It’s Time for Black Experts to Be Heard

From 1975 to 2016, the increase in Black doctoral recipients, among US citizens and permanent residents, across every major field of study, outpaced white doctoral recipients. Additionally, Black doctoral recipients are more likely to be first generation students. Nonetheless, public discourse has long ignored black experts, who often understand how compounding crises are confounded by demographic and socioeconomic differences. For example, William Spriggs, an economics professor at Howard University, noted how the Federal Reserve missed early signs of the Great Recession Because it did not listen to warnings from Black economists. More than a decade later, very little has changed.

Today, Black experts are simultaneously hypervisible other silenced; seen but not heard, acknowledged but not cited. The late WEB Du Bois noted that the lives and works of Black scholars inevitably become part of public discourse, public life, and social commentary. Nonetheless, Black experts are often chastised for lacking “objectivity” and “relevance” on matters related to Black life and beyond.

In 2022, the stakes could not be higher: As Covid-19 heads into a devastating third year, those with the most power can no longer ignore the wisdom of Black experts, who continue to sound the alarms on pandemic-related issues that impacts everyone.

If policy and industry leaders are truly determined to place equity at the center of politics and the survival of American democracy, black experts can no longer be relegated to diversity, equity, and inclusion panels. And taking up space can no longer be viewed as conditional. This moment demands that individuals, institutions, and communities make equitable room for Black expertise on all matters. This moment demands that we see Black people, especially Black women, in every level of leadership, including on the Supreme Court. The time for excuses is over; call in the Black experts.

As part of a new collection of essays that I edited, titled The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, I gathered Black scholars and experts, the majority of whom identify as women, from across the country for their perspectives on climate, education, health care, wellness, criminal justice, technology, and the economy. The Black Agenda aims to achieve something institutions have repeatedly failed to do: definitely illustrate why Black experts should be at the helm of public discourse on issues ranging from jobs to student debt.

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