Q&A with LaToya Brackett Ph.D., A&S '06
Major: Africana Studies
Minor(s) & Concentrations: Inequality Studies, Law and Society
Activities: Big Red Marching Band, writer for Black Perspectives newspaper, an editor for Ethos yearbook
What is your current position, organization and responsibilities?
I am an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, WA. I teach courses in African American studies from introductory survey courses to research methods, and public scholarship. In the summer I teach for our Master's in Teaching program as well. I recently launched the first faculty led study abroad course in our African American Studies program when I took students to Ghana the winter of 2019. I also co-founded a lecture series dedicated to bringing Womxn of color to our campus every spring.
How has your work intersected with topics of inequalities?
My role as a professor, who teaches about the black experience, at a predominantly white university, is the work of teaching about inequality. Not only do I have to break down the systems that created racism and uphold racism, but I have to teach in a space that reminds me and my students of the inequalities right in front of us. I must teach students over 50% of whom have never had a black teacher before reaching my college classroom (I take a poll, as it is important to what I will be teaching them). I must teach students who have learned a little, nothing, or a great deal about race, and I must do it in the same classroom, all together, and I must get them all to be on an equal (hopefully) footing in regards to their understanding of how racism works in the U.S. Understanding inequalities is not only about knowing how to teach it, or talk about it, but it informs my teaching pedagogy.
How did the Minor prepare you in your post-Cornell life?
One of the reasons I chose to minor in Inequality Studies was because of my focus on African Americans in my major. After Cornell, I received my doctorate in African American and African Studies and I also obtained a Master's in Counseling. As a black woman, and someone who grew up struggling due to economic barriers, I wanted to better understand the systems at play that made it especially more difficult for people like myself to get ahead. When I was being trained as a counselor, I realized how beneficial it was to have, not only my already interdisciplinary lens as I interrogated the black experience, but also my ability to deconstruct how inequalities like economic insecurities, intersect with people from various backgrounds, racial, gender, ability, age, etc. I know that this minor allowed me to embrace how my mind would wonder about peoples from all over the world. Additionally, it allowed me to begin the process of understanding what inequalities in other countries might be, how they might have manifested, and the best ways to understand how they impact lives. This was especially beneficial as I had to teach students I was taking to Ghana about how to engage in a new space respectfully.
What advice would you offer current students?
My advice is that you should enjoy your time in college, each moment. You should say yes to opportunities because you never know what might come of them today, or as I like to tell youth, years later. Make connections, but do not think your career or life trajectory relies on who you become closest to now. As we age, so too do our ideologies and goals in life. It might be 10 years from now that someone you took a class with, and perhaps only spent those hours with, might reconnect with you and launch you into a venture. So, I guess, you never know what is around the corner. And even if something bad comes, trust me I've had my fair share, believe that there's always a better day ahead.