Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The bell curve and talking about race effectively

Henry Giroux and Susan Searls argue in their essay, “Race Talk and The Bell Curve Debate: The Crisis of Democratic Vision,” that the analysis of race in “The Bell Curve” by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray was inaccurate, racist, socially unjust and was a major contributor to the rise of racism after the study was published in 1994. Giroux and Searls state that the popularity of the study increased the justification of racism in the minds of privileged White America and added to the misconception that people of color were the lesser breed of humans due to genetics and natural law.

Giroux and Seals make the argument that The Bell Curve is completely detrimental to the progression of democracy and the formation of a socially just society. In regards to the extent that The Bell Curve had on educational policy and practices, Giroux and Seals said: “In the name of excellence [administrators and politicians] argue that public schools simply waste their resources on those subordinate groups, especially blacks, who are too dumb to be educated (p. 19-20).” This way of thinking is unforgivable, but yet not unbelievable.

I have heard people tell me that they think that African Americans and Black Americans obviously have some kind of genetic inferiority because the majority of “them” are not succeeding on standardized tests, not getting in or going to college and working blue collar jobs…and there is a scientific study to back them up! The revelations of this so-called “scientific study” really makes me remember to question science always and not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that science was also used as a justification of slavery.

I agree with Giroux and Seals that The Bell Curve is not the problem, but it is rather “symptomatic of a larger and more dangerous crisis of democracy in the United States (p. 24).” I actually think that the privileged, White America is a big part of the problem in regards to racism and social injustice.

I find it to be problematic that now that the American people (read: White people) are more comfortable about talking about race, it’s still under very strict and unprogressive terms. “Race Talk,” as defined by Toni Morrison, has now come into the public sphere as an important topic, but it’s still presented under the premise that race is an explosive dichotomy which is unpleasant and uncomfortable. If we cannot talk about race correctly and effectively, we are doing the same amount of damage of not talking about it at all.

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