Is Mathematics Racist?

by | Oct 24, 2019 |

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Mathematics has become a target of Social Justice Warriors. Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee has connected math to racial oppression. They suggest that math is racist and subjective. In their draft of notes for Math Ethnic Studies, they also ponder “who is to say if an answer is right” and “how is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression?” Further, they state that Western Mathematics (are there different mathematics around the globe?) is used to disenfranchise people of color. Math is racist.
The solution would be to “construct and decode mathematical knowledge, truth and beauty.” What? They will teach that math oppresses and marginalizes people of color. 

At University of Illinois Professor Rochelle Gutierrez says that math perpetuates white privilege and tests in math discriminate against minority students. She believes that people who are good at math benefit from have an “unearned privilege,” and most of those people are white.

I can’t say enough about the profound stupidity of these thoughts and positions. What is being forwarded by these uninformed “educators” is racist on its face. They are saying that children and people of color cannot do math, and because in their opinion whites do better at math, math is racist. I can’t play basketball very well, but know a lot of black people who are great at it. Is basketball racist? A lot of white people can’t run track as well as people of color, so we should not have track and field because it is racist. Get real here.  
A person’s ability to do math is not affected by their race. Our brain does not recognize that our skin color should dictate how we process information. Everyone has strong and weak areas in their ability and how they process information. It is built into their DNA. Some people have to work harder to learn math or languages or sciences and some people breeze through. Culture and upbringing play a big role in how we learn and what importance we give to learning different skills and subjects. Some people simply don’t want to make the effort to learn and depending on family dynamics and priorities, many children are not pushed to learn and excel in school.
Professors and educators who determine what our children see in text books and learn in school and define which of our children can and cannot learn, destroys their opportunity to learn. I would suggest that parents pay a lot of attention to the way they are minimizing our children’s ability to be their best and to succeed at wherever their passions lie. Instead, how about teaching our children how to explore all of their educational opportunities instead of being put in a racist box that because of a certain skin color? 
Just what does Professor Rochelle Gutierrez mean when she says that white people who are able to understand math benefit from an “unearned privilege?” That is simply senseless and racist rhetoric. First, understanding any subject is neither a privilege, nor unearned. If you apply yourself and study sufficiently to grasp the concepts of math, you have earned that success. It’s like saying that black people excel at basketball and track and field because they have longer muscles in their legs? Remember that one? Now that was a racist remark. So how is Professor Gutierrez’s remark less racist? Think about it.
Why does the Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee insist on forwarding a racist and completely false narrative that people of color can’t process math? Why should they be allowed a platform to forward the equally false narrative that because math is “oppressive and racist” it should not be offered to children of color. Indeed, as I’ve already outlined, that is a very slippery slope that will eventually lead to school denying a variety of educational, cultural, social and athletic opportunities to students of color, race and gender.
The purpose of education is to open every window and door of learning to everyone. Those that are good at subjects like art or math or technology or medicine or music or languages or trades and so on, will gravitate to those things they are good at. It is not the job of educators to tell students that subjects are racist and they are unable to learn them. That is the definition of racism!

We should be enlightened enough in life by now to understand that skin color does not dictate brain power. Educators do harm to children when they coddle them and dumb down their studies and opportunities to learn by saying they cannot hack it.

Think of the areas in which we use mathematics every single day.  These educators would steal from our children their ability to balance their household money, to know when they are being cheated or to handle financial transactions. Math is used in every engineering job, accounting job, banking job. Math builds homes and buildings and roads and bridges and cars and airplanes. It is involved in the production of most all products, astronomy, biology, medicine. The better question may be, where is math not important? To say math is racist denies people of color so many life and employment opportunities, and the attempt to stigmatize people in the way Seattle and this Illinois professor have done is despicable.
I would remind them of these African Americans who excelled in mathematics and who have had a profound influence on all of us.
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), self-educated in math and astrology who developed America’s first clock. He predicted a solar eclipse in 1789. He fought to convince people in 1791 that blacks were intellectually equal to whites. And by the way Seattle and Professor Gutierrez, they still are.
Fern Hunt (1948-present) is known for her work in applied mathematics and mathematical biology. She spends her life encouraging women and minorities to study and pursue degrees in Math and STEM studies. She is a proponent of student choice, following one’s passion and having a strong support system.
Mark Dean (1957-present) is a famous computer scientist and engineer and helped develop breakthrough computer technologies for IBM.
Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969) was not only the first black man to earn a PHD in Mathematics in the U.S., but in the entire world. He went on to be a professor of Mathematics at Howard University.
Katherine Johnson (1918-present). Her contributions in orbital mathematics helped put John Glenn into orbit in 1962. At NASA, she was a master of complex calculation and helped pioneer computer programming for complex calculations.
Valerie Thomas (1943-present) invented the Illusion Transmitter in 1980. Today it is the basis for 3D-imagery, 3D-television, video games and movies. She went on to develop real-time computer data systems for NASA that allow real- time images from space.
Lonnie Johnson (1949-present) A famous inventor and engineer who holds over 120 patents. Worked on the stealth bomber and for NASA’s jet propulsion program.
John Urschel (1991-present) Football player at Penn State and for the Ravens in the NFL. Also earned a Masters in Mathematics and is working toward his PHD. Interests are graph theory, numerical linear algebra and machine learning.
Annie Easley (1933-2011) Famous computer and rocket scientist. She was a leading member of the team that built Centaur rocket which preceded many of NASA’s most important missions. She was known as a “human computer”.
Mae Caro Jemison (1956-present) Mathematician, engineer, physician and astronaut. First African American woman is space on Endeavour Space Shuttle. Served on the council for “Science Matters” which encourages young people to understand and pursue careers in STEM.
I could go on and on, there are too many to mention. As a society and as parents, we cannot let these pompous so-called educators limit our children’s futures by their fake social justice. They are putting children in a box by calling mathematics racist and white privileged, and telling them that because of their skin color they cannot do math. This is true racism at its ugliest, its naivest, its most demeaning and most spirit and opportunity-crushing.
If I were a parent is Seattle, I’d make my voice heard now, then I’d get these people fired and find educators that educate and inspire our children. The final draft for curriculum is Sept 1, 2020. Speak now or your children will have diminished opportunity because some misguided social warriors believe a person’s ability to learn is connected to the pigment of their skin.

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Linda Martinelli is the owner and President of Proforma Graphic Printsource, Inc, Co-Owner and CFO of ETCforensic LLC, CFO of Martinelli & Associates. She is a weekly columnist at America Out Loud and is co-host of Talking While Married.

Linda is the first sole female franchise owner in Proforma to qualify for the Million Dollar Club and reach Multi-Million Dollar Club status. She was also Proforma’s first female development coach and, in 2005, was the first female elected by her business peers to the elite Owners Advisory Council. In 2011, Linda was named one of ASI’s Top 10 Women to Watch and earned Proforma’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Award in 2012.

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