As reported in the Star, Candace Feldman recently resigned as director of programming from UA Presents and said she would sue the University of Arizona based on racial discrimination and wage inequality.
The article struck a very raw and exposed nerve when I read it. I cannot purport to represent the entire black community in Tucson, nor can I completely understand the UA’s workings. I can, however, represent me — a black woman, invested in the community of Tucson and involved at the university. Full disclosure, the UA signs my paycheck.
Feldman’s experiences are neither isolated nor unique. Since moving to Tucson in 2008, I have heard story upon story of women of color (particularly black women) who were recruited to work here, excited to build a life here, but ultimately found the employment environment particularly inhospitable, even hostile. What is it about the tone and tenor of Tucson and its institutions that make it so difficult for many black women to fully thrive here?
Since making Tucson my home, I also have had my own experiences with bigotry and what some may call “microaggressions” — coming from both professional peers and so-called progressives. I listen to colleagues talk about inclusion, diversity, equity and good-intentioned allies outraged by the lack of it. Yet, over and over, these positions seem to remain just that — positions.
How many individuals in our community bore witness to Feldman’s experience these last two years — and the many other experiences of people of color of decades past — and yet stood silent?
Her experience and the resulting lawsuit against the University of Arizona is yet another cause-and-effect cycle that is getting tiresome. Leadership in Tucson, at all places of publicly supported and sanctioned social, cultural and economic activity, have an obligation to acknowledge and correct the injustices embedded in the practices and operations of the institutions they oversee.
I don’t know if that has been written into anyone’s job description. Does it have to be?
I challenge all of us to continue to look at the environments in which we operate and ask ourselves why a situation like Feldman’s can happen. And, just as important, why it continues to happen.