“Beyond Ethnic Blackness and Whiteness in the Production of Knowledge and Understanding in North American Academia and Disciplinary Study”

“Beyond Ethnic Blackness and Whiteness in the Production of Knowledge and Understanding in North American Academia and Disciplinary Study”

This commentary is about an intellectual and disciplinary problem I continue to observe in North American academia and disciplinary study. In the few lines below, I shall describe the nature of the problem and make some propositions to improve the situation.

For example, Biblical and Theological scholarship in North America has become a binary battlefield between black and white American biblical scholars and theologians with the exclusion of other theologians & Biblical scholars of color (i.e. the Global South, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean).

It does not matter whether the latter live in the states and/or produce good and rigorous scholarship contributing to the common good and human flourishing. Evidently, I am arguing this phenomenon is an intentional doing and calculated performance, and there’s no excuse for this tribal orientation to (inter-)disciplinary study, academic scholarship, and the production of knowledge and advancement of human understanding. We can trace the roots of this problem to the notions of formation, service, and citizenship, and North American conception of human nature, global history, and internationalism. To me, our conception of global history is framed within the boundary of a North Americanctric paradigm and epistemology. Our understanding of formation and citizenship is restricted to our national politics and the construction of knowledge within our own geographical boundary. 

Correspondingly, our understanding of rendering (human) service gives primacy to the preservation of the self, that is, the Republic of the United States. Even when we provide humanitarian aid, we’re very conscious and concerned about what we will get in return and how such international aid or assistance will contribute to North American political hegemony and dominion in the world, especially in the Global South.

In addition, our very idea of democracy and pluralism is always and almost grounded on the North American notion of democracy and human rights with little regard to the meaning of democracy and human rights for the people in the Global South, for example. In other words, our democracy is very American just like our Christianity is rooted in the North American concept of religious performance and piety.  Democracy, just like freedom and human rights, is certainly not a North America propriety and property. There are virtues and qualities that are deemed international, global, and planetary; yet the implementation and realization of such virtues or positive qualities such as democracy, freedom, tolerance, multiculturalism, respect, and pluralism should take in consideration the human condition and urgent issues in the context of a nation-state without diminishing their global effects and implications elsewhere. In other words, while we are acting nationally and behaving regionally, we need to be global thinkers and global citizens.

Unfortunately, the intellectual and disciplinary crisis described above can be construed as an intellectual tradition and a metholodogical pattern that have shaped other academic disciplines of study in North American higher learning and academia, including education, history, philosophy, religion, anthropology, literature, race studies, psychology, gender studies, Aesthetics, Classical study, political science, international relations,  etc. Such attitude toward formation and knowledge continues to have tremendous negative effects and enduring shortcomings on the contents of disciplinary curricula and academic writings, the training of individuals in higher learning, the formation of American citizens, professionals,  and public servants, as well as on the modes of knowledge production and disciplinary expression, correspondingly.

Fortunately,  the twenty-first century has afforded us with endless opportunities and resources to transcend ethnic blackness and whiteness, but to be more planetarily and diasporically oriented in our scholarship and in the production of ideas and knowledge, which could potentially embrace both national and global citizenship and advance both regional and international human causes and needs. In my perspective, this is a better and more promising way to academic, professional, and pastoral formation and human development.

What are your thoughts?

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