into RBF, an experience that is webbed at multiple and intersecting layers of experiences for faculty of color and Indigenous faculty. Moreover, these accounts serve as affirmation and validation of the experiences that faculty of color and Indigenous faculty encounter or will encounter within their career in academe, as the luxury of not experiencing RBF is nonexistent. Readers will have no difficulty seeing themselves in these narratives. The actionable strategies noted in each chapter also offer hope in that there are pragmatic suggestions that can dismantle—over time—the institutional role that permeates and sustains RBF.


Ellison, R. (1952). Invisible man. Vintage International.

Grosfoguel, R. (2013). The structure of knowledge in westernized universities: Epistemic racism/sexism and the four genocides/epistemicides of the 16th century. Human Architecture: Journal of Sociology of Self-Knowledge, 11(1), 73–90.

Macedo, D., & Bartoleme, L. L. (2000). Dancing with bigotry: Beyond the politics of tolerance. Palgrave MacMillan.

Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous people. Zed Books.

Smith, W.A. (2008). Higher education: Racial battle fatigue. In R. T. Schaefer (Ed.), Encyclopedia of race, ethnicity, and society (pp. 615–618). Sage Publications.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 01, 2021
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23656, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 10:07:59 AM

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About the Author
  • Rosa Banda
    Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
    E-mail Author
    ROSA M. BANDA, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Alonzo Flowers III
    Drexel University
    E-mail Author
    ALONZO M. FLOWERS III, Ph.D., is an associate professor and Program Director of the Ph.D. program in higher education at Drexel University.
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