The director of the program will probably be white, as will most of the professors.Of course, this isn’t a very different situation from most undergraduate colleges.Over and over, our students of color come to VONA and find a very different learning experience than have undergone in white dominated institutions.
Back in the late '80s, the Associated Writing Programs annual conference had about 350 attendees; this past year in Boston, the attendance was twelve thousand.
Despite this rise in numbers, if a student of color attends an MFA program, he or she will be in a small racial minority.
But creative writing involves the very description of that reality, and so the gulf between the vision of whites and people of color is very present right there on the page.
Moreover, the judgment of these descriptions again reveals a gulf between whites and people of color. In other words, I am arguing that what the MFA student of color experiences in a predominantly white institution is not simply an obscure or numerically insignificant occurrence.
What’s different today is the writers of color have more venues to express their descriptions. In the landscape of the literary world, one of the most dramatic shifts has been the rise of MFA creative writing programs.
There are now more than 300 in the United States and Canada.
Although the rest of this essay focuses on MFA creative writing programs, the issues and arguments it depicts occur everywhere in American society, in educational institutions, in businesses, in political institutions.
When issues of race come up in these other institutions, the treatment of the person of color and the reaction of whites in that institution are not very different from what happens in an MFA program.
Racism and racial bias can be found in the country, yes, but presumably that would be in the Republican Party or the Tea Party, not in a population of liberal white artists.
Unfortunately, that is not the experience of many MFA students of color.