I know people have mixed feelings about Junot Diaz, but the New Yorker has an excerpt on Junot Diaz's experience with bias/"too white" MFA programs. I took some excerpts but it's worth a read.
Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture's blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it's class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that "race discussions" were exactly the discussion a serious writer shouldnotbe having.
In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.
Oh, yes:too whiteindeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.
No wonder I was unhappy in workshop. No wonder me and some of the other Calibans in the program—my Diné buddy, who I'll call Ichabod, and this Caribbean-American sister, who I'll call Athena—talked constantly about the workshop's race problem, about the shit our peers said to us (shit like: Why is there even Spanish in this story? Or: I don't want to write about race, I want to write aboutrealliterature.) No wonder we all talked at one time or another of dropping out.
It's been twenty years since my workshop days and yet from what I gather a lot of shit remains more or less the same. I've worked in two MFA programs and visited at least 30 others and the signs are all there. The lack of diversity of the faculty. Many of the students' lack of awareness of the lens of race, the vast silence on these matters in many workshop. I can't tell you how often students of color seek me out during my visits or approach me after readings in order to share with me the racist nonsense they're facing in their programs, from both their peers and their professors. In the last 17 years I must have had at least three hundred of these conversations,minimum. I remember one young MFA'r describing how a fellow writer (white) went through his story and erased all the 'big' words because, said the peer, that's not the way 'Spanish' people talk. This white peer, of course, had never lived in Latin America or Spain or in any US Latino community—he just knew. The workshop professor never corrected or even questioned said peer either. Just let the idiocy ride. Another young sister told me that in the entire two years of her workshop the only time people of color showed up in her white peer's stories was when crime or drugs were somehow involved. And when she tried to bring up the issue in class, tried to suggest readings that might illuminate the madness, her peers shut her down, sayingOur workshop is about writing, not political correctness. As always race was the student of color's problem, not the white class's. Many of the writers I've talked to often finish up by telling me they're considering quitting their programs. Of course I tell them not to. If you can, please hang in there. We need your work. Desperately.