please note: I, SWW, strongly agree with the conclusions of the interview below, though the logic, used to arrive at those conclusions, is extremely confused."

Because of deeply entrenched racial discrimination, more black people have died from lightning than have become professors of computer science.

Philip Emeagwali interviewed on May 29, 1997 by Jim Romenesko ( for the June 1, 1997 issue of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press [SPPP].

SPPP: I've talked to university computer profs who say that African-Americans just aren't showing up in computer science and tech fields (women only make up about a quarter of their enrollments, too). Could you discuss this issue of the African-Americans?

Emeagwali: People lie but numbers do not lie. According to the Computing Research Association, only one out of 14 blacks that received the Ph.D. degree in 1994 was hired by academia. The same organization reported that only 3 out of 1215 (0.25 percent) full professors of computer science in the entire North America were black. Most likely, these 3 black professors are hired in predominately black universities. These statistics prove that predominately white faculty gives preference in hiring white candidates. Blacks that attempt to become professors of computer science face a concrete wall. The black computer science professor is an endangered species

The Computing Research Association wrote that the average computer science professor at its 150 member schools earn a six-figure salary for teaching six hours a week and working nine months a year. By an unspoken gentlemen's agreement, white male decision makers have agreed that such plum jobs should be reserved for white males and subjective criteria are used to disqualify qualified African-Americans.

My personal observation was confirmed by former University of Oregon Law School dean and Harvard Law School professor, Mr. Derrick Bell, who wrote in his book Confronting Authority:

"I have seen otherwise honorable faculty members engage in the most unscrupulous, underhanded conduct to avoid hiring or promoting individuals they did not wish to see admitted to their ranks. They have lied, maligned character, altered rules, manufactured precedents, and distorted policies.... When the candidate is not a white man, ... the opposition can be as fierce as it is illogical and unfair."

The white males that are given preference in academic hiring did not have to overcome racial and gender discrimination. On the other hand, minority and women scientists overcame discrimination to acquire their skills. As the pioneer female physicist C. S. Wu succintly put it: "Never before have so few contributed so much under such trying circumstances."

An analogy is a white male that walked three downhill miles gets a gold medal while a black male that ran six uphill miles is denied a bronze medal.

American universities are not equal opportunity or merit-based employers. The fact that only one in 405 computer science professors is black proves that academic racism is pervasive and deeply entrenched. Because of deeply entrenched racial discrimination, more black people have died from lightning than have become professors of computer science.

This form of white affirmative action or preferential treatment is rarely acknowledged by white males. Ms. Peggy McIntosh of Wellesley College Center for Research on Women put it succintly when she wrote:

"I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was 'meant' to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, code books, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear and blank checks."

Computer Scientists of the African Diaspora

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Dr. Scott Williams, Professor of Mathematics
State University of New York at Buffalo

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