Visiting Professor for Ethnic Studies Crosses Borders, Finds Her Way to Kalamazoo

Ogden Wright, Business Manager

After the arduous task of moving from San Francisco, California to Kalamazoo, Dr. Reid Gomez started work as the visiting Professor of Ethnic Studies on Nov. 1, 2013.

If you ask Dr. Gomez where she considers home, however, you will discover a woman with her roots in the Navajo nation.

Described as the largest federally recognized tribe in the United States, the Navajo tribe can be found primarily in the southwestern region of the US, in states such as Arizona and New Mexico. She highlighted, however, that the Navajo nation does not define her entirely, as she also acknowledges her Congolese and New Mexican roots.

Her work in Ethnic Studies so far has largely been focused on dealing with slavery and extermination in the borderlands and in the blood lands with an emphasis on language, oral history, and Navajo philosophy.

With most of her educational background and professional work being in ethnic studies, she cited her Navajo background as the driving force behind her decision to pursue scholarship in ethnic studies.

“I live in language,” she stated, “[It is] what I do and who I am and I think because of that, because of the Navajo philosophy of the nations, I’m always willing to speak to people, to listen to people and I’m always trying to figure out how were related because I know we’re related and if we can figure that out, then we can begin to behave towards each other in a good way.”

Dr. Gomez believes that the College’s pursuit of Ethnic Studies is an important step in the development of all those involved.

She states, “There is so much knowledge that is not being heard and not being acknowledged that is weakening us. Without that, the school is weaker, the students are weaker and the faculty is weaker.”

In a unique comparison to emphasize her point, she likened persons who did not know about ethnic studies and were unwilling to learn to a chemist who was working without acknowledging all the columns of the periodic table.

When asked what she was most looking forward to while working at K, she noted that she was really interested in creating something that speaks to the students, faculty and staff, as well as creating a program that really stood out.

“I’m excited about creating something that’s really special here, and really visionary and takes a lead in this field in critical ethnic studies.”

She was quick to highlight that she was not attached to the name of ‘critical ethnic studies,’ as it did not adequately reflect the opinions of some groups that the field seeks to represent, such as the indigenous peoples and members of the African Diaspora.

Ultimately, she would like to see a Program that is based on responsibility to the land, and its inhabitants.

“A lot of places that have land based studies are based in indigenous studies programs and I would really like to see this program be able to talk about race, racial formation and origins that includes everyone that is actually here in this hemisphere.” She stated this while acknowledging that there needs to be a focus on the colonial situation of the United States.