After reading part 1, I am sure that many of you remain unconvinced. Historians are part of the general public as well, and are just as deeply affected by socialized racism, sexism, and other forms of learned bigotry as everyone else. But here is the thing: history programs and the people who develop them are well aware of this. That is why all entering graduate students in all History graduate programs are forced to take a class with a name like “History and Contemporary Theory,” or something similar.
In this class students have to read the works of the major philosophers of the last 200 or so years, and the work of influential theorists from the last 60 or so years. This class is designed to force students—through exposing them to complex and contradictory ideas—to think critically. It’s basically Critical Thinking 101.
You honestly don’t get very far as a graduate student if you don’t have the ability to think about why you think the things that you think. You may get as far as writing the first draft of your thesis, but then your adviser will hand it back to you and say something like “You need to familiarize yourself with the works of Butler and Said because this draft is contains unacceptable levels of Orientalism for the work of a graduate student.”
In short, you’re pretty much not allowed to not think critically about the things which will end up in your published work. There is a system of checks and balances embedded within the academic system—stemming from your adviser to your reviewers—to ensure that no social biases may be found in your work of history.
And that segues rather nicely into the next post: the discussion of the biases which do exist in the historical discipline.