In the world of anthropology there’s a key focus on the many astounding anthropologists such as Max Weber, Lewis Henry Morgan, Margaret Mead, and one that many deem the father of anthropology, Franz Boas. Acting as a guide, their contributions have laid the basis to numerous of ideologies, theories, and studies concerning the human culture. By way of example, one of Margaret Mead’s most notorious studies is through a technique known as visual anthropology where Mead studies character formation in three unique cultures, the Balinese, Iatumal, and American. Personally, I love Margaret Mead’s methods and because learning about her I have studied lots of her past work. However, as I sat through course after course learning about all of these anthropologists and their wonderful contributions, there were a few things that I did notice. One, there were no detailed research on Black Anthropologists, two in almost every class attended I was the only minority, and three as I began to participate in field work I understood that there were very few minorities who were part of anthropology as a whole and I started to wonder why. Was it as a result of scientific racism related to the earlier periods of anthropology? Or is it simply because minorities aren’t being exposed to anthropology? Whatever the reason maybe it is a silent issue which seems to dwell in the world of anthropology.
Make no mistake that racism was front and center during the beginning stages of anthropology as it was developed during a time where racism was displayed like the next fashion statement. Regrettably, those biased perspectives went to the work of some of the most prominent figures of anthropology. The scientific racism that distinct minorities endured during the previous years of anthropology can be extremely daunting to learn about without ones’ heart feeling a little heavy or sad. This heaviness is something that I have seen to be exhibited from just about everyone who learns what took place during those times. By way of example, the first time a professor showed a film about the human zoo there was an awkward feeling that straddled the area and a heated discussion that took place later. Expressions of shock, hurt, and disappointment was on the surface of the discussion. The human zoo was present during the 19th and early 20th century as people of various ethnicities were collected from numerous areas of the world by socialists, scientists, and anthropologists to be put on display for amusement purposes. Europeans around the world would pay to gaze at the humans as if they were animals and in certain cases animals were grouped with humans as a contrast.
Is It Acceptance or vulnerability?
Personally, I have never experienced a moment where anybody has made me feel like I didn’t belong in the area, but there were definitely times where I may have felt that my opinions were not as both accepted or appreciated as my white peers. However, I believe this is something that minorities face in nearly every line of work from some men and women who indulge in an ignorant mindset. Whatever the case may be it’s still uncomfortable and acceptance in the field of Anthropology wasn’t always the case. On one hand, you had the vast majority of anthropologists who always studied blacks and other minorities to show that they were inferior to their white successors and their lives had no value amongst a number of other horrendous preconceptions. Because of those frivolous studies about minorities many blacks weren’t accepting of anthropology and opted to distance themselves from the practice. The numbers of black anthropologists were so small that there were only about 10 black anthropologists from the early 1900s. Now today the number of black anthropologists have succeeded well beyond 10 people but the numbers are still relatively low. As racial and cultural wars have helped to break some barriers for minorities, it still hasn’t quite made its link to anthropology. Again, I must ask the question why?
One theory that I have considered is that exposure to anthropology isn’t fully present in the African American culture. In my own experience, I know that I was exposed to the possibility of being a doctor, a lawyer, nurse, teacher, and the normal mainstream jobs which are subconsciously forced upon children through various media outlets. Anthropology was not among those choices, in fact I wasn’t truly introduced to anthropology until being required to take Cultural Anthropology as a compulsory course during my time as an undergraduate. Thankfully that course enabled me to explore a world of cultures and finally change my career path in general. Deficiency of exposure doesn’t only stem from the cultural aspects but it seems to generate from an educational perspective also. As an undergraduate I soon realized that there weren’t a lot of studies present on African American Anthropologists which led me to do my own research about African American Anthropologists. Through research, I learned how Franz Boas was not only the teacher to white anthropologists but also into a black anthropologist as well. I was fascinated to learn about African American Anthropologists, who also became favorites of mine, and played a substantial part in anthropology such as Zora Neal Hurston. Ms. Hurston was a student of Franz Boas and in his course the same exact time as fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead. Zora Neal Hurston was a renowned novelist, one who contributed to folklore, and a writer. But, Zora Neal Hurston was also an anthropologist in her own rights who studied with the best. Margaret Mead is always mentioned as a notable student of Franz Boas, but unfortunately in most courses Hurston isn’t even acknowledged. Unfortunately, collaboration of the two is not something which you would typically learn about in the fundamental classes of Anthropology which is sad. The lack of exposure to the accomplishments of African American Anthropologists’ speaks volumes and it relays a message that analyzing blacks is great but acknowledging their gifts is impotent. Anthropology is a field that shines a light on a variety of issues around the world. Above all it looks at the cultural disparities and similarities that ultimately connect people from every walk of life. Obviously, exposure isn’t the main reason minorities shy away from the discipline of anthropology but it does seem to have its appropriate stake in the subject. The truth is there is a need for more diversity in anthropology and as anthropology continues to advance there will be a recognition of these ultimately providing ways for those who would not even think of becoming an anthropologist as people can’t divulge in something that they have never been subjected to.