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In the world of anthropology there’s a key focus on the many astounding anthropologists like Max Weber, Lewis Henry Morgan, Margaret Mead, and one whom many deem the father of anthropology, Franz Boas. Acting as a guide, their contributions have laid the foundation 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 in which 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 a lot of her past work. However, as I sat through course after course learning about all these anthropologists and their wonderful gifts, there were a couple of things that I did notice. One, there were no in-depth research on Black Anthropologists, two in virtually 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 due to the scientific racism related to the earlier periods of anthropology? Is it because minorities feel uncomfortable or unaccepted in the area? Or is it simply because minorities aren’t being exposed to anthropology? Whatever the reason maybe it is a silent issue that seems to reside in the world of anthropology.

Scientific Racism

Make no mistake that racism was front and centre during the beginning phases of anthropology as it was developed during a time where racism was displayed like the next fashion statement. Unfortunately, those biased perspectives went into 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 find out about without ones’ heart feeling somewhat heavy or sad. This heaviness is something which I have seen to be displayed from just about everyone who learns what took place during those times. The human zoo was present throughout the 19th and early 20th century as people of various ethnicities were gathered from numerous parts of the world by socialists, scientists, and anthropologists to be placed on display for amusement purposes. Europeans around the world would pay to gaze in the humans like they were animals and in some cases animals were grouped with people as a contrast.

Is It Acceptance or Exposure?

Personally, I have never experienced a moment where anybody who has made me feel as though I didn’t belong in the field, but there were definitely times where I might have felt that my opinions weren’t as both accepted or valued as my white peers. However, I believe this is something which minorities face in just about every line of work from some men and women who indulge in an ignorant mindset. Whatever the case may be it is still uncomfortable and acceptance within the field of Anthropology wasn’t always the case. On one hand, you had the majority of anthropologists who always studied blacks and other minorities to prove that they were inferior to their white successors and their lives had no value amongst a number of other horrendous preconceptions. Due to those frivolous studies about minorities many blacks weren’t accepting of anthropology and opted to distance themselves from the tradition. The numbers of black anthropologists were so small that there were only about 10 black anthropologists in the early 1900s. Now today the amount of black anthropologists have succeeded well beyond 10 individuals but the numbers are still relatively low. As racial and cultural wars have helped to break a few barriers for minorities, it has not quite made its link to anthropology.

One theory that I have considered is that exposure to anthropology is not fully present in the African American culture. In my own experience, I know I was exposed to the possibility of being a doctor, a lawyer, nurse, teacher, and the typical mainstream jobs that are subconsciously forced upon children through various media outlets. Anthropology was not among those choices, in fact I was not truly introduced into anthropology until being required to take Cultural Anthropology as a mandatory course during my time as an undergraduate. Happily that course allowed me to explore a world of cultures and finally change my career path in general. Deficiency of exposure does not only stem from the cultural aspects but it seems to generate from an educational perspective also. As an undergraduate I soon realized that there were not a great deal of studies present on African American Anthropologists which led me to do my own research about African American Anthropologists. During research, I learned how Franz Boas wasn’t only the instructor to white anthropologists but also to a black anthropologist as well. I was curious to learn about African American Anthropologists, who also became favorites of mine, also played a substantial part in anthropology like Zora Neal Hurston. Ms. Hurston was a pupil of Franz Boas and in his class the same exact time as fellow anthropologist Margaret Mead. Zora Neal Hurston was a renowned novelist, one who led to folklore, and an author. However, Zora Neal Hurston was also an anthropologist in her own rights that studied with the finest. Margaret Mead is always mentioned as a notable student of Franz Boas, but unfortunately in most classes Hurston isn’t even acknowledged. Unfortunately, collaboration of the two isn’t something that you would typically learn about in the fundamental classes of Anthropology which is sad. The lack of exposure to the achievements of African American Anthropologists’ speaks volumes and it exerts a message that analyzing blacks is great but acknowledging their contributions is impotent. Anthropology is a field that shines a light on a variety of issues around the world. Obviously, exposure is not the main reason minorities shy away from the discipline of anthropology but it does seem to have its appropriate stake in the matter.

Wildlife removal near meThe truth is there is a need for more diversity in anthropology and hopefully, as anthropology continues to advance there will be a recognition of such finally providing ways for people who would not even think of getting an anthropologist as people can’t divulge in something that they’ve never been exposed to.

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