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Why is an asset-based approach to research about Blacks and other communities of color important?

According to Comer (1970), an asset-based approach to research about Black and other communities of color is necessary due to the lived experience of those collecting, reviewing, and creating the narrative around data. Comer says,

Jensen and many other researchers make the explicit or implicit assumption that blacks and whites have had the same experience in America. The experiences are vastly different, and it is not responsible science to make assumptions about the meaning of black and white difference when the "scientist" does not know the black experience or fully understand or take into account the implications of experiential difference (p. 9).

The data narrative reflects the lived experience of the researcher. Thus, inferred biases are due to what Comer (1970) describes as blindspots. Comer (1970) raises two vital questions that researchers and, more importantly, Black researcher and those of color must ask themselves when utilizing data that already supports an established narrative:

Have social scientists made as valuable a contribution as they might have made had they addressed themselves to their scientific blindspots? Have social scientists and their institutions been as ethical and responsible with the data they have collected as they should have been (pp.8-9)?

Black researchers are not exempt from these questions when engaging in research themselves. As inferred from Comer (1970), data is a reflection of our lived experiences. Although Black researchers and people of color have lived a marginalized existence in American society, Black people and others are not monolithic. This understanding of the flaws in research and the dichotomy of experiences is imperative more than ever, using an asset-based approach to research. Which leads us to Fenwick's (2015) work, which elaborates upon W.E.B Du Bois's question, Blacks in Research? How Shall We Be Portrayed?

It is the responsibility of educators, Black educators, and people of color within academia to question and challenge the status quo. Researchers are responsible for engaging in their craft when digesting new information presented by examining, questioning, and doing the due diligence necessary to correct the traditional narrative of data, which presents Black and other peoples of color as unfavorable. An asset-based approach calls on researchers to adequately safeguard against data misuse and promote better utilization of research findings (Comer, 1970, p.11). The researcher's work directly correlates to funding, resources, and policy that can either positively or negatively harm Black children and those of color. An asset-based approach to research will not focus on what is not working or what is historically or systemically damaged, but it will highlight success areas. Such data, in turn, would allow for the development of systems in order to encourage and replicate growth. The data showcases the educational efficacy of marginalized peoples and encourages wide-reaching systemic policy attached to funding efforts to support all children's advancement so that No Child is Left Behind.

Fenwick calls upon the Black Researcher to change the narrative and give credence to the efficacy and cultural traditions of tenacity in Black spaces. According to Fenwick (2015):

The purpose of this voice must be to equip the Black community with empowering data and reports along with specific strategies for advancing our interests and well-being (p. 596)

Data empowers systemic and political change and seeps into the personal narratives within Black communities and peoples of color. Empowering data reflects when a young Black boy or girl knows that they are capable of excelling at math. Empowering data highlights that Black women are the largest percentage of college degree earners and that more Black men are in college than in prison. Empowering data allows a nation to see but provides a community of people that have been both marginalized and ostracized to reclaim their strength and voice within the large society.


Comer, James P. (1970). Research and the Black backlash. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 40(1), 8-11.

Fenwick, L. (2015). Blacks in research: How shall we be portrayed? Urban Education, 51(6), 587-599.

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