AAA President Reflects on Race
AAA President, Leith Mullings, has a must-read post on Anthropology News: Trayvon Martin, Race and Anthropology.
Anthropology is the discipline that fostered and nurtured “scientific racism,” a world view that transforms certain perceived differences into genetically determined inequality and provides a rationale for slavery, colonialism, segregation, eugenics, and terror. Our discipline also has a significant tradition of anti-racism that emerged from the tumult leading to World War II.
What I like about it is it’s self-critical stance, something I felt was missing from all the gushing over Obama’s comments on race. (Maybe he could do something about the “war on drugs“?) Namely, it criticized the AAA’s Race exhibit and racial disparities within the discipline. About the Race exhibit she writes:
Although the American Anthropological Association’s Race: Are We So Different? initiative has made a major contribution to addressing the racial ideologies of the world that anthropologists helped to make, what we have not always done so well is to demonstrate that though race is socially constructed, racism is a lethal social reality, constraining the potential, if not threatening the lives, of millions of people.
And about racial disparities within the discipline she writes:
In 2007, former AAA President Alan Goodman created a Commission on Race and Racism within Anthropology and the AAA. The commission’s findings about practices in many anthropology departments were, to say the least, discouraging. Anthropology is one of the least integrated disciplines. The commission found that sister organizations, including the American Sociological Association, the American Psychological Association, and even the American Economics Association and the American Political Science Association had more robust, proactive and aggressive strategies to retain and attract scholars of color.
Both of these points are welcome, and overdue. Mullings talks about the new Task Force on Race and Racism, which seems like a good start, but we still have a long way to go as a discipline.
PS: I’ve been collecting some of the reactions to the Trayvon Martin trial on my personal blog – stories that reflect upon institutional racism in the U.S. This seems like as good an opportunity as any to share that list with our readers.