UIP: The last issue of Women, Gender, and Families of Color had a common theme that tied all the articles together: disability. Of course, inclusion in the journal implies thematic connections. Do you ever look for closer, more nuanced relationships when curating the issues?
Jennifer: I am especially proud of the issue on disabilities. It was a considerable project and its success was due to a significant and collaborative effort between our editorial team and guest editors, Sandra Magana and Liat Ben-Moshe. The journal staff shared their enthusiasm for this special issue, as well. The necessity for this issue was clear; it tells us that there is so much more to learn about the intersections for multiple identities, particularly in regards to race, gender, and disability. The scholars who are leading this line of research are passionate about it and their scholarship introduces us the humanity and inhumanity of these intersections. These researchers deserve and have earned a forum that appreciates the meaning of their work; their work is not only important to the academy, but for everyone.
You can access the issue on Project MUSE or JSTOR.
UIP: Given the social/political climate in the United States regarding race relations, much of what is published in WGFC is pretty topical. This journal is fairly unique in that way; there is a lot of general interest and visibility for the content. Do you feel WGFC’s position in our nation’s dialogue about race is an added responsibility in your role as its editor?
J: WGFC has a responsibility to produce scholarship that contributes to correcting interpretations of the past in addition to serving as a venue for forward thinking and progressive action around social, political, economic, and cultural issues of today. In reference to your first question, because the general focus of WGFC is to emphasize women, gender, families, and communities of color, there is little need to seek out more nuanced relationships. However, I do think it is important that we note the differences and similarities of experiences of the racialized populations, especially in regards to equality and justice. Each published article is about a part of history or part of a policy, or a part of living, which together build a holistic understanding and framework. I use the “From the Editor” portion of the journal to link these parts.
Overall, the journal is about privileging traditionally marginalized and racialized groups and communities. It’s also about encouraging scholars to accept the journal as an opportunity for them to think creatively and boldly about how we theorize and analyze these individual and collective histories and contemporary conditions. For me, the journal is an intellectual contribution to the most critical question of the 21st century — how do we, in the United States and as a global society, intend to manage inequality and maintain our humanity? Our authors demand that we consider this because their work often centers upon those for whom the answer may matter the most.
UIP: It sounds like there are some pretty important purposes that the journal also serves?
J: Those who choose an academic life are not protected from, nor are they above the issues of race, gender, and sexuality that are challenges for society outside the academy. This journal is about supporting equality within academic spaces; it invites contributions from all scholars and publishes their work irrespective of professional statuses and networks.
Some might argue that all journals do this, and although I don’t know that I would disagree, I think WGFC actively considers how the editorial process impacts the professional careers of authors. Promotion and tenure require a well-developed portfolio that rests, primarily, on scholarly publications. Research tells us that women and women of color are disproportionately subject to challenges in gaining promotions. They are subject to persistent racial/ethnic and gender microaggressions that define interactions, access to information and support networks, workplace environments, and retention. In addition, promotion and tenure decisions rest on the quantity, and sometimes subjective quality of published work. Achieving the requirements can be especially difficult if one’s subject matter is not considered important or critical to their respective peers and/or disciplines
Many of our authors, though not all, are part of groups that are often “presumed incompetent” within academic institutions (see Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, Edited by Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. Gonzalez, and Angela P. Harris, University of Colorado Press, 2012). As an editor, I strive for a very quick review process and try my best to offer encouragement and support, even when we must reject a manuscript. We are generally willing to work with authors, sometimes through several revisions and re-submissions, if the quality of the manuscript warrants it and the authors have the patience to produce what is required.
UIP: Finally (and a little off-topic) are there any authors or books that have informed you in your career that you keep coming back to?
J: That’s a tough question! There are many books that I have had the opportunity to read and incorporate into my own work, especially my understanding of black families in the United States, which is my primary area of study. There is no one or two works of scholarship that I can point to, as I think we must have a holistic and interdisciplinary mindset to understand the experiences of families of color and families in general. For example, it is impossible to explain the racial tensions in Ferguson, MO without consideration of historical, political, economic, social, and cultural trends and circumstances. So the following are cross-disciplinary; they have guided and supported my approach to understanding families of color.
The Negro Family by E. Franklin Frazier, Philadelphia Negro by W.E.B. DuBois, Black Metropolis by Drake and Clayton, All Our Kin by Carol Stack,Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow by Jaqueline Jones, Shattered Bonds by Linda Roberts, Aren’t I a Woman by Deborah Gray White, Black Picket Fences by Mary Patillo McCoy, Black Wealth/White Wealth by Oliver and Shapiro, Black Milwaukee by Joe Trotter, and works by Robert Billingsley, Robert B. Hill, and Robert Staples. I also like some fictional work by Barbara Neely, her series on Blanche is a favorite.
Bustin’ Loose with Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson is one of my favorite movies. I used to work in Child Protective Services, so I am particularly sensitive to the plight of children. In this movie, two individuals give everything that they have to create a better life for a diverse group of “throw-away” children, a group for which society has no interest or hope. It is comedic and has a happy ending, however, which encourages us to believe that, in the end, people will find their humanity and build a better place for all.