David E. Kirkland: No Small Matters: Reimagining the Use of Research Evidence From A Racial Justice Perspective

Among researchers and others in the field who examine the use of research evidence in policy and practice, questions of how and what have been the primary locus of inquiry. Considerably less attention is directed toward questions of why, who, and for whom research is used. From a racial justice perspective, to not raise these questions from the beginning can be thought of as an exercise in dismissal— the hardline of indifference that is not about remembrance or amnesia but the power inchoate in not having to recognize, acknowledge, or grapple with the forces of history (cf. Alexander, 2012).

It would be naïve to consider the use of research evidence a neutral act. The (mis)use of research evidence, from test scores to skull sizes to “validated” assumptions about what constitutes beauty, has been used to construct the ideology of race—to set in motion the racial hierarchy that both elevates and centers Whiteness while simultaneously reducing and criminalizing Blackness. The (mis)use of research evidence has seen Black bodies reduced as the object of White oppressive fetish (e.g., the Black body as empirically sexualized and contrived as abnormal, a monstrosity, etc.), preoccupation with social control (e.g., the Black body as target of sterilization), and experimentation (e.g., the Black body as experiment for White medicine).

That is, attempting to conceptualize the use of research evidence without critical attention to why, who, and for whom that evidence is used misses a vital truth: The use of research evidence is not only embedded in systems of power, it is a system of power.

Citation: Kirkland, D. (2019). No Small Matters: Reimagining the Use of Research Evidence From A Racial Justice Perspective. New York: William T Grant Foundation.