During the process of mapping, we must figure out how to categorize our data. Shall we look at it chronologically? Shall we see how many times a song was performed, and where a song was performed? Given the nature of my research on Lomax and Scarborough’s music collecting, I thought it would be interesting to see how many songs came from black performers or originators. I also have found many songs sung by Creole and Latinx people, and so I hope to be able to how many songs were by these performers (a vast majority), and when and where they were performed.
However, the data proves difficult to analyze in this way for multiple reasons. Sometimes, if Lomax doesn’t specify if a performer is Latinx, but the other performers that went before them are, and their name is Spanish, should I infer that they are Latinx? You could argue both ways. When the collectors do not specify anything about the identity of the performer, it creates sticky situations. Additionally, we should not just blindly trust the collectors to be accurate or appropriate in their categorizations. Both collectors refer to African American and black performers as “negro,” a term I do not feel comfortable using in my data columns. So, it is up to me to find some kind of categorization that is appropriate but accurately descriptive.
This raises the question, “what is appropriate?” Latinx is currently a non-gendered term used in social science scholarship, so it seems that it would be appropriate to use. Black is a term that does not differentiate between those born in the Americas and those born overseas, but should I differentiate? What term do I use if Lomax indicates that someone moved to the US from overseas, but does not indicate from where they came?
These gray areas and problematic labels make it difficult to map things in a digital system in which we need to definitively label items in order that they show up when filtered correctly. In this situation, the qualitative research needs to be pared down to quantitative data, but this does not always bode well in situations like this.
Finally, it also is important to note that both Lomax and Scarborough had views about non-white persons that were typical for the time in their problematic nature. Scarborough calls black people “darkies,” and addresses that in her experience, black people are more sentimental and are more inclined to be dramatic, often at times to their own detriment. These racist views are not perpetuated in my work, and are openly discussed in order to be transparent with map users that I am in no way hiding or condoning these views.
Overall, the addressing of race in this research should not be avoided, yet the best way to go about addressing it is unclear. At the moment, the best way forward is to address what can be addressed, point out discrepancies and injustices when possible, and acknowledge that no research is perfect. On the whole, we must avoid being reductive to the point of erasing or irresponsibly labeling racial ties to this music.