Claudine Gay and Harvard: African Americans Need Their Success

January 5, 2024
Claudine Gay Harvard

By Nneka Okumazie

Claudine Gay, the first black president of Harvard University, resigned, following criticisms about her, plagiarizing the works of others. She was also criticized for publishing so little in her career and writing no book. Many wondered out loud how she was able to gain prominence.

This biased view ignores that in the second half of the 20th century, there were hundreds of major academics who published so little and some who never published. Many of them even rose to administrative roles, yet no one raised issues. The people who say that the peer review system needs to be overhauled are charging her for not conforming.

So many academics in recent years have published multiple books, many of which are useless or should never have been written. The books move no knowledge forward. Some of the big questions in the same area of their specialization or writing are not answered in the books. The books, padded by footnotes, are merely rites for whatever reasons.

From the late 20th century till date, there have been so many corporations and institutions, with leaders that just about anyone with an education could fill the roles. Many of the leaders had no vision and made no difference, and some of the progress that may have come from the organizations would have despite who was there, yet no one screamed against those leaders.

There are a few positions where merit is make or break, but these positions are a small percentage across industries. Most roles require basic competence, which is enough to do the job, regardless of whom. It is also generally difficult to stake too much merit, because distributions of star talents are often uneven, due to several reasons.

There is no position, in any expert field, in the world, where African Americans would not excel. But now, if hired, an outcry of diversity, equity and inclusion would grow.

It will be important for some African Americans to take on and stay in key positions, but there must be horizons for major things that must begin and grow by African Americans.

In the last few decades with the success of global tech, many of the founders were not as qualified, as would be required in some jobs. Some also had some scandals while on the job, but they kept their jobs because the thing was theirs and it was not from anywhere else. They were able to retain some support.

African Americans must pursue their things. Yes, support will still be necessary, but success must not depend on it. The kind of hate, vitriol, threats, accusations, and disdain that Dr. Gay was subject to by crusaders should tell African Americans to be careful with what these people think belongs to them.

There are areas where African Americans can lead, in some of the paths for progress for the community and the globe.

[Proverbs 5:15, Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.]

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