We should be better than this

My first academic conference is over.

I naively imagined this would be a nice break from school. Two days later, I’m exhausted.

I had a really great time here. Tuscaloosa is a cute town, the campus is probably the most beautiful I’ve seen, and I really enjoyed interacting with fellow conference-goers.

One thing struck me as being not quite right this weekend, however, particularly given the subject of this conference: Immigration – minorities – the treatment of people who are fundamentally considered ‘other’ in literature and culture.

So given Chick-fil-A’s treatment of a particular minority group, I was surprised to find that they had catered our little soiree last night.

Now, I’m not going to entrench myself in the culture wars around Chick-fil-A but suffice it to say that I’ve made a personal choice to not eat there. While I certainly don’t want to force my own politics or my own convictions on others, I would expect that at a conference where we’re talking about issues regarding immigration and minorities, the connection to other minorities wouldn’t be too much of a stretch and I would imagine that wanting to make reasonable accommodations to be sensitive to them would also not be too much of a stretch.

Are we going to be sincere about our calling as academics? Or is what we do in the classroom and in our research and panel discussions something we can totally disconnect from the rest of our lives? I think if you’re going to hold a conference about immigration, minorities, and the ‘other’, you might want to take into account how the ‘other’ will feel when you decide that in the whole city of Tuscaloosa, you’re going to hire a national chain at the center of a national controversy because of its founder’s homophobic politics to cater your food.

Just a suggestion.



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