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Dr. Patillo presents "Black Advantage Visions" to the audience in Trabant Theatre.
On March 24, 2024, the University of Delaware's Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice hosted the annual Minority Mentor Lecture Series, featuring visiting scholar Mary Patillo Ph.D,, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and chair of African American studies at Northwestern University. The lecture, "Black Advantage Vision: Flipping the Script on Racial Inequality Research," presented the concept that researchers who study sociology and racial inequality must consider all sides of their research, debunking normative claims that affirm negative assumptions and/or biases of Black people and Black life. Rather than underscoring deficits, she posits that researchers should build on assets.
Patillo's work challenges traditional research agendas by actively seeking domains in which Black people excel and achieve and placing their accomplishments at the forefront of empirical research.
Patillo published a paper in 2021 that presented the concept of Black Advantage Vision. This approach challenges conventional research on racial inequality and stratification by actively seeking out domains where Black people outperform white people and conducting studies that demonstrate this outcome. Black Advantage Vision aims to combat stigma, one of the key mechanisms that research has shown leads to negative outcomes for Black people in sociology and the social sciences more broadly.
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The event was attended by almost one hundred students online and in person.
According to Patillo, Black Advantage Vision requires researchers and scholars to adopt a nuanced perspective when studying Black people. It also calls on researchers to be aware of their own biases in observation and to think critically about the premises of their findings. In her talk, she argued that research and teaching in the social sciences can perpetuate negative stigmas, and that students may internalize these stigmas.
Patillo pointed out that when measuring equal social determinants for control groups, findings show that Black subjects are more likely to achieve positive outcomes compared to their counterparts. For example, there are findings that indicate Black people are more likely to attend college given the same resources and opportunities as White people. However, traditional research often suggests the opposite.
Patillo emphasized the need for Black Advantage Vision to showcase more examples of Black achievement. “We need Black Advantage Vision because we haven't shown enough, empirically, where black people shine," Patillo said. She urged researchers to reject deficit frameworks in their research studies and reinterpret their findings to posit Black advantage. Adding, “we have an industry of teaching and mentoring that very much leans into black disadvantage."
Minority Mentor Lecture Series leadership council.
As a scholar whose interests lie in race and ethnicity, urban sociology, and qualitative methods, Patillo's research focus is on the city of Chicago, where she studies its people, history, politics, and social life. She is a Harold Washington Professor of Sociology & Chair of African American Studies at Northwestern University and has authored several books, including, “Black Picket Fences: Privilege & Peril Among the Black Middle Class".
Patillo emphasized the normative aspirations that should be integrated into research approaches, including dignity, justice, freedom, joy, liberation, and love. The study of sociology and racial stratification calls for a balance in the way in which we discuss racial groups. By sharing her approach with academic audiences, Patillo aims to raise awareness among sociologists about potential shortcomings in how they teach and portray Black life. She believes that this can lead to new avenues of research in the future.
Article by Gelina Dames
Published March 29, 2023