This week, we honor the life and legacy of the great Dr. Stafford Hood: evaluator, educator, visionary, truth-speaker, and beloved husband, father, and colleague. This week’s authors pay tribute to Dr. Hood by sharing with us the ways in which he touched their personal and professional lives.
-Liz DiLuzio, Lead Curator
Greetings from Vidhya Shanker, originator of #WhyIsEvaluationSoWhite? and convener of #TheMay13Group. I’m humbled and honored to share how Dr. Stafford Hood’s work is pivotal to understand the origins of evaluation’s demographic, ideological, and epistemological whiteness.
Imagine it’s the late 1960s….
On the radio, you might hear the Great Society’s White Rabbit. On TV, you might see Star Trek.
In a newspaper, you might read about:
- the assassination of Malcolm X;
- protests against the American War in Viet Nam;
- the Voting Rights Act;
- Thurgood Marshall’s historic appointment to SCOTUS;
- Shirley Chisholm’s historic election to Congress;
- Nixon’s platform of “law and order;”
- Miss Black America’s protest of the exclusively White Miss America Pageant;
- the Watts Rebellion;
- the Black Power movement;
- the Black Panther Party;
- San Francisco State University’s successful demand for an Ethnic Studies program;
- the Stonewall uprising;
- Indians of All Tribes’ counter-occupation of Alcatraz; and
- affirmative action.
Hmmm…I wonder: Who did members of the entirely White May 12 Group, one of the precursors of AEA, picture might “argue” that they were “entitled to join”? What “official stuff” were they guarding against?
Like most evaluators of color/indigenous evaluators, including Stafford Hood, I searched for literature that addressed race and colonization when I saw none in my academic program. Working backwards through each issue of the American Journal of Evaluation and New Directions for Evaluation, I saw Drs. Denice Ward Hood and Denice Cassaro analyze white supremacy and Black Feminist Thought. Then I saw Stafford Hood analyze the enslavement of African labor and segregated education. He questioned the meaning of democracy for descendants of Africans that the USA enslaved.
Had Hood not documented the lineage of African American evaluators engaged in what he called Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE)—evaluation that responds to the political struggle for emancipation—as early as the 1930s, I might not have realized the subtext and implications of characterizations about the evaluation community as “small” or The May 12 Group’s fear of “entitlement” and “official stuff” in the late 1960s.
“Why have I never seen this and where is the rest of it?”
Whenever I asked, I would hear that I was mistaken. People would rattle off publications with vague references to “social justice,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “multicultural validity,” or “cultural competence,” rather than steeped in the blood, sweat, and tears of martyrs like Frederick Douglass as Hood’s early work was. Evaluation’s dominant discourse more typically mentions “race, class, gender, disability” only as atomized attributes attached to individual program participants and (sometimes) evaluators, treating them as explanatory variables without acknowledging evaluation’s active role in constructing them.
Articles that cite Hood, including some by Dr. Hood himself, often reduce CRE to shared culture and lived experience. Evaluation has co-opted CRE—capitalizing on the culture and optics of phenotypic difference that evaluators of color/indigenous evaluators bring—to gain access to people that the disproportionately white and colonially educated field cannot relate to. Much of the literature fails to describe oppression and resistance of any kind with the specificity that Hood did. He explicitly rooted his work not just in his personal struggle as an African American man but also in a larger political struggle against white supremacy.
I once asked Dr. Hood if he regretted framing CRE in the terms he did rather than articulating a structural analysis. After all, “culture” continues to be weaponized against—and used as a wedge between—peoples of color/indigenous peoples. What we see today is the result of not cultural differences but rather domination, justified by the manufactured difference—hierarchy—of race. Appreciating the question, he replied that he wouldn’t care if we called CRE peanut butter, as long as we did it. Moreover, he said, marginalized groups have always spoken in code.
Hood’s passing ignites a sense of urgency to collect the reflections of even more evaluation elders who have shaped the field’s understanding of inequality and unearned advantage in hopes of creating a sense of belonging for those of us they snuck into the field underground. Now here, we dream of speaking freely, no longer in code.
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