In 2019, Black sociologists are still less likely to get published in discipline-specific peer-reviewed journals, less likely to hold tenured or tenure-track positions at predominately white institutions, and less likely to be awarded tenure than white sociologists. This is, in part, because the traditional positivist approach to sociology favors an epistemology rooted in world building from a white perspective and subsequently prefers white sociologists to do that work. Overvaluing empirical research emphasizing objectivity through marked distance between researcher and participants, in the tradition of the natural sciences, also undervalues the importance of investigators’ perceived connections to marginalized communities in the reliability of collected data, and the use of qualitative methods to scientific study. This conceptual paper connects public discourse on the devaluing of “me-search” done by Black sociologists, research studying communities of which the principal investigator is also a member, to professional advancement data to explore the economic penalties for Black sociologists whose “me-search” expands the limits of what is useful and noteworthy in the production of sociological knowledge while simultaneously impacting their professional advancement in the discipline. Patricia Hill Collins’ (Soc Probl. 33: S14–32, 1986) epistemological stance laments the positivist approach and attempts to move sociological research of the oppressed away from the gaze of the oppressors. The academy’s colonial focus on “objectivity,” and subsequent third person research writing, maintains a white normative framework for the entire discipline. But in the twenty-first century, a disciplinary focus on research about marginalized identities by white sociologists inherently devalues the scientific validity of research on Black communities by Black researchers, aiding in racialized gatekeeping in sociology. Low numbers of tenured Black faculty, promotion policies focused on the number of peer-reviewed publications, and low journal publication rates for Black researchers highlight the negative impact on professional outcomes for Black sociologists and illustrates a perpetual devaluation of the perspectives of Black researchers.
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Black is capitalized throughout this paper in the sociological tradition of W.E.B Du Bois who launched a letter-writing campaign to media outlets around the country as co-founder of the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to capitalize Negro (Brookings Institute 2019). In March 1930, the New York Times acquiesced stating, “It is not merely a typographical change, it is an act in recognition of racial respect for those who have been generations in the ‘lower case.’ (Tharps 2013).” In 2020, Negro is outdated term, replaced by Black, and many high impact news outlets announced the permanent move to capitalize Black across their content, including Associated Press (AP), Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC, NBC News, Los Angeles Times, and more than 250 local newspapers across the country (Goist 2020). Many academic and research outlets have done the same, including Brookings Institute, Columbia Journalism Review, the AP Stylebook, and the Chicago Stylebook allows for the capitalization of Black at the author’s request.
Three schools, University of Michigan, UCLA, and Duke University, do not list/separate “on the market” graduate students from all other graduate students in the program. As such, these schools are not included in these statistics.
All colleges and universities founded before 1950 are structured around the needs and desires of white students. Even where racism is not overt, and institutions presently espouse “devotion” to diversity and inclusion, majority white administrators’, faculty, and students’ groups privilege whiteness across campus.
The anti-Black racism that Black women experience (Bailey 2018).
In sociology, this concept draws on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality to describe socioeconomic systems in which white people enjoy structural and cultural advantages over non-white people explicitly because of their whiteness, and whether they “choose” to or not (Crenshaw 1995; Wildman 1996).
ISA does not publish the demographic make-up of its members.
The Black/non-Black dichotomy is important here because it is the racial difference on which white supremacy is founded (Guess 2006). They type and tenor of discrimination non-Black minorities experience cannot be conflated with that of Black scholars so much that the differences require separate study.
For example, I had a reviewer question in a rejection of my journal article how I could study Black people without also studying white people to compare against. This line of thinking makes whiteness a baseline on which Black experiences must be compared. It centers whiteness in the production of knowledge.
This is a social fact proven by the lack of high rates of early citations of their work in the discipline. Du Bois does not become a “sociological” figure until the beginning of the twenty-first century (Wright 2002).
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Harris, J.L. Black on Black: The Vilification of “Me-Search,” Tenure, and the Economic Position of Black Sociologists. J Econ Race Policy 4, 77–90 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41996-020-00066-x