Campaign for dismissal of ‘black women not beautiful’ lecturer gathers momentum
A Facebook page entitled: LSE Home of the Racist Academic. Say No; launched following the publication of an article in Psychology Today, by LSE lecturer Satoshi Kanazawa, proves that social justice activism is very much a feature of cyberspace.
A campaign calling for the dismissal of Kanazawa is gathering momentum, as the page has attracted almost 400 ‘likes’ at the time of writing and numerous comments and links to dozens of articles and blog posts calling into question the integrity of his research.
Two online petitions on calling for Psychology Today to be held accountable for publishing ‘pseudo-scientific’ content have also been launched and has already collectively attracted over 2000 signatures.
In the offending article, headlined: Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men (which has now been removed from the publisher’s website), Kanazawa claims that ‘scientific’ research proves that black women are rated as being less attractive than women from other ethnic groups.
On her blog, co-founder of the Facebook page, Nichole Black, who describes herself as an evolutionary psychologist, dismisses the study as ‘scientific racism’ and takes Kanazawa to task over his “nonsensical hypothesis.” [content has since been removed]
She says black women will not accept “being subjected to such an attack in order to boost Psychology Today’s online traffic. We will not tolerate academic work built on stereotypes of the black man as superhuman Adonis, nor the defeminised black (African) woman full of testosterone.”
No doubt this was in response to Kanazawa’s questionable supposition that: “The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone.”
Posts on the Facebook page express equal measures of outrage and there are many links to commentaries and analyses of the study. One link takes you back to Psychology Today, to a blog by Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D, who writes:
“Standards of beauty, like most other beliefs, are socialized and change not only from place to place but also over time. In both the United States and England, (where Kanazawa lives and works), standards of beauty are essentially "white" standards, because whites comprise the majority of the population and have disproportional control over both media and fashion. And while it is not just white respondents who are socialized this way (internalized racism has been well documented), it is certainly the case that white Americans and Europeans (who are less likely to have received more positive messages about black beauty) would show the strongest anti-black bias.”
I couldn’t agree more that white/European standards of beauty prevail, not only in western populations with white majorities, but also in some African and Asian countries as a consequence of cultural imperialism, colonialism and legacies of the European enslavement of Africans where social hierarchies based on skin tone helped to perpetuate colourism. This is argued in my book Layers of Blackness: Colourism in the African Diaspora.
Another interesting link on the Facebook page takes you to a post on scienceblogs.com by PZ Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. This time Kanazawa’s claim to objectivity comes under attack:
“Where in this study is the objective evaluation of attractiveness? Because Kanazawa can stack up a bunch of scores and make graphs does not mean that they have suddenly acquired the property of objectivity.”
The point of relevance here is that no study based on individual perceptions can claim to be objective, as individual perceptions are necessarily subjective, and can as in this case, be hidden within the cloak of whiteness, a social construct, which defines itself as that which is normal, but which is actually based on European standards, traditions, practices and beliefs that are presumed to be held by all cultures.
Kanazawa is not the first academic to cross the line into the murky waters of scientific racism but he should be the last university-sponsored researcher to publish racist material under the pretext of objective scientific research.
In 2006, The University of Leeds was forced to discipline another scientific racist-academic Frank Ellis, after students around the country mounted an effective campaign and ironically after a diversity conference due to be hosted there was boycotted.
Judging by the sentiments expressed on the Facebook page I know I am not alone in hoping that Kanazawa suffers a similar fate.