Anti-Racist and Intersectional Approaches in Social Science and Community-Based Research

Anti-Racist and Intersectional Approaches in Social Science and Community-Based Research

Jane E. Palmer, Justin Winston Morgan, Sofia Hinojosa, Julie M. Olomi, Leonard Ayala, Andre B. Rosay
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8479-8.ch011
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Abstract

Data are not objective, despite the reliance on data for “evidence-based” policy and practice. In this chapter, the authors offer a critical examination of the historical and present day context of racism and oppressive practices in research methods. The authors highlight how racism and oppression manifest at every stage of the research process: from initial conception of the research question to how data is collected, analyzed, and shared. This chapter offers concrete recommendations and solutions for researchers seeking to integrate anti-racist and intersectional approaches into their social science and community-based research.
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Data do not tell us a story. We use data to craft a story that comports with our understanding of the world. If we begin with a racially biased view of the world, then we will end with a racially biased view of what the data have to say. (Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva, 2008, p. 7)

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Introduction

Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, is considered the “father” of social statistics as he was the first to apply statistical logic to evolutionary biology in the late 1800s (Zuberi, 2001). He was a supporter of racist eugenic practices and sought to demonstrate quantitative correlations between race and intelligence. With his analyses, he hoped to advance racist ideas that “human evolution could be accelerated by a self-conscious policy of selective mating practices” (Zuberi, 2001, p. 34), e.g., forced sterilization of “inferior” people (Roberts, 2011).

Galton failed to confirm his hypothesis of the intellectual inferiority of people of color, yet in 1905, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon built on Galton’s work to create an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test (Kendi, 2019). A decade later, the IQ test was used widely in the United States (U.S.) by eugenicist Lewis Terman to attempt to demonstrate “enormously significant racial differences in general intelligence” (Kendi, 2019, p. 102). Building on Terman’s work, Carl Brigham created the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to “reveal the natural intellectual ability of White people” (Kendi, 2019, p. 102).

Anti-racist approaches to research draw on multi-disciplinary efforts to move away from “how things have always been done” towards an anti-oppressive approach that actively incorporates anti-essentialism and intersectionality. Essentialism is the belief that all people in a group have something in common relative to others, for example that all people of color have something in common relative to white people (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). One might be tempted to argue that “all oppressed people have something in common - their oppression. But the forms of that oppression may vary from group to group. And if they do, the needs and political strategies of groups fighting for social change will vary as well” (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017, p. 63). Thus, inappropriate essentialism can be avoided by using intersectional approaches.

Intersectionality, a concept coined by African-American feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, illustrates the idea of multiple marginalization or, what happens when an individual’s identities face varying levels of oppression (Crenshaw, 1989; Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). Given that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity,” (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017, p. 10), the validity of research findings is increased by considerations of intersectionality. However, the optimal application of intersectionality in research design and data analysis presents many challenges, which we discuss throughout this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Epistemology: How we know what we know.

Strengths-Based Approach: A strength-based approach seeks to focus on inherent strengths and sources of resilience that may be beneficial in the face of adversity. It promotes and seeks to increase the positive instead of elevating the negative (McCashen, 2005 AU25: The in-text citation "McCashen, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Anti-Racism: To be anti-racist is to actively fight racism and its manifestations.

Inductive: Research that draws conclusions from the data without pre-determined theory or hypotheses. This form of reasoning is usually used in qualitative research and studies on underresearched topics or with underresearched communities.

Community-Based Participatory Research: A methodology that incorporates a collaborative, reciprocal, and non-hierarchical process to conducting research, which could involve quantitative or qualitative methods.

Essentialism: The belief that all people in a group have something in common relative to others, for example that all people of color have something in common relative to white people. Anti-essentialism urges a reconceptualization of the ways people are grouped into categories. That is, it is critical to conscientiously consider ways that groups of people are heterogeneous (e.g., diverse experiences among Black people; or Women; or within the LGBTQIA community).

Deductive: Research that begins with a theory, which informs a hypothesis, which informs how and what conclusions are drawn from research findings.

Positivist vs. Post-Positivist Research: Positivist research tends to be deductive and follow the scientific method with a hypothesis, experimentation and observation. Positivists also believe only what we can directly observe can be measured. Post-positive research tends to be more inductive. Post-positivists believe that our observations and conceptions of reality can be fallible, and what can be measured is a perception of reality, not reality.

Intersectionality: A concept grounded in Black Feminism, and a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, illustrates the idea of multiple marginalization or, what happens when an individual’s identities face varying levels of oppression. For example, rather than examining race and gender as single issues, intersectionality examines the interconnections between race and gender and the joint impacts of race and gender on discrimination (so that being a black woman is not just being black and being a woman).

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