Dr. Lee, faculty

College Faculty Member Fired, Allegedly For Not Being The ‘Right Kind of Black Person’

A California community college in Cupertino fired a Black faculty member for being the wrong type of Black person.

Dr. Tabia Lee, a former tenured faculty member, sued Foothill-De Anza Community College after the institution said she was not the “right kind of Black person,” Newsweek reported. The lawsuit revealed that Lee said the school discouraged her free speech, the outlet reported. The legal complaint detailed that Lee and the community college had differences of opinion regarding race and gender.

The community college notified Lee that she was being let go because she “refused to knuckle under to campus orthodoxy,” which to Lee may have translated to “not woke enough.”

Lee’s approach to facilitating conversations around race and gender included:

  • Not using the term “Latinx.”
  • Questioning why “Black” was capitalized and “white” was not.
  • Trying to bring a “Jewish inclusion” event to campus, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Lee also allegedly disrespected a Black Lives Matter movement founder.

In an interview with the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, the former De Anza faculty member said, “I noticed that there was a lot of resistance to my even asking questions about anti-racism, policy efforts, and language.” In addition to holding a tenured teaching position, Lee was the community college’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) director.

The New York Post reported Lee received pushback when she asked for transparency about the college’s anti-racism policies. Lee said, “I just purely wanted to know what folks meant when they were using those terms. And I encountered a lot of hostility, a lot of resistance to me even asking questions.” 

Attorney Leigh Ann O’Neill said, according to Inside Higher Ed, “In Dr. Lee’s case specifically, what I think is so important about the work she is doing is she is fostering open inquiry and diverse viewpoints and discussions among the people she is teaching.” “We [Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism] don’t think that there’s one right way to do most things. It takes understanding different approaches, different viewpoints to find the right path forward.”

According to U.S. News and World Report, the campus is made up of Hispanic/Latino (27%), white (18%), and Black or African American students, among other racial and ethnic demographics.