Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Tale of A Progressive Professor Who Forgot To Hide Her…
Kayla Renee Parker
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I can’t judge the truth about your ‘she said … I said’ account of the interactions between you and your teacher, but the only actual rebuttal you make to her assertion is this:

“The sociologist she cites, Herbert Gutman, is a white man that died in 1985 and conducted his research in the 60s and 70s. It is not hard to recognize that racism and bias could play a large role in the “studies” conducted by sociologists during this time.”

What do you mean by “it’s not hard to recognize”? Do you have evidence that this particular white man set out with the intention of shoring up the status quo by deliberately publishing a racially biased book? Or are you asserting that BECAUSE he’s white, and BECAUSE he was conducting his research in the ‘dark ages’ of the 60s and 70s (at the height of the civil rights movement, I might add), that he just had to be racist and his research can therefore be dismissed out of hand without subjecting it to any scholarly analysis? Surely this is your job as a student, Kayla? You should be learning not just to marshall an armful of ‘alternative facts’ to counterweigh the facts that you don’t like, you should be critiquing the actual work you’re disagreeing with, giving good, solid, logical, empirically-based arguments to support your contention that the research is flawed in some way.

Presumably your lecturer put this book on your reading list, or at least ensured that there was a copy of it in the University library. So did you — like a good student-read it?

I ask because on googling Herbert Gutman, I can’t find any evidence that he was motivated by racism or bigotry. On the contrary, he seems to have been written his first book on slavery as a rebuttal to one published the previous year that claimed slaves in the American South willingly co-operated with their masters. Here is an extract from a synopsis of the book:

“Gutman emphasizes the slaves’ responses to their treatment at the hands of slaveowners. He shows that slaves labored, not because they shared values and goals with their masters, but because of the omnipresent threat of ‘negative incentives,’ primarily physical violence.” Here’s a link.

Interestingly, I also came across this review of the book in question (The Black Family in Slavery):

“This comprehensively researched study of the black family in America argues that blacks survived slavery with remarkable strength and solidarity and took on freedom with previously uncredited courage and integrity.”

So, on the one hand your teacher has a distinguished historian with access to primary source material concluding that slaves were amazingly strong and resilient in the face of a brutalising system, and that this was probably largely due to the fact that they were able to maintain their family support networks. On the other hand, she has a young student — with apparently little in the way of scholarly research to support her — who insists on viewing those slaves as victims. Realistically, whose version do you expect her to accept?

Are you interested in finding out the truth, Kayla, or are you interested only in narratives that fit your preconceived notions? Because, if the latter is the case, you have no place in a University.

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