Where Are the Black Think Tankers? Commentary and Questions for Further Research


First and foremost, who the hell am I to conduct a study like this?  I’m a young professional in DC with a curious mind (read more About Me).  I also have some street smarts, and I’m well traveled and relatively cultured.  This doesn’t mean that I know it all.  It means that I know enough to be comfortable making gut-calls about a person’s ethnicity based on a picture on their employer’s website.  I’m also comfortable taking the humble approach and saying that I don’t know.  You can trust that I grouped individuals into the “Not Sure” category quite liberally; after all, I’m of mixed heritage (Indian and American-Jewish).  I’ve been mistaken for Hispanic, Persian, Greek, Italian, and Arabic.  I understand well what ethnic ambiguity looks like.  I also know that “Singh” is a last name from the subcontinent and that “Rivera” is probably of Hispanic origin.  So with a combination of culture, intelligence, experience, and instinct, I proceeded with this study.

Questions for Further Research

  1. Where are the female think tankers?
  2. Of the black think tankers counted in this study, where are they working within their respective organizations?  I have a hunch that blacks are overwhelmingly invested in “Africa Studies” — more so even than can be said for other minority groups and their region of origin.
  3. Are blacks represented in similar numbers at other institutions within the Research Industry?  Across Lobbies?  Advocacy Firms?
  4. Assuming that there’s no active racism going on here (a safe assumption, I think), then a potential conclusion is that blacks don’t want to work in some of these think tanks.  If so, why?  Is research in the humanities a “privilege” in the sense that its profitability is typically less than research in the hard sciences like medicine?