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Joe R. Feagin - Award Statement

W.E.B. Du Bois is is one of Joe Feagin’s sociological heroes. Feagin’s sociological research is focused on what Du Bois himself regarded as the preeminent problem of the 20th century: “the problem of the color line”.  Feagin’s continuing research shows that due to systemic racism, that problem has not been solved in the 21st century.  Like Du Bois, he is committed to dissecting the sociological dynamics of white racism with an emphasis on the institutional and social structural context in which racism emerges.  Joe was the 1999-2000 president of the American Sociological Association.

He has made significant contributions to the fields of racial-ethnic relations, the new urban sociology,   sex and gender inequality, race, gender and class analysis, and sociology of education. His concepts of systemic racism and systemic sexism influence the work of social scientists world-wide.  Most of his extensive scholarship uses a lens of race, class or gender.   While he stresses social structure, he also addresses the social psychological dynamics that allows whites/men to deny racism and sexism while actively reinforcing both forms of oppression.  While he analyzes structures of oppression, he also points to the amazing resistance and achievements of oppressed groups that have positively impacted social, educational and political structures.  He often looks carefully at the myths used to exclude racial groups, such as the white accounts of slavery and]] Reconstruction in the South, and he finds the personal and organizational resistance to racism of those oppressed often brings increased liberty and justice for all in the United States.

As former SSSP president Claire Renzetti  notes,  “in all his work, Joe, like Du Bois, shows s himself to be a risk taker; he unapologetically, though uncondescendingly, challenges everyone to examine their taken-for-granted assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors around race…. Joe has brought to light the ‘backstage’ racism of many who loudly proclaim that they are not racist.”  His research continues to demonstrate the significance of race in our supposedly “post-racial” society.  He continues to engage other scholars and students through his sociological publications, and the concerned public through the social science blog he initiated with former Ph.D. student, Jessie Daniels, www.racismreview.org.  

Joe was a scholar in residence at the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1974-75.  This experience working with leading Black, Latino, and white feminist scholars and activists educated him on the importance of civil rights laws and of protest strategies.  It informed and  renewed his commitment to the study of racism and sexism as fundamental social forces in the United States.  He has continued to work with a variety of governments, universities, and community organizations addressing issues of discrimination and antiracism in their jurisdictions.

Currently the Ella C. McFadden Professor in Sociology at Texas A&M University,  Joe loves teaching and mentoring students. He stated firmly that “Teaching is so much fun!”  Student engagement and mentoring are an integral part of his scholarship, including working with graduate and undergraduate students as co-authors.  His many publications over nearly five decades demonstrate the diversity of his collaborations and collaborators, from colleagues to undergraduates.  He is the founding editor of two book series that provide an additional publication avenue for scholars concerned about race, class, gender and social justice.

Renzetti wrote, “In the tradition of W.E.B. Du Bois, he has rejected the ‘sterility of a cloistered research approach” in favor of “an interventionist social science” dedicated to fostering social justice”.  Hernan Vera puts it well.  Joe “seeks to define an identity for the discipline of sociology.”  His research and lecturing  einforce sociologists’ professional commitment to the values of social justice, egalitarianism, and human freedom.  

Elijah Anderson gives a clear rationale for this award for Joe Feagin. “Professor Feagin is quite simply a giant among scholars of his generation, a major figure in our field who has added mightily to this discipline, but particularly to the critical area of race relations…He has pressed up all to stand a little higher, and to be a bit bolder and braver in our work.”
Professor Feagin is extremely prolific, because he has important theories and findings to share will colleagues, students and activists.  He has completed 60 books, with four in progress. Among these are Systemic Racism (Routledge 2006); Racist America (2nd ed., Routledge 2010); and White Party, White Government (Routledge 2012).    One new book in preparation is How Blacks Saved America: Making Liberty, Justice, and Democracy Real, where he demonstrates the important positive contributions of Black Americans to the educational, cultural, scientific, political and social patterns and institutions of the United States.  He has 203 research  articles and book chapters, many in collaboration with colleagues and students who share his concern for contributing to a better society.  His impact on the field of sociology is enormous, not because of the quantity of his work, but because of its intellectual and socio-political importance.