I am a professor of English at a small, selective college in central New York. Isolated in an obscure valley, the school and its surrounding village sometimes remain white with snow until late spring. A black tenured member of this community, I often feel similarly isolated in this snowy retreat from the multicultural mainstream of American life. So uncommon are other African Americans here, that the appearance of a clerk of color in the grocery store is matter for a week’s conversation at the family dinner table. Like other members of the village, we are known by face; however, our race gives our visibility a strange twist. For two years I was relentlessly confused with a recently fired—he was refused tenure—African colleague. Col...
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