Prohibition of Performance Gap Discussions

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


By Matthew Yglesias:

"According to Kendi, any racial gap simply is racist by definition; any policy that maintains such a gap is a racist policy; and — most debatably — any intellectual explanation of its existence (sociological, cultural, and so on) is also racist. He has famously argued that anything that is not anti-racist is perforce racist.

This reaches its most radical form in Kendi’s conflation of measurements of problems with the problems themselves. In his book — ubiquitous in educational circles — he denounces not the existence of a large Black-White gap in school performance but any discussion of such a gap. Kendi writes that “we degrade Black minds every time we speak of an ‘academic-achievement gap’ ” based on standardized test scores and grades. Instead, he asks: “What if the intellect of a low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different from — and not inferior to — the intellect of a high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if we measured intelligence by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environments?”

We certainly could do that. But the fact remains that if African American children continue to be less likely to learn to read and write and do math than White children, and less likely to graduate from high school, then this will contribute to other unequal outcomes down the road. Education is not a cure-all for labor market discrimination, and educational disparities don’t fully account for the Black-White earnings gap. But they partially account for that gap while also leaving people less able to organize politically, protect themselves from financial scams and otherwise navigate the modern world. Stigmatizing the use of test scores and grades to measure learning undermines policymakers’ ability to make the case for reforms to promote equity — from providing air conditioning in schools to combating racially biased low expectations among teachers.

More broadly, identifying a racial gap and declaring it to be racist is often insufficient. Such an approach impedes actually thinking about problems — particularly in media, academic and nonprofit circles, where the accusation of racism can carry severe consequences. And so to avoid controversy, people avoid important debates rather than risking offense.

For example, maps of various American cities now sail across social media depicting higher vaccination rates in White neighborhoods than in Black ones. A Kendi-type analysis would conclude that gap is racist, full stop. And certainly it is often framed that way, as if city officials were making vaccinations available on a discriminatory basis.

Perhaps that is true, in some cases. But surveys also show that Black Americans are considerably less eager than White Americans to get vaccinated. That’s a serious problem on its own terms. But it’s not a problem of overt discrimination (although the distrust gap may stem from past medical discrimination). Insisting that all gaps reveal racism elides the critical question of what’s actually happening and how to fix it." (