Poetry News

Wang Ping Sues Macalester College for Employment Discrimination

By Harriet Staff


Speaking of conferences at Berkeley, The Huffington Post has a piece up about poet and professor Wang Ping, who "is now a figure in the national news" for her lawsuit again Macalester College for employment discrimination. Ping was the Keynote Poet at the Presumed Incompetent Conference--a conference at UC Berkeley "built around the fabulously successful book that seeks to change the way that academia treats (or should I say mistreats) minorities," writes Khanh Ho.

As for the suit:

She was repeatedly denied promotion at the school. Like so many women of color, she had done all the necessary work of getting ahead but, instead, has watched colleagues -- white males --far less qualified than her attain the rank of full professor, the crowning glory of the academic ladder. But unlike most women of color -- women who often get by-passed and curl into a ball and die -- Wang Ping has decided to sue Macalaster College for discrimination. And I think she has a pretty strong case.

At the conference Ping read "Who Killed Soek-Fang Sim," shared at the conference's Facebook event page. Ho writes of it:

There, Wang Ping will read a poem that she composed about another woman, Soek-Fang -- a colleague who was so mistreated by her institution that it literally killed her. Macalaster, too, failed to promote this professor, a woman from Singapore, who did not even get beyond her first promotion review. Shortly thereafter, she would die of breast cancer. And everyone would forget her, until Wang Ping resuscitated her name and gave her new life, allowing her spirit to soar on the eagle wings of art.

"Dumb teacher, dumb scholar, dumb woman" -- this is one of the sad lines in the poem, a moment that demonstrates the psychological torment, the self-laceration and pain of living in a world that can blame you for your inadequacy because of your breasts. It is both the voice of the white male academy and the voice that wheedles into your head -- a voice that suddenly is your own voice -- and whispers its poison into your ear. Women like Soek-Fang are all too often forgotten, consigned to the dust bin of history. They are collateral damage. It takes a real hero like Wang Ping to make sure they are not forgotten.

Originally Published: March 11th, 2013