Scholars claim that statistics 'serve white racial interests'
Three British professors recently claimed that statistical analyses have been weaponized to “serve white racial interests” within academia and beyond.
Led by David Gillborn, a professor at the University of Birmingham, the professors argue that math serves white interests because it can “frequently encode racist perspectives beneath the facade of supposed quantitative objectivity.”
“Contrary to popular belief, and the assertions of many quantitative researchers, numbers are neither objective nor color-blind,” Gillborn and his team assert in their article for the journal Race, Ethnicity, and Education.
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To address the racism numbers reinforce, the professors advocate for the adoption of “QuantCrit”—a portmanteau for “quantitative analysis” and “critical race theory.” Quantcrit, they say, has five key tenets, including that “numbers are not neutral.”
Numbers are not neutral because “quantitative data is often gathered and analyzed in ways that reflect the interests, assumptions, and perceptions of White elites,” they contend, adding that even so-called objective analysis fails to take the pervasiveness of racism into account.
Other key tenets of QuantCrit theory include realizing that math tends to legitimate existing racial inequalities, acknowledging that numerical analyses disadvantage minorities, and understanding how numbers play to the benefit of white interests.
The “QuantCrit” approach isn’t new; an increasing number of academics in both the United Kingdom and the United States deployed it in recent research, including Alejandro Covarribus of California State University, Los Angeles, and University of New Mexico professors Nancy Lopez and Christopher Erwin.
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In the postmodern tradition, Gillborn and his team also argue that racism can be reinforced through numbers because they are social constructs.
“Numbers are social constructs and likely to embody the dominant (racist) assumptions that shape contemporary society,” they write. As a consequence, they assert that “in many cases, numbers speak for White racial interests.”
The professors also acknowledge the tension between social justice and quantitative analysis, saying that while statistics can be used to point out the failures of social justice programming, “data is often used to shut down, silence, and belittle equity work.”
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Despite the purported danger of statistics being used to reinforce white privilege, they predict that if used properly, statistics can “expose and delegitimize the racist (and sexist, classist, hetero-normative, and ableist) assumptions, policies, and practices that are currently supported by the uncritical use of quantitative data.”
The article was co-authored by Paul Warmington, who teaches at the University of Warwick, and Sean Demack, a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. The article was published in the latest issue of Race, Ethnicity, and Education, which Gillborn edits.
As Campus Reform has reported, Gillborn is also the managing editor for the journal Whiteness in Education, which has been embroiled in speculation over whether or not it actually employes a proper peer-review.
Campus Reform reached out to Warmington, Demack, and Gillborn for comment, but none responded in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen