About Me

DEC on 5-18-20 at 8.37 AMI am a freelance writer who has written on the topics of multiculturalism, education reform, race and African American/American identity for more than twenty years. As of June, I am also a contributing writer with Al Jazeera English-Opinion on these topic. I have published articles in Al Jazeera English, The Atlantic, Salon, The Guardian, Huffington PostDiverse: Issues in Higher Education, Gannett Suburban Newspapers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, History of Education Quarterly, The Washington Post, Teachers College Record, Academe Magazine, Radical Society and the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education. My publications include narrative profiles and stories, op-eds, book reviews, scholarly articles and feature articles, review entries and book chapters.

The manuscript I am working on now is titled Narcissism, American Style: Essays on Racism, Narcissism, and How to Get to a Post-Western World. Narcissism, American Style is a collection of allegories (with personal and historical vignettes embedded within). My approach has been to open up each chapter with a story of either a slice of the troubled times of the 21st-century US or with visions of my great-times-eight granddaughter Olivia, one living three centuries later, in a post-American, post-Western world. The latter is a world in which global leadership is synonymous with Black and Brown women, a world that much more keenly understands the dangers of narcissism and racism than the one in which we inhabit today. Through the lenses of Afrofuturism, Pan-Africanism, critical race theory, and intersectionality, my muse-as-descendant is the aperture through which readers can view the world after centuries of capitalism, modern racism, climate change, and misogyny have come to an end. This miracle, however, only occurred after the globe experienced significant pain, and after the Western world collapsed under its own weight.

I am also the author of Fear of a “Black” America: Multiculturalism and the African American Experience (iUniverse.com, 2004), an in-depth response to the conservative movement’s “Culture Wars” on all things “multicultural.” The book is a combination of my personal vignettes with interviews and historical research to create a semi-scholarly, semi-narrative nonfiction story of African Americans and other groups of color coming to grips with their notions of multiculturalism in education and in their everyday lives.

Boy @ The Window (self-published, 2013) is my memoir that covers my years growing up in poverty and abuse in Mount Vernon, New York (suburban New York City) during the 1980s. It’s a story about the universal search for understanding on how any one of us becomes the person they are despite—or because of—the odds intertwined with my own search for redemption, trust, love, success—for a life worth living. It’s a personal dialogue along with interviews of those who were in my life more than two decades ago. It’s an intellectual and emotional journey that is about our deepest fears and most cherished dreams as much as it is about me and the people I grew up around. Boy @ The Window is about one of the most important lessons of all: what it takes to overcome inhumanity in order to become whole and human again.

Outside of my work as a writer, I’ve worked in academia for more than twenty years and in the nonprofit world for more than a decade. I currently serve as a Visiting Assistant Professor in African American History at Loyola University Maryland, a non-tenured Professorial Lecturer in History and American Studies at American University, and as an Associate Professor with University of Maryland University College. I have taught as an adjunct professor of African American History and American Education at Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, George Washington University, the University of the District of Columbia and Howard University. I also have been a consultant with Educational Testing Service, American Institutes for Research and the Junior Statesmen Foundation.

For more than four years I served as the Deputy Director of College Access and Success Initiatives with the Center for School and Community Services at Academy for Educational Development (AED – now FHI 360) in Washington, DC and New York City. I also previously served as Assistant Director of the New Voices Fellowship Program at AED, a program for emerging leaders in the social justice field.

I have a Ph.D. in History from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Pittsburgh. I live in Silver Spring, Maryland with my wife and my young adult son.


If you would like to contact me for a speaking engagement, a training, a panel presentation, or a book talk/signing, please feel free to email me at donaldearlcollins@gmail.com. I can also be reached via Twitter at @decollins1969. I can speak as a writer, a historian, and an educator on US identity and Black identity, critical race theory, American narcissism and American systemic racism (i.e., white supremacy). and K-16 education issues (particularly educational equity and pathways to college and graduate school, not to mention, the false notion of education as a meritocracy).

My blog (including my videos, other writings and blog topics) should provide a good sense of what to expect from me.

33 thoughts on “About Me”

  1. James Reel said:

    Dear Professor Collins:

    Idly surfing the Web looking for opinions about “Jewish” Ferengi, I found your post about “Star Trek” and race, which I enjoyed very much. (If it matters, I’m a middle-aged WASP.) A couple of additional points … The main “Latino” Maquis characters turned out to be intelligent (one is an engineer!), courageous, and ultimately right-thinking, among the most valuable leaders on “Voyager,” so I think in the end there was more to it than just casting Latinos for their hot-bloodedness. Also, I was interested as TNG progressed to see that more and more black actors were cast as Klingons–which admittedly ties in with certain stereotypes, but does involve them in what became a complex society, and its leading representative–Worf–turning into quite an interesting character through the course of TNG and DS9.

    And no, I don’t collect Star Trek paraphernalia or attend conventions; I just enjoy (most of) the shows, like you.

    James Reel

    • You’re right on the totality of the Star Trek franchise, of course, but that doesn’t negate the type-casting that took place by any means. This post was me expounding on an observation, as it in no way keeps me from watching TNG or DS9 when I’m in the mood for some Star Trek (as I believe I said in my post). But given that this is a vast representation of human civilization three or four centuries from now, it seems odd that there are concentrations of ethnic groups into these categories. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, in any case.


  2. I’m grading Shakespeare papers (which are frying my brain), so I don’t have anything intelligent to say. I just really appreciated this blog entry. I’ve had similar thoughts myself, but I never took the time to put fingers to keyboard. Thank you!

  3. Inna Alanos said:

    Apologies for commenting here but the Star Trek one had comments closed. In light of your thoughts on positive or negative stereotypes, how do you feel about the cultural phenomena of “acting white” term in Black community? (in case it needs explaining, that’s a derogatory term – by Black community – for a minority child who studies hard. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acting_white)

    • Given how my life has evolved over the past four decades, I think I understand what “acting White” means. But the fact is, African Americans have a diversity of opinions on this issue. There are some Blacks, though, who believe in the idea of an authentic Blackness, which I’ve written about as an educator, historian and from a personal perspective over the years. Part of this is generational, and part of this is socioeconomic in nature. And this issue of authenticity has been around since the days of slavery, so it’s not new. What’s new is the increasing push-back from Blacks of various backgrounds about this issue of “acting White.” Bottom line: those who use this phrase tend to be anti-intellectual, distrustful of higher education and as bigoted as any other group in American society toward “others.”

      • Inna Alanos said:

        Sorry, Wasn’t too clear in my question. Do you feel that the fact of how widespread it is in the culture (both the use and the lack of disapproval) has any *material* consequences to the socioeconomic outcomes for Blacks as a group in the 1990-2020 period? It’s clear that you disapprove of it, but do you feel it is a problem that **must** be fixed for Blacks to succeed (beyond mere “bigotry is bad” angle)?

      • Your assumption here is troubling, as if 40 million African Americans all think alike on this topic. Sure, there’s a slice of Blacks who have a litmus test for “authentic” Blackness, and for them, those who can’t meet this test are considered “acting White.” But no, there’s no agreed upon definition for either in African America. Your premise supposes the sociological or psychological effect of this is a lower socioeconomic status for African Americans. Keep in mind that since the 1970s, more than 50 percent of Blacks have been middle or upper middle class, while the poverty rate for Blacks has varied between 25 and 33 percent over the past 40 years. Your question ignores other factors, including de-industrialization, expanding economic inequality, and structural racism as factors that have far more effect on social mobility than a cultural litmus test that a small slice of Blacks strictly adhere to.

        Since you’re reading my black, you may want to refer to the four or so posts I’ve made on the issue of “authentic” Blackness and how I dealt with this growing up. You may also want to read Toure’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness (2011) for much more on this issue. Either way, if you get anything out of this at all, it’s the fact that 40 million Blacks cannot possibly hold the same views on any subject, including the notion of “acting White.”

  4. Inna Alanos said:

    Sorry but I did not say (at least that I noticed) anything about “all Blacks”. Merely that the attitude IS widespread (which I hope you will not argue against). It’s not just 10 or 20 vocal people but a statistically meaningful slice. Neither did I anywhere indicate that I hold a (indeed incorrect) view that the “actning white” attitude is the SOLE (or for that matter main) reason for the discrepancy between Blacks and, say, Asians socioeconomically.

    My question was very specifically regarding whether this attitude is **important** – e.g. that without fixing it, addressing any other factors would still not fully (or, possibly, meaningfully) resolve the discrepancy; or that you don’t see it as an important factor AT ALL. Please note that all the other factors have the same negative impact on Asians. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about rationalizations as to WHY such an “acting white” attitude exists – merely interested in whether you consider that attitude an important problem for Blacks to tackle to raise their collective socioeconomic status, or not an important factor (among other factors, of course).

    As far as “structural racism” – too big of a discussion to hold here, but let’s just say as a personal anecdote, 100% of Blacks who I know who studied as hard as I did, are on the same (and sometimes higher) socioeconomic level as me. And before you start spouting empty platitudes about “privilege” – I am an immigrant, grew up in a gang infested part of a city I was born in, came to USA with, basically, proverbial $5 in my pocket and poor English. What I had was willingness to study and work combined 18+ hours a day, instead of “hanging out”, picking up chicks and playing hoops like many of my generation did even when they went to college together with me. Guess what separated those Blacks who succeeded same as me? They worked nearly as hard as I did (I had to work a bit harder due to having been a recent immigrant, just to keep up).

    • I’m sorry, but I think I answered your question already. If you wanted to approach this from a real research perspective, you should’ve been clearer up front. For the third time, I’ve addressed this issue in my blog multiple times. Seriously, for someone who wants to have a conversation on a topic, you have a RUDE conversational style. Please go through my blog before sending me another comment on this topic. Thank you.

  5. Steven Capozzola said:


    Regarding your Nov. 5, 2011 blog item– I’m sorry to see that you’re still harboring anger toward Richard Capozzola (your former high school principal in Mount Vernon).

    “Mr. Cap” was my dad, and I can tell you that he was basically cranky at times toward everyone. He wasn’t predisposed to like or dislike white or black students. He was just, like you said, a “hard ass.” He grew up very poor in the Bronx, put himself through college, and at the close of his career took charge of MVHS for 10 long, hard years. He did a good enough job, though, because he held the school together, and garnered national recognition from the White House. (From what I gather now, conditions there have sadly deteriorated in the ensuing years).

    Anyway, if my dad read what you wrote, he’d probably just shrug his head. He had the admirable quality of not dwelling too much on what others thought of him–something I wish I could learn to do (though I’m just not constituted like him).

    The irony is that my dad was really just a baseball player, and a big baseball fan. His closest friends (many of them from Puerto Rico) were his fellow ball players over the span of many decades– black, white, Italian, whatever. I’m sorry you never got to see that side of him.

    Best of luck with your endeavors,
    Steven Capozzola

    • Steven:

      Thanks for your comment. We had an exchange of comments about your father before, two years ago in the weeks after his passing. The fact is, I don’t harbor anger toward your father. But when I write about my past, I write it within the context of the past, often informed by my own experiences as an educator.

      Like I said two years ago, I expect you to defend your father. From my experiences, though, all of his journey can in no way explain away the way he and the rest of his administrators ran MVHS in the 1980s. That you didn’t experience this at all means that you really don’t have a clue about going to a school where you’re more in fear of security and administrators than you were of any student-on-student violence (real or imagined). Where from day one you know you’re considered a statistic, that you’re seen as a 50-50 graduation prospect. As for the Blue Ribbon Award, I’m familiar enough with the circumstances to know that MVHS won that award on the back of the Humanities Program, a program your father wasn’t exactly fond of (and he let us Humanities students know that on multiple occasions).

      So, from that standpoint, it really doesn’t matter in the context of my own story what your father was like outside of MVHS between 1979 and 1988. He may have been a great person. But in the story that I lived, wrote down, and interviewed former teachers and classmates about, your father wasn’t exactly a transformational educator, as we say in K-16 circles these days. To argue that race or racial bias wasn’t a factor in the politics and policies within Mount Vernon public schools and MVHS is to deny years of research in the education field covering the period of American educational history in the quarter-century after the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Not to mention the politics of education in Mount Vernon from 1954 to the present. In that sense, at least, your father was hardly alone in his triage approach to education at MVHS, and his negative attitudes toward students in general, and Black students specifically.

      May we continue to agree to disagree,

  6. Professor Collins the blog of your life is very interesting. I took some time to see how you have studied history and left a milestone for generations to come about your life.

    Thanks for pushing me in class it has had made me read further for understanding of our culture. The good the bad and the ugly.

    Thanks again,

  7. appreciate your posts and emails. Congrats on cornering our market #mountvernon Are you able to shoot me a picture of the old Lincoln school building when it was on Lincoln Ave?

    • Nope. I had a picture through the old Mount Vernon Daily Argus, from about 1976, just before they tore the old school down. You may want to check Mount Vernon Library to see if they may have some old photos, or with some Lincoln ES alumni on Facebook.

  8. Kelly Vetter said:

    wonderfully written, inspirational for a painting I am currently working on

  9. Andrew Tidwell said:

    just reading your article about cancel culture. just curious. does forgiveness exist in your world? if i say 1 or even 10 racist things, am i now a racist my entire life? or is it possible to change? does 1 tweet cement a persons character? how does this apply to people who have committed felonies, dont we want to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society? shouldnt this apply for people who have said racist things? should Alexi McCammond try to get a job for breitbart or maybe be a leader of the KKK? is she beyond saving? beyond redemption? can’t do anything because 10 years ago she tweeted some stuff? that doesn’t sound like a good way to lead to healing. what about me. i have said racist things, and i truly regret it. but am i to be put in a box who can never do anything important because a few times i called people racist names? or could i learn from my mistakes and try to make the world a better, more inclusive place? or would the sins of my past be enough to exclude me? what do you want to see happen to people? shouldnt we be forgiving people and trying to help them overcome racism rather than condemning them to everlasting shame? just a thought… hope we can talk soon. and i pray that the world can find forgiveness and be united as children of the Living God, who created all of us in His image…

    • Your comments are off-topic and actually not relevant at all to my piece. Forgiveness does not mean consequence-freedom from your actions and vitriol. Forgiveness does not mean that your words and deeds didn’t do damage. Forgiveness is for the person(s) who experienced harm, who were victims of people’s racism and other -ism, and not for the perps who caused it. It is for us to decide when, where, how, and why to forgive, and what that means for us.

      None of what I wrote is about forgiveness. It’s about whether there is a culture that actually cancels the lives and life-chances of people. Not for someone in the lofty circles that Alexi McCammond travels. Not for most Whites. Not the way the US has operated as a country for nearly 250 years.

      Seriously, so many of you think that it is the burden of those who’ve been wronged to say, “it’s okay, let’s move on,” to give latitude for trauma-inducing events, to say that something as ugly as everyday racism is perfectly okay. That is narcissism approaching malignant scales. Do not come on my site talking about forgiveness. If you cannot be held accountable for words and actions that injure others, all forgiveness does is exonerate narcissists in such a way that it makes what they did okay. In McCammond’s case, we are talking about an EIC job at Teen Vogue, not her career, and not her life in general. Let’s see your scenario play out when Chauvin is likely acquitted or provided a lesser charge for killing an unarmed Black man in broad daylight. I suppose that society should forgive him and completely move on from his transgressions, seeing him walk free or serving a smallish sentence for willfully killing — murdering — Floyd.

      But of course you won’t see the link between the individual and the systemic, between -ism-filled words and an institution built on such words, between excusing traumatizing words and behaviors and their lethal consequences. Your brain is so soaked in narcissism that you think coming on here to find a space to demand forgiveness without any accountability on your part (or McCammond’s or anyone else’s part) is normal. It is not. I am not a Catholic priest, or Jesus himself. It is not my job to grant forgiveness to a racist society and to a society full of racists. Go pray to Trump or something, and seek absolution there.

      • Andrew Tidwell said:

        wow. you think you have me figured out. im just another white boy who doesn’t get it. i wish you could understand how wrong that perception you have of me is. i am sorry for the hundreds of years of racism that this country was built on. i am sorry for the millions of people who think racism isnt a thing. i know that this country was built on racism, it goes to the core of this nation. i know that i have privilege that i will never fully understand because i will always be white. i know what goes on in court is wrong. i was beat up and robbed by 3 black teens back in 2015. when it went to court, after i testified at the pre trial, THEIR court appointed lawyer gave me a thumbs up and mouthed “good job buddy” because of that i did not go to the final trial, and the case what thrown out. i could not stomach what they were trying to charge those boys with. they were going to get 21-45 years in prison. i tried to talk to the prosecutors and set up a meeting with them to just talk and drop charges, and the court would not let me do that. its wrong what goes on. and i didn’t say forgiveness without accountability. i asked, is there a way to atone? i didn’t say just drop it like it never happened… that was you who put those words into my mouth.. i am not trying to start a fight. and you characterized me. i am trying to have a productive conversation, and you are accusing me of being a trump supporter and saying i deny racism. i know its real. i see it every day. i stand up against it when i see it. i defend the innocent and tell white people off when i see them being racist. i hope we can have a meaningful dialogue. sorry for how my first comment came off, but i hope you can get passed your biases of me and see who I am and not just throw me in with the rest of the white supremacists. thats pretty hurtful. you see that this whole race relation thing is a two way street right? it goes both ways. accusing someone you don’t know of being a racist and praying to trump over one comment is not very conducive to constructive dialog.

      • The “I was victimized by Black people, but I forgave them” retort is something I’ve seen in social justice circles way too often. You went there, like a narcissist would, like a person who doesn’t understand that even this “benevolence” is born out of White supremacy and racism.

        There is a way to have a meaningful dialogue, but you went there first, demanding forgiveness in a piece that described in detail exactly what you did in finding a way to respond to me, through my blog, and not in a more direct manner. You centered the perpetrators of interpersonal racism (or at least, racist words and deeds) over the trauma it caused others. There can be no atonement or taking of responsibility when damage goes unacknowledged, when it is always about you, and not other people.

        You have used up all your minutes, your blog card has expired. Have a nice day.

  10. Carson Moore said:

    “ American culture sees Blackness as the damage it did to us, not the joy we take in ourselves”

    I see Blackness as damage done to America.

    Unfortunately that “joy” you spoke of far too often turns into violence. Shootings at dj-parties, birthday parties, Black Biker Week. And likely that same joyfulness is a reason black workers are less productive and play more on the job:


    • Wow, you are so right! Why don’t Black people just shoot their babies in the head, right after they give birth? That would save upstanding White taxpayers like yourself so much money!

      That was macabre sarcasm, just so you know. Also, you are a racist of the worst sort. You consume Blackness every day, in music, sports, movies, TV, dance, clothes, art, science, but because you only see everything through a white supremacist lens, you can’t see that the emo rock you listen to, the food you eat, the math you know, is a derivative of work Black people did decades, centuries, even millennia ago. There’s a system in place that protects your sense of racist superiority — we might as well call it The Matrix (another idea stolen from Black people. But you don’t see it, because you’re too full of shit to want to see it.

      And, if your racist premise holds, what do we do about all the white male terrorist violence, at schools, at country music festivals, at political rallies, at grocery stores, at movie theaters, at universities and colleges, and yes, at birthday parties and naming ceremonies? Not to mention, the white males murder-suiciding their families on the regular? Should white joy for the exploitation of others be limited because your white supremacist joy “too often turns into violence?” Answer my question, dumb ass!

      Oh no, you don’t have a real answer, because that would require your brain to melt down all the bullshit between all of your 100 billion neurons.

  11. Andrew Weatherington said:

    From your article on Plantation Slavery on Aljazeera “Make no mistake, the first American Dream was plantation slavery, or wealth American style.” Isn’t this tunnel vision, lots of cultures have enslaved and oppressed others. Is it right of course not, but to act like this is uniquely American or white and black issue is to ignore the many other instances of dominant ethnic groups oppressing other groups. As a Phd in history I am sure you are aware of this.

    I applaud your efforts to continue to address the issue just don’t loose sight of the facts that we are not the only country in the world that has problems with racism and exploitation.

    • “What about love?/Don’t you want someone to care about you?/And what about love? Don’t let it slip away/What about love?/I only want to share it with you/You might need it someday.”

      Too bad Heart didn’t sing “What About -isms,” the default of any American — especially white Americans — who refuse to deal with the truth of this country’s history. Not one damn thing you wrote refutes the truth. And yes, American slavery was in fact unique, sustained primary through birth, which in many cases, involved raping Black women, and using laws to make people into the enslaved through the wombs of enslaved Black women. And, the US has exported its brand of racism and narcissism everywhere.

      Who the hell give a rat’s ass that other societies enslaved people? I don’t live in “other” societies. I haven’t been oppressed by “other” societies. Don’t deflect. Let the truth sink in. Or, not. Take the red pill, and remain in your white supremacist Matrix.

      • Mengistu Arba said:

        Dr professor, Of course, the American slavery have its own peculiarities. But slavery was common throughout history, Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other civilization.

        As Black African and student of African history I know that even in Africans were selling fellow blacks to each other and also to white men. I do not want only to blame white men but also our ancestors (Africans) who were doing business with human being.

        Sometimes, I feel we should be honest, and historians should see both sides of history. Balanced judgment will help us in improving our future than just blaming one group.

      • There is no denying that slavery has been around more or less for 5.000 years. But generational chattel slavery, codified in law, codified in the wombs of enslaved Black African women, has only been around for 450 years (give or take). There is plenty of blame to go around, but the systems that exist today come out of the past 450 years of chattel slavery, capitalism, imperialism, and narcissistic greed for power and wealth, not from all slavery from all times.

        We can sit around all day lamenting everyone’s roles in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. But the system is the problem, dude. And this system benefits white people — and hetero rich white men especially. You cannot solve a problem without understanding all of its dimensions and whom the solutions benefit the least. Your bothsides-isms is ridiculous in this regard, especially given the African continent’s recent history with the West.
        Do what you will with whatever perspective you choose. But I sense that you are picking an argument based on your own anti-Blackness, specifically one that paints American Black folk as dumb and inferior compared to folk on the continent. Until you get over that, I cannot nor will not get with you on this “since African people were involved, the rise of a Western-dominated world doesn’t really matter” trip.

  12. Mengistu Arba said:

    Professor I am Africa and always confused about what I hear about black youth. The work culture of most black youth (mostly descendants of the past slavery) is not good, and some are engaged in crime. On the other hand Africans who got chance to live in US through DV or other means have better attitude to work and education. Asians are even more successful in their education and work life. What is the problem with African Americans (descendants)?

    • Thanks. But this is the most common and also the most easily refuted of stereotypes, the ne’er-do-well Black youth vs. the overachieving and hard-working Black African, courtesy of evangelical missionaries (white and Black) and American TV shows. If the impact of colonialism on most of the African continent resulted in internalized racism, increasing conflict, corruption, and civil war, should American Black folk then turn around and blame all Africans for colonialism and its long-term effects on 1.2 billion people? Of course not. So why blame Black youth — the vast majority of whom do not have a criminal record and are either working or looking for work — for systems meant to keep them out of higher education and living-wage jobs. There are many Black Africans in the US (some of whom I have taught or been in school with over the years) who have poor attitudes toward the same systems, to use your language. And the Asian stereotype of the model minority is simply ridiculous. There are plenty of Asian Americans living with poverty and whom have not completed secondary school or college (Hmong, Vietnamese, Filipino, among others), and even the most successful — Japanese, Taiwanese, and Koreans — are not monolithic in terms of that success (and many have failed, too). There’s too much ignorance in your post to unpack with one response. Choose to believe what you will. But the truth is, the greatest lie the US has ever told is that the people who built this country and their descendant — enslaved Africans and Black folk — did not build or do anything.

  13. I have been reading this site for a few hours now and I found your writings extremely thought-provoking, well written, and interesting. You somehow managed to put these things that I have been thinking about for a while into words so accurately and poignantly. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and point of view. I was very intrigued by what I read and will definitely be sticking around for more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.