Timothy B. Tyson: Proving the point

February 25, 2013 

Proving the point

Paul Scott, in his Feb. 8 Point of View piece “African studies must be taken seriously,” is right that Afro-American studies suffers disrespect. How else to explain The N&O’s publication of a sweeping analysis of the field by a “truth minista” apparently without credentials or publications? Would chemistry get this treatment?

Scott distorts the discipline’s history, misconstrues the scandal at UNC and gives young scholars inadequate advice. To treat the UNC scandal as a major episode in Afro-American Studies is like comparing “American Idol” to the Normandy invasion.

The problem was not any challenge to “traditional Euro-centric thought,” but instead one former professor and one former administrator who offered athletes credit but not education.

Our dilemma is the tension between the mission of a university and the needs of a sports franchise. Afro-American studies in the 21st century marks its own mission with rigor and relevance.

Historically black institutions and also those Scott derides as “white-controlled institutions” have rich archives in black history. Aspiring scholars will find mentors here training a new generation of thinkers and teachers and writing good books.

Afro-American studies is alive and well in our universities, still challenging America to become, as Langston Hughes put it, “the land that never has been yet / and yet must be.”

Timothy B. Tyson

Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

Chapel Hill

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