Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Smart and Influential Black Women? Not According to the Daily Beast

November 30th, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


The Daily Beast has published a list of its 25 Smartest People of the Decade. According to the editors at The Daily Beast, a website founded by former New Yorker Editor Tina Brown, intelligence isn’t limited to any single field, occupation, or political perspective. The list includes internet entrepreneurs, politicians, religious leaders, scientists, and writers. To be recognized as one The Daily Beast’s 25 Smartest People, you could be a man or a woman, you could hail from the Eastern hemisphere or the West, from a wealthy nation or a developing nation, young or old, widely recognized or largely unknown. To be included on this list you could be almost anything…but you couldn’t be a Black woman.

Not Condi.

Not Oprah.

Not Annette Gordon-Reed.

Not Valerie Jarrett.

Not even Wangari Maatthai.

It is difficult to fathom how the editor’s of The Daily Beast could have overlooked all of these women. No one can deny that these women are all very smart, nor could anyone argue that these women and their achievements over the last 10 years have been insignificant. Several of these figures are internationally known, and many participate in decisions that impact people all over the world. This, then, raises the question of why none of these women — arguably the smartest and most influential Black women in the world — made the 25 Smartest list. How is it that a woman like Wangari Maathai could possibly be upstaged by the creator of The Sims computer game?

Also missing from the list: African men and women, African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Asian and/or Asian American women.

I do not believe that The Daily Beast 25 Smartest People list should have been created by quota. When it comes to finding brilliant contributors of different ethnicities, quotas are not necessary. There a billions of people of color on the planet and one would need only to review the academic journals, public radio transcripts, book reviews, and national and international headlines of the last 10 years to find countless examples of the kind of intellectual prowess that the Beast claims to value. To completely overlook the extraordinary intellects that have emerged out of the global Black, Latino/a and Asian communities (including Asian men and women) is to wholly misrepresent the richness and variety of intellectually-based accomplishments that have shaped the first ten years of the 21st century.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, race

One Response

  1. dot leach

    I found this fasinating and very troubling at the same time. I would also add Ruth Simmons and Susan Rice to your list.
    I am a 50-plus female Caucasian. However, the plight and discrimination of Black, Latina and Asian women has always dismayed me. Can’t explain it, just feel very strongly about it! Am interested in doing more research about this. If you would not mind sharing your thoughts with me at times, I would greatly appreciate it. I am a film documentarian and you caught my attention with this blog, as I tried in vein to find some relevant information for a documentary I hope to produce in the coming months.
    Thank you!

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