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Joseph Feagin is a scholar, social justice advocate, professor, and leader in the field of urban sociology. Throughout his career, he has fought against the oppression of people of color within the United States. His passion for equity has essentially held a mirror to the country, reflecting the raw imagery of how the United States has historically oppressed people of color through social, economic, mental, and physical means. This reflection has at times caused those who view the issues of race conservatively to see Feagin’s work as unbearable. For example, in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (2006), the conservative author David Horowitz included Feagin on his list of “threats.” Horowitz claims that professors like Feagin “push” their liberal agenda onto college students, while at the same time stifling alternative viewpoints within the classroom. Regardless, many admirers of his work and efforts feel that he has spent a rich academic career attempting to answer the endless riddles of racial problems within the United States.
Joe Feagin was born in San Angelo, Texas, and he grew up in Houston during the Great Depression. After high school, he earned a degree in history, philosophy, and social ethics at Baylor University in 1960. He received a PhD in social ethics from Harvard University in 1966. He began his academic career as an assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside from 1966 to 1970. He went on to hold the positions of associate professor and full professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin (1970–1974 and 1974–1990, respectively). He has also been a scholar-in-residence at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1974–1975) and a graduate professor at the University of Florida (1990–2004). In 2004 he was appointed the Ella C. McFadden Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. Feagin has received countless honors and awards, including the Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Human Rights Book Award in 1995 and 1996 and the Center for Healing of Racism Ally Award n 2006. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and he served as the president of the American Sociological Association in 2000.
In his advocacy for social justice through the use of empirical and historical research and data, Feagin has explored the hatred that the white majority has toward people of color, especially blacks. He believes that this hatred is not only at the center of the foundation of the country, but that it is also the rationale for the current treatment of people of color. He has successfully correlated various problems that exist among people of color to the white racial frame that was first used successfully to disempower blacks through the means of social control. In fact, this white racial frame uses a manipulation of stereotypes of blacks and other people of color to galvanize the need for control over this population, who have historically been viewed as sexual and physical threats by white elites.
Feagin’s prolific scholarship has spanned over fortytwo years and yielded thought-provoking contributions in over 40 published books, 180 journal articles and monographs, and numerous consultations on issues of racism, discrimination, police brutality, gender racism, and other such experiences of people of color. Since 1989, with the help of other colleagues, he has completed field research studies involving approximately 600 black Americans in regard to social problems. In addition, in order to bring forth the voices of the marginalized within his work, he has been involved within dozens of field research studies that use diaries, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. But because the sample respondents used in various segments of his work are not selected from a sampling frame, the “snowball” sampling technique he and other qualitative researchers use cannot always ensure unbiased estimates. Thus, this technique has been called into question by some, particularly by pure quantitative researchers. Many researchers in the field, however, have adapted the technique because of its value in researching groups that are traditionally difficult for researchers to gain access to. Overall, Feagin has helped give a voice to the voiceless and marginalized populations within the United States.
- Feagin, Joe R. 1982. Social Problems: A Critical Power-Conflict Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- Feagin, Joe R. 2000. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.
- Horowitz, David. 2006. The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Washington, DC: Regnery.
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