Chapter III

The Recognition and Use of Minority Anthropologists

One of the concerns expressed throughout the deliberations of the Committee was the question of whether prejudice and discrimination is viewed by minority anthropologists as a factor in how they are used in fieldwork and whether it affects how their work is assessed.

Three questions in the questionnaire dealt with this issue:

Question 16 reads:

Question 18 related to the utilization of minority colleagues by other professionals and reads as follows:

Question 19 was designed to elicit information about how minority anthropologists feel about their exclusion from some of the more important activities of professional life. It reads as follows:

A brief explanation is needed on how the answers to these questions were analyzed. Each respondent could merely indicate a general agreement or disagreement with the statement. But space was also provided on the questionnaire for comments and examples. It was necessary to determine the degree to which the comments, when they were offered, corresponded with the general expression of agreement or disagreement. Indeed, it occasionally proved to be the case that the content of the text overrides the more obvious immediate response. The respondent's immediate answer was tabulated without alteration and the multifaceted nature of the responses were also considered.

The responses to question 16, regarding the lack of consideration given to the intellectual contributions of minority scholars, are presented in three parts: first, the extent to which people agreed or disagreed with the total statement; second, the extent to which respondents related to specific parts of the question (i.e., that "the writings of minority anthropologists are often not reviewed in professional journals"); and third, the extent to which the works of minority anthropologists are "seldom used as required readings."

Out of 36 respondents, 18 agreed and 8 disagreed with the statement that the intellectual contributions of minority anthropologists are not given the same consideration as those of non-minority anthropologists, while 10 respondents' positions were not clearly stated. These answers are presented in Table 15, Appendix C. The Black anthropologists' experiences in this regard appear to be different from those of the other minority scholars, in that all 9 Blacks who gave clear answers thought "the intellectual contributions of minority anthropologists are not given the same consideration. . ." On the other hand, the number of Asians and Spanish-speakers who felt similarly were only slightly more than, or equal to, those Asians and Spanish-speaking participants who rejected the presence of discriminatory practice as suggested in the question. Of those agreeing with the statement, 3 based their responses on their own personal experiences (one Asian, one Spanish-speaker, and one Black), 4 based their response on the experience of others and 10 saw the problem as a general overall condition (see Table 16, Appendix C).

Fifteen respondents made specific reference to the statement that works by minority scholars are not quoted or reviewed by majority scholars. Thirteen believed this to be the case while 2 disagreed. The remaining 21 made no specific reference to this topic. Eight responses referred to the phrase in question 16, relating to the use of works by minority scholars as required reading. Five agreed and 3 disagreed. Sixteen did not provide a specific reaction and 12 lacked sufficient knowledge to answer the question.

Samples of the comments made in response to this question follow:

Question 18 relates to the utilization of minority colleagues by other professionals in non-professional, secondary roles. A majority of the sample agreed (26 to 8) that minority scholars, in contrast to nonminority anthropologists, had been utilized chiefly as field-workers, interviewers, liaisons to an ethnic group, cultural broker-interpreters and informants (see Table 17, Appendix C). Approximately two-thirds of the respondents wholly or partially based their observation on their own or a friend's personal experience (see Table 18, Appendix C). Three of 4 American Indians, 7 of 9 Asians, 3 of 8 Spanish-speaking and 10 of 16 Blacks were used personally in these secondary roles. Overall, 4 minority members were used specifically as field workers, 2 as liaisons to a minority group, 7 as culture brokers-interpreters, 2 as informants and 8 in all of these roles (see Table 19, Appendix C).

These 23 respondents specified the settings in which the minority anthropologist perceived his use or was used in a secondary capacity: 18 in a professional capacity, 2 in am informal capacity and 3 in both a professional and an informal capacity.

A large majority of the sample thus agreed that, in contrast to nonminority anthropologists, minority scholars have been utilized as fieldworkers, liaisons to a minority and in the other secondary roles. The nature of the sample's comments about this practice was more often negative than positive. The two major sources of these negative feelings were: (1) the experience of being in this type of role prevented them from assuming more central roles in the research, and (2) the observation that the practice was based on non-minority scholars' cultural ignorance or racial prejudice.

The following are key statements made by respondents to Question 18:

Question 19 was designed to elicit information about how minority anthropologists believe they have been excluded from making theoretical formulations. A majority of the respondents agreed with the assertion that minority anthropologists have been excluded from making theoretical formulations, interpretations of research findings and policy decisions (17 agreed, 12 disagreed, and 8 gave unclear answers. See Table 20, Appendix C).

Anthropologists with different ethnic backgrounds evaluated the situation differently. A majority of American Indians and Asians felt that minority scholars were excluded from making important contributions to the discipline. But the number of Spanish-speakers and Black scholars who stated that the minority anthropologists were excluded from such activities was about the same as those who did not agree with the sentiments expressed in Question 19. Three American Indians agreed with the statement while one disagreed; 6 Asians agreed while 2 disagreed; 2 Spanish-speakers agreed while 3 disagreed; and 6 Blacks agreed while 6 disagreed. The remaining answers were unclear. The sources of the respondents' data supporting their answers are presented in Table 21, Appendix C. The respondents were almost evenly divided regarding the existence of the practice stated in Question 19 and the sentiment toward it. It is the Asian scholars who expressed more awareness of and more unhappiness about this situation.

The following are key statements made by respondents who answered Question 19:

Two of our questions (i.e., Questions 18 and 19) attempt to measure how minority anthropologists feel about their own positions in the discipline. Our findings are that there is a considerable amount of awareness and dissatisfaction on the part of minority scholars regarding racial discrimination in anthropology, but that there are many, approximately a third of the sample, who do not recognize a racist and undesirable tendency in the discipline.

The Committee has concluded that those anthropologists who are most likely to see the discipline as racist are anthropologists from minority groups who are most visible and consequently are more frequently direct objects of discrimination. Thus, the fate of Black and Spanish-speaking anthropologists are contrasted. Asians and possibly American Indians are just as visible (or recognizable) as Blacks as minority members. Being consistent with the above interpretation, our Spanish-speaking respondents indicated greater satisfaction with the status of minorities in the discipline than all other groups. It must be pointed out in this context that this is not true generally for the Spanish-speakers who were born and raised in the United States, particularly those of Southwestern origin. In this connection, also, the term "Chicano" would be more appropriate for this group, as opposed to the majority of Spanish-speakers in our sample not born in the United States.

Table of Contents / Back to Chapter 2 / Forward to Chapter 4 / Appendix

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