Breaking Brown

August 18, 2015

White Audiences Expect to be Entertained by Black Academics, Study Finds

White Audiences Expect to be Entertained by Black Academics, Study Finds

In American society, black entertainers are among the most widely accepted in mainstream culture. From Michael Jordan to Oprah Winfrey to Beyonce, if you can entertain the masses, your being black isn’t an impediment to success.

According to a new study, however, even blacks who aren’t in the entertainment field are expected to behave as entertainers.

A Vanderbilt study found that black faculty members are expected to entertain their white peers when presenting academic research:

Interviews with the scholars revealed that an overwhelming majority were advised regularly by white peers to be “more entertaining” when making research presentations, as well as to “lighten up” and “tell more jokes.”

Black females additionally noted being subject to their colleagues’ preoccupation with their clothing choices and hairstyle, and reported being admonished to play down their “passion” and “smile more.” In addition, nearly all reported overt racist remarks in regards to their academic presentations.

Ebony O. McGee–co-director of the study and assistant professor of education, diversity and urban schooling at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College–said she wasn’t surprised by the results.

“These microaggressions harken to a long history of blacks being objectified for entertainment value, all the way back to the blackface minstrels shows, which depicted African Americans as comical, lazy or dim-witted,” she said. “Today the racialized objectification of African Americans may not always be as overt as it was a century ago, but the ‘black as entertainment’ ideology remains alive and well.”

Black faculty members make up less than nine percent of academics.

McGee hopes that the study will provide “useful insights to those who organize presentations and those who give them.”


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5 thoughts on “White Audiences Expect to be Entertained by Black Academics, Study Finds

  1. AllenShaw says:

    “White Audiences expect to be Entertained by Black
    Academics, Study Finds – Breaking Brown”

    The same advice is given to Whites and other racial groups.
    Who wants to sit and listen to some dry, resentful lecture?
    Take a Dale Carnegie or some other similar speaking course
    and you will find that bring pleasant is a “good” thing.
    Why do you think only Blacks need to be entertaining!

  2. MorganaLeFay says:

    Black academics should aspire to teach at black institutions, where they will be valued as minds, not as clowns. Secondly, black academics in mixed or white institutions should ignore all this condescending, racialized and often sexist advice. They should challenge this at every turn, and demand to know whether white academics receive the same “advice”. We should also work to publicize the results of this study at every opportunity.

  3. Watchful says:

    I wonder who funds all these damn ‘studies’ that seem to always reach conclusions that do nuthin’ but state the obvious. I have to believe that the money wasted on these types of ‘studies’ could be put to much better use … of course, that would probably defeat the true purpose.

  4. AllenShaw says:

    Watchful, assistant professor of education, diversity and urban schooling at Vanderbilt’s of education and human development co-directed the study.
    It might be possible that the individuals who were advised to relax a little should take the advice and not be so uptight when they are being reviewed by their mentors.

  5. Watchful says:


    My comment wasn’t concerning who directed the study, but rather, who funded it. At any rate, I’m really not that concerned since this study seems pretty worthless to me anyway, just like many other so-called ‘studies’ which only end up stating the obvious.

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