In Academia, US History Jobs Are Increasingly Focusing On Race

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University job postings are increasingly focusing on race as academic institutions look to center racial issues in their teaching of American history and attempt to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Over the past decade, job postings in the field of U.S. history have increasingly prioritized race, according to data from Academic Jobs Wiki, a tracker of university job postings, published by Princeton historian Matt Karp. Experts say the trend is partly due to a larger push in academia to bolster DEI initiatives. (RELATED: Multiple Arizona Universities Require Job Applicants To Pledge Support For Diversity, Equity And Inclusion)

“Obviously this isn’t a trend that’s occurring just in history, but across the academy and a lot of that has to do with the academy’s recent focus on eradicating what it perceives as racism,” Chance Layton, director of communications at the National Association of Scholars, told the DCNF.

The data show a marked increase in job positions focused on ethnic identity subjects compared to data from 2011 and 2012, while job positions focused on different periods in American history declined.

Job postings focused on African-American history increased from 10% to 35.1% while job postings focused on Latino history increased from 3.2% to 5.9%. Native-American history job postingss increased from 2.9% to 6.6%, and Asian-American history increased from 0% in 2011 and 2012 to 3.5% between 2020 and 2022.

“If we’re going to talk about America’s sense of national identity, if the only thing we have to understand that is race and racism we’re leaving out huge, vital parts of the American story and that will create an entire generation of people who question the underlying idea of the American dream,” Jonathan Butcher, Goldwater Institute senior fellow, told the DCNF.

Job postings which focus on specific eras in U.S. history, such as the 20th century, the 19th century and early America have similarly declined, while job postings which focused on specific American regions decreased from 6.6% in 2011 and 2012 to 2.9% between 2020 and 2022.

“It distorts the way that we think about U.S. history. We should be able to teach students that slavery was inconsistent with our founding ideals. We should be teaching students that there were those, such as Benjamin Franklin and the quakers, who were abolitionists as early as the turn of the 19th century … some of the colonies that became states were grappling with how to either end slavery completely or end the slave trade well before the Civil War,” Butcher said. “So when you discuss the history of race in the United States and you say that racism is still embedded in the American system today, or racism is still the only way that we can understand the culture around us, you’re distorting an entire sector of American history.”

John Sailer, NAS fellow, pointed to various university job postings which emphasize an expertise on race, including a posting from Ohio State University (OSU) and another from Wake Forest University (WFU).

“This is a point I cannot emphasize enough,” Sailer tweeted. “To get a good job, in an incredibly lousy job market, a young scholar would be shrewd to focus their research on race, gender, or social justice.”

The OSU posting advertises an open position for a tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professor of Philosophy which specializes on race.

“We construe this broadly to include issues such as the metaphysics of race; the epistemological significance of race or racism; race in the philosophy of science; accounts of racialized thought, talk, experience, or agency; and theories of racial justice/injustice or other aspects of the moral, social, or political significance of race or racism,” the post read.

“The academy has academic freedom and we’re not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t study, and nobody should,” Layton said, referring to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics. “However, they cross a line when they force these theories, the very politicized and controversial theories, on professors, students and staff.”

WFU’s post searching for an assistant professor in the classics department sought a candidate whose expertise would “substantially include race, racism, and Greek & Roman studies.”

“We are especially interested in candidates from underrepresented groups, as well as individuals who have experience in working with diverse student populations and who will, through their research and teaching, contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community,” the post read.

“The recent focus on requiring the professor to have some DEI competencies or race-based competencies to teach … classic Roman studies, I’m not really sure where that fits in and I do not think that helps students learn about the classics, if you will,” Layton said.

Karl, OSU and WFU did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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