Anthropology & Race/ism
Anthropology has made significant contributions to academic and popular understandings of race and racism. It’s challenged commonly held notions of identity and justice while illuminating structural disparities that are based on racial identity.
Today’s racism is coded and less overt, but it effectively continues policies and practices that restrict racialized minorities’ access to social and economic equality. Anthropologists continue to name, analyze and challenge coded policies in recent pieces such as Faye Harrison’s Who Has the Right to Self-Defense and Life in So-Called “Post-Racial” Society?, President’s Mullings’ discussion of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act and Dana-Ain Davis and Christa Craven’s discussion on race and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Unfortunately, race still plays a noticeable role in structuring the discipline. And this in turn helps maintain outdated public perceptions of anthropology as racially white.
The AAA recently took steps to address these issues. Last year, AAA President Leith Mullings formed the Task Force on Race and Racism in Anthropology to develop specific plans for recruitment and retention that will increase the numbers of racialized minority anthropologists in the anthropological workforce. This effort deliberately builds on previous efforts to address race in the discipline that go back forty-some years, to the Minority Experience in Anthropology (1973), and the more recent 2010 Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology.
The Task Force on Race & Racism in Anthropology is charged with suggesting specific mechanisms for implementing the recommendations of the 2010 Commission.
What we’ve done so far:
Developed an online membership survey to learn about and analyze the current status of racialized anthropologists in the profession. It contains general questions and specific sections addressed to faculty, to students and to practitioners to get a broad sense of the discipline across race and ethnicity. The survey should provide a baseline of data and understanding from which to measure our progress going forward. Survey data will give a snapshot of the state of racial diversity and racial climate and the experience of racialized minorities today. It will also guide efforts to design interventions and improve the outcomes for racialized minorities in the discipline.
Worked with AAA staff to develop a webpage that will gather in one place a variety of information about race and racism in anthropology, including current works about race by anthropologists as well as links to initiatives, section programs, activities, and opportunities of interest to racialized minority anthropologists.
Organized a strategy session for Chicago with subfield and section leadership to develop specific best practices for recruiting students of color to the discipline, as well as recruiting and retaining racialized minority faculty, especially in subfields where they are severely underrepresented. The 2013 annual meetings will include a Task Force sponsored Presidential Workshop, Numbers Matter: How Do We Create a More Racially Diverse Anthropology? Section and subfield participants will share their knowledge about opportunities, challenges, and best practices in regard to recruitment and retention. The event will engage in open dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of programs within their section or subfield. The workshop will also consider ways that the AAA can publicize and enhance existing programs such as summer internships, travel grants, and career development workshops that target students of color. The event is open to those who are actively engaged around these issues as well as those who want to learn more about their context and experiences.
What you can do:
Take the online survey. We will announce the survey launch on the AAA’s blog as well as through target mailing through various listservs.
Attend the Presidential Workshop event on recruitment and retention in Chicago entitled Numbers Matter: How Do We Create a More Racially Diverse Anthropology on Friday November 22 at 12:15-1:30. Please consult the AAA Annual Meeting Program for room location.
The Task Force hopes to facilitate a more open and inclusive dialogue on race and racism in the discipline through structured dialogue that is informed by both quantitative and qualitative data. From this approach, a more measured conversation will hopefully follow that is focused on strategic interventions that will benefit the discipline as a whole. More generally, we would like to bring the discussion of race and racism in line with other professional associations such as the APA, ASA who have defined policies around diversity and closely monitor and document statistics in regard race, diversity and inclusion on an annual basis. We feel that anthropology has the great potential to reframe the relationship between race, research and practice that can have implications within and beyond the discipline.
Raymond Codrington, Ph.D.