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August 2012

Hierarchy…Even Among The “Useless” Degrees?

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled Thoughts About “Useless Degree” Lists, where I mentioned:

It is not a coincidence that the knowledge, perspectives and skills (obtained through degrees) that directly correlate to the betterment, uplift and empowerment of marginalized groups in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society are also the degrees often deemed “useless.”

But…even among the degrees already deemed “useless,” there seems to be a hierarchy.

Among the “useless,” Psychology and History are still more highly regarded than Sociology and Art History. It’s not a coincidence that the two former tend to have more male graduates than the latter (though women in these programs outnumber men overall, which of course relates to them all being declared “useless” in the first place). American Studies and Jewish Studies aren’t bashed as nearly as much as Women Studies. In fact, they’re rarely disrespected. (I don’t even have to comment on why American Studies isn’t disregarded. Considering White privilege, Jewish economic, media, and social power and the American loyalty to Israel, I doubt anyone of a notable position would bash Jewish Studies and expect to stay employed.) And the icing on the cake? Black Studies, African American Studies or Africana Studies are disrespected the most. They’re always deemed as the least serious scholarship, even when other cultural studies programs are considered somewhat “serious,” though overall, all of them are disrespected in comparison to STEM or business degrees. No cultural studies programs endure the beatings and bias wars that anything that encapsulates Blackness does. Shocking? Hardly.

Recently a White woman (Naomi Schaefer Riley) who wrote an essay clouded by White privilege (and no, her having a Black husband does not invalidate my [and others’] assessment of her essay…and here’s why) was fired from The Chronicle of Higher Education. She launched yet another attack on Black Studies. (Melissa Harris-Perry had a great footnote on her show defending cultural studies/humanities programs in response to this same article. Also, read Ta-nehisi Coates’ article, taking a slightly different, yet reasonable angle on why she was [and should have been] dismissed.)

IF any field that is not STEM or business is “useless” study, why within all of these “useless” studies is there still a hierarchy? Racial and gender privilege can clearly be seen throughout. Not surprising to me. Not at all.

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