“There was never an Ivory Tower. It was always a figure of speech… Conceived as human-made sacred mountains, towers could be approved as concrete displays of religious aspiration or condemned as symbols of overweening human pride and folly.” (Shapin, 2012, p. 1)
“... experiences…. transcend the Ivory Tower, transferring to other social institutions and even to interpersonal relationships.” (Winkle-Wagner, 2009, p. 7)
When I started talking to friends about my blog they kept saying, “What is an ivory tower?” I thought that people knew what an ivory tower was, but you know what they say about making assumptions.
The ivory tower is a term that describes institutions that are elite, exclusive, and disconnected from people.
Think about the slave labor that built many of the most prestigious and long-standing universities in the United States or the theft of Native land on which countless institutions were built.
Think about J. Marion Sims, also known as the Father of Gynecology (that title is a whole issue by itself). He performed vaginal operations on enslaved Black women with no anesthesia, then took his practice to benefit White women.
Think about the fact that the earliest students of color to access higher education were unknowingly used as props to benefit the White religious order.
Think about the fact that Black women were denied access to higher education for the first two hundred years of its existence in the U.S. We won’t even talk (today at least) about the gap between college access and degree attainment.
… This, my friends, is what happens inside ivory towers.
Higher education, the arts, government, and the Church have all been known as ivory towers. People inside ivory towers don’t just have ideas, but they have the power to spread those ideas around and turn them into rules, laws, and policies that have real consequences for other people. Folks on the inside tend to have a higher view (pun intended) of the Tower’s virtue than those who have to live in the fallout of its decisions. Some of the earliest #fakenews including the ‘science’ behind race was made inside Ivory Towers.
EMIT is about my relationship to the Ivory Tower. It's about:
- how I manage my life as a Black doctoral student mother and the assumptions about what it means to be a scholar
- acknowledging motherhood as a racialized phenomenon and celebrating Black mothers
- how I negotiate boundaries, stay well, and work full-time
- rearing three brown boys in a society that does not regard them as legitimate carriers of the Imago Dei (Image bearers of God and therefore deeply valuable)
- how my husband and I make choices together- especially for our children’s well-being
- the wrestling I do as someone who carries privilege and oppression in one body
- the ways I reconcile the legacy of misogynoir in the Church with my continued commitment to Jesus
- It’s about accepting Patricia Hills Collins invitation to Black mothers to develop a, “revitalized Black feminist analysis of motherhood that debunks the image of ‘happy slave’, whether the White-male crated ‘matriarch’ or the Black-male-perpetuated ‘superstrong Black mother’” (Collins, 2000, p. 190)
Ebony Mom Ivory Tower is about life at the intersection of race, motherhood, and higher education. The title of the blog is my resistance to the gaze of the Ivory Tower. We teach our children that we have power to defeat monsters, Voldermort, or Penny Wise when we look them in the face. It's my attempt at saying, "I see you". So, here I am taking back a bit of power and recognizing the Ivory Tower for what it is and what it tries to make of me. Whether you live at the same intersection as me, a neighboring intersection, or in a completely different neighborhood.... You're invited to come by.
What’s an Ivory Tower and what does it have to do with an ebony mom? Well, actually, a lot.