It was Erykah Badu who said, “I’m an artist, and I am sensitive about my artist *ish!”—this was her infamous ‘lead in’ statement before singing what became one of her most celebrated hit songs, Tyrone. Well, like Ms. Badu, I am an academic, and I too as a Black male scholar am sensitive about my academic “ish”. Perhaps what has been one of the most sensitive and tender places in my life as an academic is the disparate and duplicitous treatment of the research that is advanced by scholars who represent gender, ethnic, racial, and sexual diversity.
Problematic for diverse faculty, particularly Black faculty, is whether their research is consumed, discussed, and cited. While the consumption and discussion aspects of their research can often be tepid, it is the citation aspect that can be absolutely frigid and duplicitous.
What my doctoral advisee Barbara Garcia Powell and I have coined are the Seven Citational Dispositionalities that illuminate various manifestations of how research and scholarly citations advanced by Black scholars has been marginalized: citational injustice, citational erasure, citationaal exclusion, citational equivocation, citational gentrification, citational disparity, and citational racism.
At the heart of what we are exploring and seeking to provide is some form of actionable redress for the glaring lack of citational justice that unequivocally influences the professional advancement and success of Black faculty, researchers, and scholars in the Academy.
In an article titled “The Rise of Citational Justice”, Christen Smith, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas Austin chronicled her dismay when she discovered while attending a national conference, her research was being highlighted—without any reference to her as the author. According to Kwon (2022), “….Smith was at a conference in October 2017 when she felt a familiar jolt of frustration. A presenter showed a slide with passages that had been paraphrased from one of her books—and, to her dismay, had failed to credit her” (para 1).
Smith’s experience served as the bellwether for other diverse scholars—particularly Black women—to pay closer attention to who was being cited, and who was being overlooked. The outcome of Smith’s and this growing collective of Black women’s efforts was to bring to light the citational erasure and exclusion that had become a thorny and persistent problem. Subsequently, an emergent movement took form that was aimed at addressing issues related to disparities and inequities in citations. In November 2017, Smith founded the #CiteBlackWomen movement, which expanded through the Cite Black Women Collective (Makhulu & Smith, 2022). The #CiteBlackWomen and the Cite Black Women Collective are race-gender projects that have been designed to provide a safe space to continue the conversation about the “logics of silencing and invisibilization” that led to the citational erasure of Black women (Makhulu & Smith, 2022, p. 178). Since its founding, the Cite Black Women movement, has expanded to major social media platforms, and now includes a podcast, blog, and website (https://www.citeblackwomencollective.org/). In kind, the #BlackCitesMatter movement seeks to addresses the racial exclusions of Black scholarship in academia.
One might ask, “Is it all that serious?” The response to this query, in regards to the career progression for faculty who want to advance in the Academy, is a resounding yes! The key to longevity and success for those in the Academy who choose to become faculty members is typically a process that involves:
· framing a clear and concise research agenda
· developing publications (e.g. articles, books, briefs, essays, and monographs)
· submitting publications for evaluation (peer review) by colleagues
· disseminating publications for broad readership
· garnering readers who cite their published work
For many diverse faculty, especially Black faculty members, the issue at hand is the last bullet point previously mentioned—garnering recognition for their published scholarship and research via academic citation. Ray (2018) asserts, “The racial politics of citation has real effects. Citations draw our attention to the ideas that supposedly matter, they are a measure of one’s intellectual influence and they shape what we are able to think about a given field” (para. 4).
Much like Dr. Christen Smith and the Cite Black Women movement, calling attention to citational injustice and publicly honoring Black scholar’s transnational intellectual production, must be an ongoing mission carried forth by diverse faculty through a “radical praxis of citation” (Cite Black Women, n.d.). Citing Black scholars is quintessential to the fight for social justice, as there exists a citational value system that relegates visibility, competence, and prestige to those who are cited most frequently. Citational practices are less about mentioning and more about mattering, as the most cited authors are deemed thought leaders, and their works are regarded as scientific knowledge. Black authors whose works go uncited are denied appropriate recognition and acclaim as scholars. Hence, the movement we are attempting to foreground is called #BlackCitesMatter, for which the goal is to circumvent the perpetuation of citational injustice.
Citing Black authors is a small but critical praxis toward changing ideals surrounding knowledge creation and rigorous scholarship. The solution to the growing burden of silencing Black authors and legitimizing racial inequality must be multifaceted and long-term. The solution will require commitments from persons inside and outside the academy.
Citing Black authors demonstrates an understanding of the immediacy for eradicating citational bias, by sharing Black perspectives and regarding the ideals Black writers share as knowledge. Citing Black authors reminds the world that Black authorship matters and acknowledges the important role Black authors play; especially their roles as stewards of critical social, cultural, and scientific knowledge—a proactive way for Black scholars to remove the sensitivity ish of critical bias and citational injustice is to start a # movement. And this movement will begin with me.
Dr. Fred A. Bonner II is professor and Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership and Counseling at Prairie View A&M University and is the executive director of the Minority Achievement, Creativity, and High Ability Center.
Barbara L. Garcia-Powell is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Leadership Program at Prairie View A&M University.
Makhulu, A. M., & Smith, C. (2022). # CiteBlackWomen. Cultural Anthropology, 37(2), 177-181.
Cite Black Women. (n.d.). Cite Black Women. https://www.citeblackwomencollective.org/