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Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black[…]

“On any given day I struggle a lot.”

Question: What keeps you sane?

Harris-Lacewell: Well I’m not particularly sane.  I mean I . . . (Chuckles) . . . On any given day I struggle a lot.  You know I’m a single parent.  I’m raising the five year old daughter.  You know there are days when I feel very unloved, and very broke, and very tired.  And then there are days when I’m feeling, you know, fantastic and like I’m on top of the world.  I think more than anything it is my sense of calling.  Now whether it’s a religious sense or a more secular sense, I don’t think I could be doing anything else.  I imagine, “Well what if I had just become a lawyer, or a doctor, or a physicist?”  All great and noble professions.  I can’t even visualize or imagine those things.  This is what I do because it’s . . . it’s just what there is to do.  And at some point maybe I’ll do something different.  I don’t see it as a “for all time”, this will be the only thing I’ll do.  I imagine lots of other kinds of possibilities at some other point.  But right now to have a voice; to have the privilege of a place like Princeton undergirding my ability to do this; to have students who respond and who I respond back to; to have a kid who needs me every day; I mean it’s kind of like saying, “How do you get your kid to school every day?”  Well what choice . . .  You know because she’s gotta go!  So I feel that same way about my work.  I just feel compelled to it.

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