This week, my guest is Tabia Lee, the now former assistant professor and director of the Office of Equity, Social Justice, and Multicultural Education at De Anza Community College. Shortly after being hired by De Anza, Tabia found that her expansive view of diversity, equity, and inclusion was not welcome at the school, where a narrow and divisive conception of DEI held sway. After facing pushback and outright hostility from her colleagues, she was unceremoniously fired. Tabia’s experience demonstrates the grimly ironic results of a small-minded, intolerant, and fanatical concept of DEI that has actually committed itself to uniformity, inequality, and exclusion.
In our conversation, Tabia tells me about her journey from teaching gifted translingual students to earning a PhD in education. After pushing through a tough academic job market, she landed a position at De Anza, where the trouble started almost immediately. Her attempts to alert colleagues to campus antisemitism only made things worse, as she found that the only “identity” categories they were willing to accept was BIPOC and white, oppressor and oppressed. Despite being black herself, she was accused of “whitesplaining, white thinking, and white supremacy.” Eventually she was fired from her position, but she and her ideas have found a home in the nonprofit world, where she’s continuing her work.
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0:00 Tabia’s early career as a teacher
5:40 Tabia’s “rough ride” as a DEI director
17:06 The antisemitism problem at De Anza
25:25 The inescapable BIPOC binary
28:52 From disagreement to deplatforming
35:30 Why Tabia found support among students but not faculty
39:00 How attempts to silence Tabia backfired
40:54 Tabia’s broad vision of diversity
47:46 Learning from the medical professionals of Galilee
Recorded November 27, 2023