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An Open Letter to Journal Editors Who Silence Angry and Assertive Black and Hispanic Scholars… A Few Things I Need You to Hear and Understand

An Open Letter to Journal Editors Who Silence Angry and Assertive Black and Hispanic Scholars… A Few Things I Need You to Hear and Understand

 

Donna Y. Ford, PhD

Angry, Assertive, Brave, Equity-Minded, and Intelligent Black Scholar

 

 

October 6, 2013

 

Today, a co-author (who shall remain anonymous) and I received a ‘reject but revise and resubmit’ letter from a mainstream journal. The co-editors and four reviewers deemed our paper unprofessional. Below is some of the feedback from what I am calling ‘Mainstream and Status Quo Journal’.

 

Given the importance of the topic and the controversial nature of the article’s format, I wanted at least 3-4 reviews prior to making a decision… Also, I have read the article multiple times myself and consulted with the entire set of associate editors and editors.

 

The reviewers and the editorial staff were mixed in their reactions to this manuscript. Half of those consulted felt strongly that this manuscript be rejected outright.  The other half saw major problems with the manuscript, but recommended that the authors be offered an opportunity to revise the manuscript and resubmit it to the Mainstream and Status Quo Journal (MSQJ).

 

Therefore, I am offering you an opportunity to revise this manuscript.  However, you must understand that if accepted, this commentary will be an article within Mainstream Journal, and as such, it must abide by the same scholarly principles as any other article within the covers of our journal.  The most common theme throughout the reviews was in regard to the tone of the manuscript.  Words such as “inflammatory,” “disrespectful,” and “biased” peppered the reviews. I must agree with all four of the reviewers that the tone of this diatribe is not appropriate for a scholarly peer review journal such as Mainstream Journal.  I think that scholarly critique should be encouraged.  However, scholarly critique is thoughtful and tempered and considers multiple viewpoints.  The current version of this manuscript has an angry, one sided tone.  Unfortunately, this unprofessional tone occludes the message that you seek to deliver.  Therefore, the revision must be written in a tone that is appropriate for a scholarly journal.  We will not compromise on this point.  We will not provide Mainstream Journal page space for you to textually slap our authors.  You may disagree with ‘mainstream authors’, but I hardly think that their motive for publishing was nefarious.  Please treat the authors of this paper and other papers with which you may disagree with the professional respect that you expect to be accorded to you by your critics.

 

Clearly, I have not provided all feedback which I find chastising, belittling, and oppressive, choosing instead to get at the heart (maybe I need to use a different word) of the issue of silencing Black and Hispanic writers who are willing to take on the status quo and whose anger is unapologetically justified and justifiable.

 

Point 1. Angry in and of itself is not a dirty word, and neither does being angry equate to being unprofessional and unscholarly. As scholars supporting and defending our cultural group — too many of whom are disenfranchised by those in power – and as writers who are tackling inequities and seeking to enlighten the status quo, then anger can be quite appropriate and valid. Who are you to temper this anger, and to do so under the guise of what those in power deem and dictate to be professional etiquette? Yes, there are guidelines on professional conduct, most likely written by majority White decision makers who want to control the discourse. But consider this — opinions about tone are subjective. What you call inflammatory is your opinion (and fear?). Another person may have a different and even opposing interpretation. Who wins or has the final say? Who is right? Those in power (e.g., editors) often have the last word on how ‘tone’ and ‘behavior’ will be interpreted. By censoring Black and Hispanic scholars who are often ignored and discounted among the status quo, who are not members of your club, you are not only silencing those with less social capital, you are attempting to suppress and control our story, and you are keeping the readership culturally ignorant and gatekeepers by your biased agenda.

 

Point 2. Editors of Mainstream and Status Quo Journal(s) are likely to choose their reviewers with intent and motive. I doubt that names are selected randomly. Thus, those reviewers you select are not without bias.  Of the dozens of reviewers, how do you choose the final ones? Yet, you ask that we, who not in the club, write without bias. Let’s talk about double standards! Am I surprised that reviewers said exactly what you wanted them to say? By censoring Black and Hispanic scholars who are often ignored and discounted among the status quo, who are not members of your club, you are not only silencing those with less power, you are attempting to suppress and control our story, and you are keeping the readership culturally ignorant and gatekeepers by your biased and unprofessional agenda.

 

Point 3. Instead of calling Black and Hispanic scholars ‘angry’ and using this descriptor as an excuse and distractor to neither listen nor hear, try a bit of empathy. Open your hearts, ears, and minds to other realities. Give up some of your unearned and even undeserved privileges. Push your readers rather than placate them. Encourage and support those who can share not just complaints but also solutions. By censoring Black and Hispanic scholars who are often ignored and discounted among the status quo, who are not members of your club, you are not only silencing those with less social capital, you are attempting to suppress and control our story, and you are keeping the readership culturally ignorant and gatekeepers by your biased and unprofessional agenda.

 

Point 4. The silenced must be heard and will find other ways to be advocates and change agents. I learned decades ago that scholars silenced by Mainstream and Status Quo Journal(s) have other outlets to be heard.  Rule of thumb –- when Black and Hispanic scholars feel compelled (and forced) to dilute our anger, temper it, we should not submit to MSQJ. When we wish to be a real and unapologetically angry scholar seeking change, submit our work to Equity, Justice, and Change Journal(s) which is scholarly but not suppressive. By censoring Black and Hispanic scholars who are often ignored and discounted among the status quo, who are not members of your club, you are not only silencing those with less social capital, you are attempting to suppress and control our story, and you are keeping the readership culturally ignorant and gatekeepers by your biased and unprofessional agenda.

 

Point 5. Your suppression of our work is oppressive and biased and unprofessional. And that is your intent. Right? If not, then open the conversation! By censoring Black and Hispanic scholars who are often ignored and discounted among the status quo, who are not members of your club, you are not only silencing those with less social capital, you are attempting to suppress and control our story, and you are keeping the readership culturally ignorant by your biased and unprofessional agenda. dyford

 

 

Racism finds support in media

@RacismFacts: According to The Economist, almost 80% of racists use the media and news reports to justify their racist attitudes.

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