Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

FORSAKING NEUTRALITY IN POLITICAL SCIENCE: Making the Case to Intellectually Assassinate

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

FORSAKING NEUTRALITY IN POLITICAL SCIENCE: Making the Case to Intellectually Assassinate

Article excerpt


As a youth, I always envisioned myself as a lawyer. I grew up with a fascination with the lawyers' ability to use their intellectual prowess and language for justice. In pursuit of a law degree, I majored in political science and criminology at a predominantly White institution (PWI). In navigating political science spaces, I felt estranged, alone, and relegated to the fringes as either the intelligent Black woman or the bearer of all knowledge for my people's assumed civic shortcomings. While displaying my abilities to share knowledge in political science spaces, a few professors told me that I should consider graduate school. But, I did not identify with the field of political science. After all, the field did not have people who looked like me, researched like me, or reflected my critical epistemologies (Neuman, 2011). I felt alienated from the field because of teaching and learning environments like these:

White Professor:    As you can see minorities do not vote as
                    much as Whites.
                    Why do you think that's the case?
White Student 1:    Because they don't care about voting.
White Student 2:    Because they are poor and have a bunch
                    of jobs.
White Student 3:    Because their vote doesn't matter.
White Professor:    Why do you say that?
White Student 3:    Because they are a minority, so there is
                    not a lot of them.

Feeling enraged and in awe of the ways that people theorize about communities they are not a part of, I felt these students invalidated and dismissed my lived experiences. I felt like I had unequal footing in conversations like these--even though I identified with the population discussed. Regardless of the specific issue, students often thought about my community from a deficit lens, and the professor's line of inquiry grounded in simply trying to understand the student's ideologies rather than interrogating them critically. The professor committed to neutrality to demonstrate a sense of respect for all opinions.

From that moment forward, I began to intellectualize through anger. Thus, throughout college, I ensured I read through every reading and placed myself in as many advocacy spaces as possible so that one day my opinion and advocacy would be relevant and taken seriously. I was on a mission to "intellectually assassinate" (Mackey, 2015) every person who would try to invalidate me and my racialized experiences. Intellectually assassinate is a term I coined based upon my academic and career development experiences. During my undergraduate years, intellectual assassination felt extremely personal and emotional because I was not just focusing on the ideas but the person sharing deficit-laden ideas as well. Though this callousness was unhealthy, I impressed my professors with my intellectual abilities, and they thought my ability to "intellectually assassinate" people would make me a great political scientist someday. It was not until my graduate career that I had healed from many of my racialized experiences and realized I could intellectually assassinate with love for humanity, relying on theories that interrogate and refute ideas rather than critiquing people.


While political science studies political processes and structures, political scientists would benefit from studying the manner in which political structures and processes are enacted in our classrooms. It is necessary to ensure there are critical epistemologies that reflect the why and how of political phenomena in our classrooms in order to "cultivate creative and critical perspectives. Privileging civic education in the political science curriculum can... prepare students for future roles as fully engaged citizens" (Smith, 2014, p. 123).

Critical epistemologies provide essential tools in political science, particularly for "American Political Thought" courses intended to foreground the ways our country grapples with the development and continued development of solutions for the sociopolitical issues related to race, class, and gender. …

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