Black faculty member teaching higher education
Antione D. Tomlin, PhD headshot

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Dr. Kelly Wallace Headshot

Dr. Kelly Wallace

Adjunct Faculty

The Pennsylvania State University, The Chicago School

Black History Month, for individuals of the Black community, is a poignant period—a moment to hit pause, reflect, and witness the world celebrating the brilliance of Blacks that often goes unnoticed or undervalued throughout the rest of the year. It’s not lost on us, as Black faculty, that this month, designated for this celebration, is notably the shortest of the year. However, in this leap year, we seize the extra day not to be tokenized or overworked in spaces where we’re called upon to represent diversity and Blackness. Instead, we embrace the additional day to stand boldly in our Blackness, celebrating as we see fit and safeguarding our peace in the process.

As two Black male faculty members, we acknowledge the scarcity of faces that resemble ours in the academic realm. Consequently, we often find ourselves called upon to represent not just Black faculty but Black male faculty and Black gay male faculty. While we accept this responsibility in many cases, recognizing the necessity of amplifying our voices, Black History Month becomes a juncture where we feel burdened by the demand for non-Black colleagues to include us in all the parading and showboating of Black excellence, often masked by diversity and inclusion efforts.

Undoubtedly, we engage in this for the culture, but the reality is that we are also fatigued. The burden of doubling our efforts to make diversity and inclusion initiatives work is draining. To that end, we assert, “Find somebody else to do it!” Here are four tips that Black faculty can consider for protecting our peace, advocating for our needs, staying hydrated, and minding our business.

Tip 1: Know Your Voice

White faculty members are routinely granted respect and authority for their intellectual abilities—especially from white students. In the classroom, they are seen as “experts,’’ and there is a systemic dominance of assumed intellectual ability. White students assume, based on presenting identity and credentials, that their professor “must know what they are talking about,” whereas Black faculty members working at predominately white institutions are often subjected to being challenged by white students, regardless of their credentials. Academic disciplines are oftentimes gendered, heteronormative, and racialized. White students may perceive Black and gay or Black and queer faculty members as less competent and question their pedagogical practices, teaching methods, and feedback given on assignments. 

This institutionalized racism and homophobia often result in Black faculty experiencing imposter syndrome, which can include feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and overachieving. This could also manifest itself as microaggressions in the classroom. To minimize and possibly eliminate these tenants, it is important to know and use your voice. Black faculty at predominately white institutions may not be able to connect with other faculty of color. However, knowing your strengths and your value helps to keep Black faculty grounded and adaptable. Below are some strategies for Black faculty to strengthen their voices.


  1. Being open but assertive to challenges.
  2. Structure your classroom to promote diversity.
  3. Your knowledge and worth are not based on classroom experiences.
  4. Not having an answer does not negate your expertise. 
  5. Feel the spectrum of emotions, but do not allow yourself to become stuck in negative feelings.

Tip 2: Connect With Black Administrators 

The phrase “it takes a village” is strong within the Black community. Having a community encompasses visibility, likeness, trust, and connection. At predominantly white institutions, there are often limited opportunities to interact and connect with other faculty of color. Black faculty members, both full-time and part-time, face the hard challenge of often being the only or one of a few faculty of color. While relationships can be formed between Black faculty and their white colleagues, this does not equate with the commonalities experienced within the Black community. 

A strategy to build a community is to connect with Black administrators. There are often more Black administrators than Black faculty, which presents an opportunity to build a community. These are the professionals who are responsible for tasks, including admission and enrollment, financial aid, campus activities and student life, etc. Sometimes, there are minimal interactions between faculty and administrators outside of student-based exchanges or related activities. However, there are other interactions, such as passing by each other on campus, grabbing a drink or coffee in the cafeteria, or running into each other during campus events. 

Taking stock of these interactions presents the chance to create a community. Having this community can increase a sense of visibility and belonging while decreasing the experience of isolation. Additionally, having these connections increases Black pride and can strengthen confidence. While building a connection between Black faculty and administrators takes time, the shared experience of Blackness at predominately white institutions provides another commonality to begin to build genuine relationships. Furthermore, this collaborative approach can help to establish a safe space to feel and express Blackness. And, if needed, discuss and implement strategies for strengthening the inclusion of Black identities. 

Tip 3: Check in With Your Core Values

While faculty members typically enjoy considerable flexibility and autonomy, the experiences of Black faculty shed light on an unspoken yet palpable pressure. This pressure, both explicit and implicit, pushes us to go above and beyond, often more than our non-Black colleagues, merely to be remotely valued at the same level. In navigating our roles, we frequently sense the expectation to fulfill every request, lacking the liberties that some of our non-Black colleagues seem to effortlessly wield when saying no or refusing tasks that, when communicated to us, feel more like direct orders. Our intention in sharing this is not to call out our colleagues but rather to invite them into a deeper awareness of the impact their words, directives, or lack of mentoring and support may have on us. We extend this call for reflection to our students, colleagues, and particularly ourselves, urging frequent check-ins with our core values.

When faced with tasks misaligned with those values, it is not only acceptable but crucial to assertively say no or acknowledge that the request doesn’t resonate with our professional identity. Unfortunately, Black faculty often find themselves in situations where they feel denied the opportunity to stand confidently in their Blackness while communicating that a given task doesn’t align with their professional identity. The pressure to comply arises from a desire for more teaching assignments, promotions, or tenure. This struggle is an added burden, contrary to our genuine desire to support our students, contribute innovative ideas, and enrich the educational space.

Once again, our purpose is not to call out but to encourage all colleagues, particularly Black colleagues, to engage in a profound check-in with your core values. Assess how you may be neglecting or honoring them and avoid losing sight of these values on your academic journey. It is a collective call to create an environment where authenticity and individual values are honored, fostering a truly inclusive and supportive academic community.

Tip 4: Yes, No, Counteroffer!

Consider adopting a strategy that is particularly beneficial when juggling numerous tasks or confronted with uncertainties about alignment with personal satisfaction and joy. As Black faculty, the inclination to always lend support, driven by the fear of retaliation or being perceived as uncooperative, often leads us to default to a “yes” even when it stretches us thin. Implementing a straightforward approach when faced with new requests can provide the space needed for thoughtful consideration. It empowers you to make decisions that align with your well-being and commitments to students, colleagues, and friends/family.

The next time you receive a request, take a moment to pause, evaluate its feasibility, and respond with a definitive “yes,” “no,” or a thoughtful counteroffer. Use “yes” when you are certain and eager to pursue the task. Conversely, utilize “no” for those requests that don’t align with your capacity or interest. Furthermore, consider a counteroffer when additional information is needed or modifications are necessary to better suit your needs.

A crucial note to fellow Black faculty members: leverage these tools and respond to incoming requests confidently, embracing the power of “yes,” “no,” or a thoughtful counteroffer. To our non-Black faculty colleagues, provide the necessary space for Black faculty to simply be and regard their responses—whether “yes,” “no,” or a counteroffer—with the sincerity they deserve.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach. Feel free to reach out at or on X (Twitter) @Tomlinantione.

Dr. Kelly Wallace is a Couple/Marriage & Family Therapist and a Professional Counselor. He is also an adjunct faculty member, and he educates future therapists, counselors, and other human service professionals. He is also a mentor and consultant. Dr. Wallace can be reached at

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.