Academic Weaknesses: Richard Delgado’s Development of Weakness in Academic Discourse

Academic Weaknesses: Richard Delgado’s Development of Weakness in Academic Discourse


Richard Delgado’s article “The Imperial Scholar: Reflections: On a Review of Civil Rights Literature” develops his argument that diverse scholar inclusion in papers has not been focused nor has it increased in numbers. He not only elaborates on his own experiences in his field of study but the scholarship of academic researchers who fail to see the harm in only publishing white male research. Delgado argues that this exclusion of diversity and minorities in academic research does more harm than intended, and awareness is not enough to develop an in-depth and nonexploitative commentary on minority issues.

Delgado first begins his paper by describing how he had fit into the system by accepting “traditional” views and values. When seeking tenure, Delgado says “he did not get too caught up in civil rights or other ‘ethnic’ studies”; Delgado stuck to traditions and received tenure (46). He is transparent about his position and how he got to his position of study. However, in his established career, he speaks out against these traditional views. He knew he had “catching up” to do, but was surprised how little “…black,…Hispanic… and Native Americans” were cited in academic work (46). His, and his research assistant’s work developed a frequent but unsurprising trend: all works cited were white and male. No development of black researchers, Hispanic researchers or Native American researchers were discussed. These works often discussed the hardships and commented on the facets of discrimination, however, only from the experience (or lack thereof) from white scholars. These scholars would reference each other, and reference other white scholars that would create a never-ending circle of exploitative papers that used minorities to springboard their careers without crediting or discussing with any minorities.


In its foundation, this cycle was exploitative and damaging to scholars of color who were trying to publish and develop themselves in the academic spheres. To call a paper, published only by white male scholars citing only white male scholars, should not be considered Civil Rights Literature. Important questions to consider when reading these works is: What group is being interviewed? Do they have a voice or are they being erased and spoken over by another scholar? If so, what representation does that other scholar offer? Do they? What erasure is occurring when only white male scholars are producing work? If no minorities or people who have experienced injustices of civil rights are being discussed or included, it is not an accurate measure for voices in civil rights literature. The tradition of “exclud[ing] minority writing about key issues of race law….does matter” it is harmful and exploitative to use minorities to springboard an academic career and not credit or allow them to speak.
Delgado, Richard. “The Imperial Scholar: Reflections on A Review of Civil Rights Literature.” Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement, edited by Kimberle Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, The New Press, 1996, pp. 46-57.


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