Speaking freely, no longer in code thanks to Dr. Stafford Hood by Vidhya Shanker

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.

Dr. Yvonne Lincoln, as quoted in Alkin, 2004 said, "The program evaluation community was so small
in the late 1960s and early 1970s that virtually everyone who was writing about evaluation could be invited [to The May 12 Group, precursor of the American Evaluation Association] and accommodated comfortably."

In a newspaper, you might read about:

Dr. Michael Scriven, as quoted by The Oral History Team (2005), said "No one will be able to argue that they were entitled to join The May 12 Group because
it’s called something generic. And so the idea was you got invited to The May 12 Group, and if you weren’t invited, then you weren’t in, and so there was no official stuff."

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?

Some of these African American evaluators worked in close proximity to major figures such as Tyler, Cronbach, Bloom, and others who shaped evaluative thinking on education—but they never made it into the academic inner sanctum…. (Dr. Stafford Hood, 2001)

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.

These early African American evaluators...focused on...inequities in segregated schools and colleges for African Americans in the South across the southern states as well as in individual southern states. For example, Brown (1944) evaluated accredited secondary schools for Negroes in the South and also looked at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary experience of Negroes in Georgia (Brown, 1947). Boykin’s broad look across the southern states addressed the differentials in financial resources (1950), teacher salaries (1949), and the interpretation of quantitative data for segregated schools (1954). Boykin also conducted an evaluative study on Louisiana’s public Negro higher education institutions (1962). (Dr. Stafford Hood, 2001)

“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.

Clearly, early African American educational evaluators did the studies and published in the so-called right journals. But the bulk of their work appeared in the distinguished Journal of Negro Education, which was and remains largely unread by the white scholarly community (or at least is not cited in their publications)…. (Dr . Stafford Hood, 2001)

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.

I find it curious that African American evaluators went unnoticed when a number of them had received their degrees from prestigious public and private universities with reputations not only for their educational research but also for the emerging field of educational evaluation….(Dr. Stafford Hood, 2001)

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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