Math is racist, and you know it

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

When racism was a real thing – that is to say, an institutional (and legal) thing – the idea was to keep black people from learning to read and write, so as to “keep them in their place.”

Now the idea is to keep them from being able to add and subtract – which serves the same ugly purpose. The only difference is that now it’s “racist” to want black people to be able to add and subtract.

Imagine that.

If it’s hard to imagine, you probably were not in attendance at the recent seminar hosted by Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. One of the two featured speakers was Hannah Ghaderi, who identifies as Co-Director of Research and Education for the Simon Fraser University Public Interest Group, which has some interesting ideas about “How Math Can Be Racist,” the title given to this kibbutz of racial patronization.

The other speaker was Chantelle Spicer. She – we assume – identifies as Director of Engagement.

The two presented their thesis that 2+2=Racism by “unpacking oppressive structures” in mathematics. What could these “oppressive structures” be? Apparently, the incorrect answers. As on a test. It being “oppressive” to receive an F, for instance.

Which it is, in a sense. If one considers not being rewarded for getting it wrong to be “oppressive.”

The flip side of that is something more sinister than funny.

It is that certain people cannot be expected to get it right. Which is just outrageous on so many levels.

That is what is meant by the racists who led this hateful session.

Black people aren’t smart enough or hard-working enough to learn how to get it right. Instead, they are to be treated with implicit contempt as unteachable – and praised for sinking to the low expectations put forth by people such as Ghaderi and Spicer.

Math can, of course, be hard. But if that’s “racist” then so is successfully meeting the challenge of anything that isn’t easy.

The beauty of math is that it is not merely colorblind; it is that it must be for it to be useful. If 2+2= whatever, then why bother?

The other beautiful thing about math is that it’s not possible for a math teacher to fail a student who gets it right because he is the wrong color. Because right – in the context of math – either is or is not.

The color of one’s opinions do not enter into it.

2+2=4. Period. Regardless of who’s doing the addition. Irrespective of who’s checking the rightness or wrongness of the addition.

Skin color does not – cannot – change the sum of anything.

It is at least plausible for someone who wrote an essay for English class who received a C rather than A to claim that the teacher just didn’t like them – rather than their work – because the evaluation criteria in the soft arts are inherently subjective. Whether one likes the flow of a narrative is to a great extent a matter of personal opinion. Believe me, I was an English Lit major and the teachers didn’t like me. Nor, I them.

And opinions can be influenced by  . . . opinions.

But that is not the opinion of Ghaderi and Spicer. Nor of the state of Oregon, which formally declared in 2021 that expecting black schoolkids to get the right answer – and that there is only one right answer, when it comes to addition, subtraction, division and Algebra (the use of variables invented by Arabs) is “racist.”

“The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false,” reads the Equitable Math Toolkit. It goes on to state that “upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate (sic) objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” The latter a reference, apparently, to a teacher pointing out that 2+2 does not= 5.

Insisting on teaching that it does is how “white supremacy culture infiltrates math classrooms.”

In fact, it is how innumerates – kids who cannot add and subtract – leave the classroom.

When they venture into the world, they discover that not being able to add and subtract is as helpful as not being able to read and write.

Instead of expecting kids of all colors to get the right answers and respecting that they have the capability to learn how to arrive at the right answers, the Oregon Department of Education suggests the equivalent of Ebonics for numbers.

Keeping black kids – and it’s specifically black kids – illiterate and innumerate seems to be the goal here as white (and Asian) kids are still expected to get the right answer and are accorded the dignity of being treated as capable of figuring it out, if they’ll put their minds to it. Just the same as they are expected to use proper grammar and correct spelling when they write and speak.

It appears Ghaderi and Spicer might have benefitted from some remedial education as regards the latter. The blurb for their recent seminar explained that “Hannah and Chantelle from SFPIRG will introduce key terms in identifying, unpacking and addressing racism in maths and sciences.”

The “maths”? Like the humanities? No thank you.

Apparently, 2+2 also = plural. And why not, after all? If one’s sex is fungible – if one can be two (as in they and them) then why not “maths” rather than just math?

There is a phrase in Latin that applies here: Res ipsa loquitur. But then, you’d have to learn what those Latin words mean in English.

And that could be seen as “oppressive.”

A.J. Rice, is President & CEO of Publius PR, Editor-in-Chief of The Publius National Post, and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, The Woking Dead: How Society’s Vogue Virus Destroys Our Culture.


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A.J. Rice
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