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Antiracist Praxis

White Supremacy in Scholarly Communications by Rachel Borchardt

Centering Non-White Sources: Dismantling Power Structures in Scholarship

That academia itself was predominantly built and influenced by Westernized, white, and male voices is generally accepted, though in today’s scholarship, we find contributing voices from a greater diversity of perspectives, cultures, and world views. The white supremacist roots of scholarship, however, influence today’s scholarship in myriad ways, with white male voices continuing to dominate the scholarly conversation. Although the gender, race, and ethnicity of authors may not always be immediately recognizable, in a landmark paper #CommunicationSoWhite, the authors found that white male scholars are more likely to be cited than other scholars (Chakravatty et al.). Other studies have found that self-citation also contributes to disparities in citation rates, though the primary disparity is gendered, with males self-citing more often than females (King et al.). Undercitation of black women is also found in the field of anthropology (Smith and Garrett-Scott).

Citations are not the only area of academic acknowledgement and representation to suffer from white over-representation. Other forms of academic contribution similarly reflect the predominant power structures that exist in academia, perhaps most famously the presentation panel. While the issue of representation in panels first emerged as a gender issue in the discussion of the “all male panel,” similar inequities have been found to exist in all-white panels as well, as documented in the Tumblr “Congrats, you have an all white panel!”.

Dismantling power structures in academia goes beyond the self-absolution of “I am not a racist; therefore, I am not a contributor,” since the root cause is systemic racism rather than at an individual level. To paraphrase Ibram X. Kendi, to do nothing is to contribute to continued racism. Dismantling this system requires what Mott and Cockayne describe as conscientious engagement as a form of resistance to unethical hierarchies of knowledge production. One form of engagement is with disciplinary bibliographies or repositories that can serve as an introduction to and knowledge base for BIPOC scholarship: Cite Black AuthorsBlack Excellence in LIS, BIPOC Psychology Papers and People of Color Also Know Stuff are four such examples.

Works Cited and Suggested Reading

Chakravartty, Paula, et al. “#CommunicationSoWhite.” Journal of Communication, vol. 68, no. 2, Apr. 2018, pp. 254–66. Oxford Academic, doi:10.1093/joc/jqy003.

Cite Black Authors.

Congrats, You Have an All White Panel!, 2015,

King, Molly M., et al. “Men Set Their Own Cites High: Gender and Self-Citation across Fields and over Time.” Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, vol. 3, Jan. 2017, p. 1-22. SAGE Journals, doi:10.1177/2378023117738903.

Maron, Nancy, et al. Open and Equitable Scholarly Communications: Creating a More Inclusive Future. Association of College and Research Libraries, 2019.

Mott, Carrie, and Daniel Cockayne. “Citation Matters: Mobilizing the Politics of Citation toward a Practice of ‘Conscientious Engagement.’” Gender, Place & Culture, vol. 24, no. 7, July 2017, pp. 954–73. Taylor & Francis Online, doi:10.1080/0966369X.2017.1339022.

People of Color Also Know Stuff

Ruiz, Iris D., and Raul Sanchez. Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies: New Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Sangwand, T-Kay, editor. Black Excellence LIS Syllabus, 2020.

Smith, Christen A. and Garrett-Scott, Dominique. “We are not named”: Black women and the politics of citation in anthropology. Feminist Anthropology, April 2021. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1002/fea2.12038