By Lamont Flowers
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s interview with Dr. Houston Baker, “Literary Scholar Indicts Some Black Thinkers for Shallow Works,” was very informative in that it enables all of us to think more critically about our work and what is the real impact of our scholarship. The interview also encourages researchers and scholars who focus on the African American experience to consider some of the pressing challenges facing scholarship about African American history and life as well as the role of academic freedom.
More importantly, I believe that the interview uncovers probably a more critical issue that may potentially impact the production of scholarship on African Americans – the underrepresentation of scholars writing about and conducting research on issues related to understanding and improving the quality of life for African Americans. In essence, the interview points clearly to the importance of encouraging scholars, who are able and willing, to mentor the next generation of scholars and problem solvers. Producing and mentoring new scholars will ensure that there will be a variety of people, with different cultural lenses and scholarly approaches, to examine the African American experience in education, housing, politics, economics, criminal justice, music, media, philosophy, etc.
I contend that an increase in the number of scholars who study issues related to African American issues and race relations may also improve the number and utility of approaches for enhancing the well-being of the Black community in America. Moreover, this next generation of scholars may also lead to the type of diversity in thinking that may provide the best defense against the myriad of theoretical, evidence-based, scholarly, and practical topics, issues, and concerns that decrease opportunities and defers the dreams of many African Americans.