Math is Racist? Math is Too Objective? An Explanation
For people not familiar with Marxist Social Justice initiatives all across Western civilization, the idea that math is racist or too objective sounds incomprehensible. They may be tempted to dismiss it as some sort of joke gone wrong, or the musings of a lunatic that no one really listens to. Think again. The attack on math is real and growing. It is part of a larger phenomena taking place that is coming to a school district near you. Or, perhaps, it is already there and you just don’t know it.
The attack on math is one consequence of the application of Critical Race Theory. If this is a new term or idea to you, take a few minutes and read my analysis of it here. But without going over everything again, the fundamental premise of Critical Race Theory is that racism is the default position of society and can only be removed through active anti-racist efforts. It is important to know that racism, from a CRT perspective, is “systemic”. This means it is not primarily about an individual being racist, but rather the systems and structures of a society perpetuating racist ideals. One might think that systemic racism has been more-or-less dismantled when things like slavery, voting restrictions, segregation, and redlining were formally made illegal practices. This is a mistaken assumption. CRT advocates do not believe that system racism died when racist policies were undone; rather, they believe that systemic racism changed shape and continues on in more covert ways through our societal norms and values. A few quotes to illustrate:
“Racism, like other forms of oppression, is not only a personal ideology based on racial prejudice, but a system involving cultural messages and institutional policies and practices as well as the beliefs and actions of individuals” – Beverly Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids…, (p. 7)
“One of the key contributions of critical theorists concerns the production of knowledge…. These scholars argue that a key element of social injustice involves the claim that particular knowledge is objective, neutral, and universal. An approach based on critical theory calls into question the idea that objectivity is desirable or even possible. The term used to describe this way of thinking about knowledge is that knowledge is socially constructed. When we refer to knowledge as socially constructed we mean that knowledge is reflective of the values and interests of those who produce it.” – Is Everyone Really Equal? (p. 29)
“The acceptance of an academic-achievement gap is just the latest method of reinforcing the oldest racist idea: Black intellectual inferiority. The idea of an achievement gap means there is a disparity in academic performance between groups of students; implicit in this idea is that academic achievement as measured by statistical instruments like test scores and dropout rates is the only form of academic ‘achievement’… Remember, to believe in a racial hierarchy is to believe in a racist idea. The idea of an achievement gap between the races – with Whites and Asians at the top and Blacks and Latinx at the bottom- creates a racial hierarchy, with its implication that the racial gap in test scores means something is wrong with the Black and Latinx test takers and not the tests. From the beginning, the tests not the people, have always been the racial problem.” How to Be An Anti-Racist (p. 101-102)
Here we see some of the root ideas of race and subjectivity in math coming to fruition. The logical flow might look something like this:
- The West has racist (ie. White Supremacist) values woven into every corner of society
- These values include high regard for objectivity, right/wrong solutions, and rigid academic scoring
- Math highly values these elements
- Therefore, math has systemic racism embedded into it
Another line of logic would include:
- Western Society values high marks, rewarding them with good scholarships and high-paying jobs
- White and Asian students, on average, score highest in mathematics
- As a result, black and other minority students miss out on these opportunity paths to success
- Therefore, the valuing of math/high marks as a society is racist
Again, lest you think that this is some fringe idea that is not taken seriously, consider that there are whole organizations dedicated to restructuring math to be less objective and more inclusive of other cultural norms. It was recently reported that the Bill Gates Foundation donated $1 million to support this cause.
Another illustration of how these ideas are gaining traction is an article written by Kareem Carr, a biostatistics Ph.D. student at Harvard University, which was published on the website Popular Mechanics, defending the premise that 2 + 2 can equal 5. I don’t want to get too far into the holes in his theory (most of which are simply category conflations), but the point is that these ideas are more mainstream than you think.
I would conclude that the issue here actually has nothing to do with math. The focus on math as racist or objective is a diversion from the real issue. The real issue is Critical Race Theory, which posits that every corner of society has racism embedded within it, and it is our job to dig deep enough to uncover it for all to see. The problem here is the flaw of CRT’s fundamental starting point. Simply put, not everything contains racism. That is a faulty premise and one that, if accepted, turns people into those on a witch hunt for hidden racism in every aspect of culture. Sometimes, to look for something is to see things that aren’t there. No one denies that racism is still an issue in our world. But to assume that is pervades society from top to bottom is an unprovable assumption that is flawed at best and damaging at worst.
I will go one step further. Critical Race Theory, because it does not deal with demonstrable acts of racism, can promote actual racism. Inherent in CRT is a set of assumptions about entire people groups that are tantamount to discrimination. Consider the amount of effort gone to defining aspects of white culture that are then applied wholesale to white people. Or conversely, not applied to people of colour.
Are we thus saying that people of colour don’t value being self-reliant? Polite? Rational? Hard workers? Planners for the future? Hey, you said it, not me! It is these kinds of overly-simplistic, broad-brushed, negative stereotypes that Critical Race Theory actually accepts, endorses, and promotes that make it an unworthy system of thought.
Math is objective. It is in the very nature of mathematics. And the next time you drive over a bridge or fly in an airplane, I’m willing to bet you’ll be hoping the engineer who designed it believed in objective math, whether they were black or white or anything in between.