Some Statistics to Keep in Mind
The very same blacks who presumably take white jobs are two to three times more likely to be unemployed, even when their credentials are equal to their white counterparts.
Whites are more likely than members of any other racial group to get into their first-choice college, while blacks are the least likely to do so.
Even when black students show potential that is equal to or above that of whites, they are 40 percent less likely to be placed in advanced or accelerated classes, according to the head of the College Board. Despite evidence of ability, blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be placed in remedial or low-track classes, where they will typically be taught by the least qualified teachers, be given less challenging material to learn, and receive on average nearly 40 hours less actual instruction annually.
So too is educational inequity fostered by unequal discipline, meted out in a racially disparate manner. Even though black and white rates of school rule infractions are roughly equal, black students are twice as likely as whites to be suspended or expelled. Blacks are half of all students suspended or expelled for weapons violations, even though self-report surveys indicate whites are just as likely to bring weapons to school, and white males are actually twice as likely as black males to do so. Since blacks are more likely to be suspected -- thanks to common stereotypes about violence and delinquency -- they are the ones who get searched and caught, but this hardly means they break the rules more often. [Bear in mind that friends of mine and myself have been pummeled and/or threatened by white crazy skinhead punks for founding an anarchist club. I have never heard of anything remotely as fascist in black communities.]
According to studies by the Applied Research Center, the disproportionate rate of black suspensions is the result of greater punishment given for subjective infractions like "defying authority," or "attitude problems," both of which are perceived as more threatening when coming from black students than whites.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there may be as many as 2 million instances of racial housing bias each year, and as many as half of all blacks may face discrimination when trying to rent an apartment or purchase a home.
According to the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, blacks are 56 percent more likely than whites to be rejected for a mortgage loan, even after controlling for 38 factors that could explain higher rejection rates for blacks -- including issues of credit history, collateral, and income. Nationwide, mortgage loan rejection rates for the highest income group of blacks is roughly the same as the rejection rates for the lowest income whites.
Students of color know of the negative stereotypes often held about their group by the general public, usually by the time they are eight or nine years of age.
Since drinking under 21 is illegal, and since one might consider law-breaking indicative of one's character, it is also instructive to examine the degree to which whites and blacks illegally consume alcohol. According to federal data, whites are 70 percent more likely than blacks to drink underage, more than twice as likely to binge drink underage, and four times as likely to binge drink regularly. In fact, while 23 percent of whites between the ages of 12-20 occasionally binge drink, only 19 percent of blacks that age ever consume alcohol, let alone five or more drinks at once. In other words, whites are more likely to binge drink underage than blacks are to drink underage at all. Whereas 1 in 12 whites between 12 and 20 years of age is a heavy drinker who consumes five or more drinks at a time at least five times per month, only one in 50 black youth fit this description. Among college students in 2001, whites were 2.3 times more likely than blacks to binge drink and as of 1999 they were four times more likely to do so regularly....A... study from Harvard found that schools with higher percentages of students of color tend to have less binge drinking, and those that are overwhelmingly white tend to have the most serious problems with alcohol abuse. Apparently, despite higher test scores and so-called “merit” whites on these campuses lack that self-discipline so central to the definition of character.
Black youths get “tagged” (68% of those who are considered in the “criminal justice system”), which means they are “arrested on suspicion”. They get fingerprinted and sent home because they were doing no crime, but now they are involved with the "criminal justice system".
Because schools are funded on property tax, there is a 1,000 to 5,000 dollar per pupil per year difference between black and white schools.*Data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act demonstrates that while blacks and whites with excellent credit appear to be treated roughly equally, there is a substantial gap between the way whites and blacks with bad credit or questionable credit are treated. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, nearly 70 percent of whites with poor credit are still able to receive a mortgage loan, compared to only 16 percent of blacks with equally poor credit.
Researchers estimate that if affordability and personal choice were the only factorsdetermining where people lived, there would be no all-white or all-black neighborhoods in any major city in the United States. Not one. But of course, there are several of each. While only 10 percent of blacks say they prefer to live in all or nearly-all black neighborhoods, roughly three-fourths of African Americans actually live in such places, not because of choice so much as unequal access to housing markets.According to several studies, blacks generally prefer well-mixed, integrated neighborhoods. It is whites, who by preferring no more than 10-15 percent people of color in their communities, effectively block such an arrangement from coming about. After all, if “too many” blacks or Latinos move in, whites begin to sell en masse, which means a net outflow of capital and thus falling property values, which results in more low-income persons gaining access to the area, and the eventual “tipping” of the neighborhood from mostly white to mostly of color, and poor. It is, in many ways, an ever-expanding, but nonetheless vicious circle of de facto race and class segregation.
Specifically, even after controlling for neighborhood demographics and actual crime rate differences, blacks and Latinos there are twice as likely to be stopped and searched by police as would be expected by random chance. And this profiling continues, despite the fact that those black and brown folks who get harassed are actually less likely to be found with drugs, guns, or other contraband than the whites who face such treatment far less often.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 6.4% of whites and 6.4% of blacks, age twelve and older, are current drug users; so, too, for 5.3% of Latinos that age. This translates into approximately 10.7 million whites, 1.9 million blacks, and 1.3 million Latinos who have used drugs in the past month. Whites are 76% of current users, while blacks are 13.5% and Latino/as are 9.2% of current drug users. Combined, these people of color comprise less than 23% of all drug users, but over the past several years, have come to represent 90% of all persons sent to jail or prison for a drug possession charge....In 2000, there were a little more than one million arrests for drugs in the United States. Most of these arrests resulted in state of [sic] local drug charges, although there were also about 33,000 federal drug arrests. While the federal arrests were almost all for distribution and manufacture, the state and local level cases were overwhelmingly for mere possession. Indeed, roughly 75% of all drug arrests annually are possession arrests. This means that in 2000, there were essentially 750,000 arrests for possession alone. Of the total, thirty-five percent of those arrested (roughly 350,000) were African American. If seventy-five percent of these were for possession, this means that approximately 263,000 blacks were arrested in 2000 for possession alone; this, despite being less than 14% of users (and thus, possessors of narcotics at any given moment). In that same year, data tells us that whites were a little over 64% of all persons arrested for drugs. But there's a problem: namely, those the government classifies as "Hispanic" are rolled in with the white folks. Furthermore, given what we know from federal drug arrest data (where Hispanics arrested are looked at separately), the percentage of Latinos arrested for drugs is well above their share of the racially-"white" population, and well above their share of actual drug offenders. Even if we assume that Latinos are only arrested for drugs at a rate that is double their share of the population (a conservative guess given federal data where they comprise nearly half of all arrests), this would mean that at roughly eleven percent of the 12-and-over "white" population, Latino "whites" would represent at least twenty-two percent of drug arrests: roughly 220,000. Of these, at least three-quarters (or 165,000) would be for possession alone.This would leave approximately 447,000 drug arrests of non-Hispanic whites, or 43% of the total arrests for drugs in 2000. Of these, 335,000 or so would be for possession alone. In other words, the group that comprises 76% of all drug users would represent well under half of all possession arrests.If we assume that the various law enforcement agencies have the resources to arrest 750,000 people each year for drug possession, calculating the privilege of being a white user isn't very difficult. If enforcement followed relative rates of violation, more than three-quarters of those busted would be white. That would mean 570,000 white folks arrested each year for drug possession, as opposed to the 335,000 currently arrested: a difference of 235,000 whites every year, not being arrested, not getting a record, not being prosecuted, and not facing jail time, irrespective of their actions. By the same token, there would be only a little more than 100,000 blacks busted for possession each year: a number that is less than four-tenths as large as the 263,000 African Americans actually getting popped for possession. For Latinos, enforcement based on rates of violation would bring less than 70,000 possession arrests annually, as opposed to the low-ball estimate of 165,000 for 2000.
Evidence suggests that blacks are only 16% of persons who sell drugs, while whites (including Hispanics) are 82%. Even if we make the absurdly high estimation that half of that white total is ethnically Hispanic, this would still mean that around four in ten dealers are Caucasian. Yet, at the federal level, where most of the distribution arrests are made, only one-fourth of those busted are white. Over the course of the last decade, that would mean that tens of thousands of whites who sold drugs escaped notice, arrest and long-term confinement.
[B]lack college graduation rates are identical to white rates once family economic status is controlled for. In other words, if blacks tend to graduate at a lower rate than their white counterparts, this has nothing to do with ability, as measured by test scores, but rather is a function of their family's economic ability to pay for college, among other non-merit factors. http://www.alternet.org/story/16252/
Blacks in the juvenile justice system are 48 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites even with the same priors.
According to the most conservative studies, only 5% of people believe blacks are biologically inferior, yet that is still inexcusable because it translates to 10+ million people. That group of racists is twice the number of illegal immigrants, three times the number of black moms with single children, five times the “hardcore” underclass, 40% more than the number of people who will commit a violent crime, and 1000 times more than those drunk drivers in a fatal crash.Yet cultural racism is now more common, with 30-70% believing that blacks are more lazy, aggressive, and less determined to succeed.
And white dependence on people of color continues to this day. Each year, African Americans spend over $500 billion with white-owned companies: money that goes mostly into the pockets of the white owners, white employees, white stockholders, and white communities in which they live. And yet we say black people need us? We think they are the dependent ones, relying as we assume they do on the paltry scraps of an eviscerated welfare state? Now let's just cut the crap. Who would be hurt more: black folks if all welfare programs were shut down tomorrow, or white folks, if blacks decided they were through transferring half-a-trillion dollars each year to white people and were going to keep their money in their own communities?
Or what about the ongoing dependence of white businesses on the exploitation of black labor? Each year, according to estimates from the Urban Institute, over $120 billion in wages are lost to African Americans thanks to discrimination in the labor market. That's money that doesn't end up in the hands of the folks who earned it, but rather remains in the bank accounts of owners. That my friends, is dependence.
In workshops I have asked white folks and people of color what they like about being black, white, or whatever they in fact may be. For African-Americans the answers always have to do with the pride they feel, coming from families who have struggled against the odds, fought injustice, persevered, and maintained dignity in the face of great obstacles. In other words, to be black has internal meaning, derived from the positive actions and experiences of black people themselves. Variations on the same theme tend to be expressed by Latinos, Asians and Indigenous peoples as well.But for whites, if they come up with anything at all, it is typically something about how nice it is not to have to worry about being racially profiled by police, or how nice it is not to be presumed less competent by employers, or discriminated against when applying for a loan, or looking for a home. In other words, for whites, our self-definition is wrapped up entirely in terms of what and who we aren't. What it means to be white is merely to not be "the other." And for that to have any meaning whatsoever there first must be an "other" against which to contrast oneself.And that is the most significant dependence of all.
Of course, I hardly expect the facts to matter much, as an awful lot of white folks seem impervious to them. When it comes to racial realities, the levels of ignorance are so ingrained as to be almost laughable. Perhaps that's why 12 percent of whites actually say blacks are a majority of the nation's population, and why most whites believe blacks are a third of the nation's population, instead of the thirteen percent they actually represent. We seem to see black people everywhere, and apparently we see them doing quite well.
[From Greg Palast] In the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that no one counted. "Spoiled votes" is the technical term. The pile of ballots left to rot has a distinctly dark hue: About 1 million of them -- half of the rejected ballots -- were cast by African Americans although black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate... And once again, the history of computer-voting glitches has a decidedly racial bias. Florida's Broward County grandly shifted to touch-screen voting in 2002. In white precincts, all seemed to go well. In black precincts, hundreds of African Americans showed up at polls with machines down and votes that simply disappeared. How can we fix it? First, let's shed the convenient excuses for vote spoilage, such as a lack of voter education. One television network stated as fact that Florida's black voters, newly registered and lacking education, had difficulty with their ballots. In other words, blacks are too dumb to vote. This convenient racist excuse is dead wrong. After that disaster in Gadsden, Fla., public outcry forced the government to change that black county's procedures to match that of white counties. The result: near zero spoilage in the 2002 election. Ballot design, machines and procedure, says statistician Klinkner, control spoilage. ... Going digital won't fix the problem. Canada and Sweden vote on paper ballots with little spoilage and without suspicious counts.
So too in Nashville, Tennessee -- my hometown, and the site of at least a half dozen scandals and questionable incidents involving police in recent years. First there were allegations that white officers physically assaulted Latinos: allegations still being investigated by the Justice Department. Then another officer was found to be moonlighting as owner of an adult club for swingers. This was followed by an officer who sexually assaulted a woman who had called him for help. Then there was the cop with a record of domestic violence. Then there were multiple shootings of blacks, including at least one in the back of the head. And to cap it all off: the decision by police not to shoot a white officer, even though that officer had shot at them, and held a neighborhood hostage as he tried to get to his ex-girlfriend.
The heart of the story -- that police are operating under threat of death -- seemed blatantly calculated to swing public support back towards the police, by typifying officers as brave warriors going to battle against a dark (pun intended) enemy force. The fact that less than 20 officers in the entire nation are killed by black people annually, (let alone black gang members), and that this is less than the combined total of cops who die from accidental falls, drowning and while directing traffic, hardly seems to matter.
Three of four persons killed by gang members are gang members themselves, and even these inter-gang killings are becoming increasingly rare. In fact, gang-related murder is down by over half since the early 1990's. Gang killings -- let alone the drive-by shootings that suburban whites often think are a daily occurrence in inner cities--represent about 4% of all homicides in the country, and come to just over 600 murders annually. This is 600 too many to be sure, but indicates that only a miniscule percentage of the 800,000 or so gang members in the nation will kill anyone this year.
Police are even famous for overestimating the involvement of people of color and underestimating the involvement of whites in gang activity, despite self-report surveys that show a much more balanced racial picture. Whereas police estimate gang membership at roughly half Hispanic and a third black, and only 13 percent white, studies that rely on what gang members actually say about their affiliations find that the white share of members is nearly 30 percent of the total -- very close to the black percentage. And note, that doesn't include whites who belong to racist organizations or skinhead groups, none of which are considered "gangs" for the purpose of these studies.
Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe the Nashville police do have evidence of an impending gang takeover of drugs in public housing, and the planned capping of officers. But I doubt it. This is the same police department, after all, that last January called a colleague of mine to inform him that according to their internal "intelligence," I had been "distributing Black Panther literature" around Vanderbilt University.Now while I relish the image of myself (all 5'9" of me) stylin' in a full-length black leather jacket and black beret handing out "Free Huey Newton" posters at the campus Starbucks, I have to disappoint and note that the boys in blue had it wrong. I had indeed been at Vanderbilt to give a talk about racism in the justice system. And in that speech I mentioned the historical use of police to disrupt black activist organizations, and the assassination of around 30 Panthers in the '60's and '70's by local law enforcement. How that got transmogrified into distributing copies of the Party's 10-Point Plan is beyond me. But then again, police intelligence is increasingly a contradiction in terms.
Last week, 13-year police veteran, Sgt. Mark Nelson, distraught over being dumped by the female officer he'd been dating, went to the apartment of her new boyfriend (also a cop), while both were inside. He attempted to gain entry, fired bullets randomly into the air, and when police arrived, proceeded to shoot at three officers and put bullet holes in their vehicles. He then threatened to shoot down a news helicopter, and held an entire neighborhood essentially hostage for four hours: all down the road from an elementary school that was letting out for the day.Now imagine that this overwrought, bullet-spraying individual had been a civilian -- especially a young black man. How long do you think it would have taken for police on the scene to drop him in a hail of bullets? In a nation where black men are shot dozens of times for brandishing wallets and cell phones, it doesn't take a genius to guess that the time needed to "resolve" the situation would have been well short of 240 minutes.But in Nelson's case, his fellow officers insisted that he posed "no real threat" to them or the general public. After calm and rational negotiation, he laid down his weapon and was taken into custody.Apparently, who constitutes a "real threat" is in the none-too-objective eye of the beholder. Unlike the black officer who was beaten senseless a few years ago by white Nashville cops who didn't recognize him as "one of their own," Nelson was immediately considered family. Never mind that he pointed and discharged his weapon at his brothers in blue -- Mark Nelson was a friend, a colleague, and white. So the danger that would likely have been assumed had he been dark and a civilian was dismissed. He was cut slack.
One [e-mail in response to an article] in particular stood out: an email from a member of the SWAT team at Columbine, who admitted that the reason they hadn't acted quicker was precisely because the commanding officers had no idea how to respond to a situation in a upscale white community. These were folks with nice cars, nice homes, money and white skin. The uncertainty in this case cost precious time and has been the source of much criticism from parents of Columbine students.The irony is that it is precisely the parents and their communities' sheltered, privileged existence that created the delay in the first place. If this had been an inner-city school in Denver, the SWAT team would have moved with a quickness. But to do so in Littleton, and risk a catastrophe that would then result in a lawsuit was unacceptable. In other words, racial and class privileges not only failed to protect the kids at Columbine -- in the end, they may have put them at greater risk.
Sometimes, folks don't even bother hiding their racism. Take Keith Fangman, President of the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). In the wake of this past week's uprising to protest the killing of Tim Thomas and 14 other black men by his colleagues since 1995, Fangman said:"If we give one inch to these terrorists in the form of negotiations, then we've got no one to blame but ourselves when we turn into another Detroit or Washington DC."Now, he could have said that negotiating with the "rioters" would turn Cincinnati into another Boulder, Colorado, or Carbondale, Illinois, or East Lansing, Michigan, or Eugene, Oregon, or State College, Pennsylvania, or Storrs, Connecticut, or Pullman, Washington or Tucson, Arizona -- all sites of major riots by drunken white college students in recent years. But he didn't. He picked Detroit and DC -- two places that haven't had any riots lately, but which both have a lot of black people. And that, after all, was his point.
And as for the "criminals" whose lives have been snuffed by the Cincinnati police, they include not only Tim Thomas -- whose rap sheet was filled with traffic offenses like not wearing a seatbelt (the savage!) -- but also Roger Owensby Jr, who had no criminal record, but whose "attitude" convinced police to arrest him for "disorderly conduct" and apply a deadly chokehold in the process. And then there was Lorenzo Collins, a mentally handicapped and emotionally disturbed young man whose shooting was explained as necessary since he was wielding a solitary brick and threatening to throw it at police -- 15 of them who surrounded him before dropping him in a hail of bullets. Sounds like a fair fight. Or Michael Carpenter, who was shot in the back of the head during a traffic stop. Or Courtney Mathis, a "menace to society" all of 12 years old, who borrowed a relative's car and who was shot to death for trying to flee after being pulled over.
"Notice that we whites don't go riot every time something bad happens to us," comes the mantra from still others, followed by the predictable, "and look at what animals those blacks are -- they burn down their own neighborhood!" True enough, whites don't riot over things like police brutality, mostly because we aren't often the victims of it; but also because we are too busy rioting over other things -- like the outcomes of sporting events or crackdowns on underage drinking. Yep, at over twenty college campuses since 1995, white students have taken to the streets in their own neighborhoods and gone absolutely ape-shit: burning furniture and cars in giant bonfires, hurling bottles and rocks at police, and smashing glass in business windows. Fifteen hundred people at Colorado University, 1500 at Penn State, 500 at the University of New Hampshire, 300 at the University of Oregon and over 10,000 at Michigan State in 1999.And yet, when whites riot (and don't even get me started on Woodstock '99 again), not only do we not call them "terrorists," cops rarely if ever shoot them with rubber bullets or spray them at point-blank range with mace. Although many arrests were made and harsh sentences handed out in the wake of the Michigan State riot two years ago, coverage was still largely sympathetic, with media asking "what made good kids do bad things?" and focusing on the otherwise "straight arrows" who got caught up in the moment. Hell, in that particular riot, white students were caught actually trying to pry a loaded shotgun from a police car (before trying to push the vehicle into the fire) -- an act that surely would result in death number sixteen were a black Cincinnatian to try it, but which, in East Lansing, only prompted a brief volley of tear gas, in order to disperse the crowd.
According to the recent Gallup Survey on "Black-White Relations," seven out of ten whites believe that blacks are treated equally in their communities: an optimism with which only 40 percent of blacks agree. Eight in ten whites say blacks receive equal educational opportunities, and 83 percent say blacks receive equal housing opportunities in their communities. Only a third of whites believe blacks face racial bias from police in their areas.Despite the fact that half of all blacks say they have experienced discrimination in the past 30 days, whites persist in believing that we know their realities better than they do, and that black complaints of racism are the rantings of oversensitive racial hypochondriacs. Blacks, we seem to believe, make mountains out of molehills, for Lord knows we would never make a molehill out of a mountain!Indeed, as far back as 1963, before there was a Civil Rights Act to outlaw even the most blatant racial discrimination, 60 percent of whites said that blacks were treated equally in their communities. In 1962, only 8 years after the Brown decision outlawed segregation in the nation's schools (but well before schools had actually moved to integrate their classrooms), a stunning 84 percent of whites were convinced that blacks had equal educational opportunity. In other words, white denial of the racism problem is nothing new: it was firmly entrenched even when this nation operated under a formal system of apartheid.
According to a recent study by the Russell Sage Foundation, even though blacks search for work longer and often more aggressively than whites, they are between 36-44 percent less likely to be hired for jobs in mostly white suburbs, even when their experience and qualifications are equal to their white counterparts. White males with a high school diploma are just as likely to have a job, and tend to earn just as much as black males with college degrees, and on average, even when age, experience, education and other relevant factors are considered, blacks average at least 10 percent less pay than similar whites.
Black families that apply for loans with $48,000 a year are equally likely to get a home/business loan as a $21,000 white family, not due to credit rating differentials, but because white families get away with loan excuses, not blacks.
Black people with a $48,000+ a year income are less likely to own their own home than whites making $13,000.
A few years ago, sociologist William Julius Wilson, who had long peddled the line that race and racism were of declining significance in the U.S., partially reversed course when he discovered that employers in and around Chicago were openly reluctant to hire people of color because of a collection of negative stereotypes about their work effort, home environment and character: the same kinds of stereotypes that form the backbone of GHETTOPOLY.
A full-time black male worker in 2003 makes less in real dollar terms than similar white men were earning in 1967. Such realities are not merely indicative of the disadvantages faced by blacks, but indeed are evidence of the preferences afforded whites -- a demarcation of privilege that is the necessary flipside of discrimination.
The black middle class, on average, has significantly less net worth, lower assets, lower home ownership rates, and tends to more closely mirror the working class. Oliver and Shapiro's book Black Wealth/White Wealth makes this more than clear.
As for inner city poverty, this is then influenced by housing availability which will not change just because someone finished high school or got married. Intact twoparent black families under the age of 25 still saw their incomes decline from theearly 90's until 1996, and so long as we have a monetary policy that REQUIRES unemployment of around 4% (officially), which really means 8-10% in actual terms when discouraged workers, and temps who want full time work are included (and this number exists: it is called the U7 rate), this means that about 12 million people will be out of work having nothing to do with their work ethic, but rather, because our monetary policy demands it to keep wages down and prevent inflation (a dubious theory but that's a different issue)...since many of these structurally unemployed folks will have dependents, this means that probably double this number are affected directly by the existence of such a monetary policy. This means that a good 20-25 million poor folks are likely poor based mostly on the need to maintain a certain slack in labor markets.
Within each income strata, this wealth gap persists; so among the poorest fifth of income earners, white households have, on average, 421 times the wealth of the poorest black households, because even the poorest 20% of whites have median wealth of roughly $24,000 (mostly home equity), while the poorest blacks have virtually no wealth to speak of at all — about $57 on average. In upper-income brackets, the white-over-black wealth gap is more than 3-to-1. Even whites below the poverty line are more likely to own their own home than blacks with three times more income, thanks to assets passed down from previously preferenced white parents.In the absence of past and present discrimination in housing markets alone, black families would have, on average, about $50,000 more in housing equity than is currently the case, and over the years, the black community as a whole would have received roughly half-a-trillion dollars more in housing assets than it actually has accumulated. Despite all the blustery claims about progress, the fact remains that, in 1865, blacks owned 0.5% of all the wealth in the United States, and, by 1990, still owned only 1% of it.
And I also know that many of the folks who readily hire those undocumenteds are unwilling to hire blacks for the same jobs, and they ADMIT it, as the Sage study, among others has indicated. Even when the blacks have greater experience, qualifications, obviously speak the language better etc...employers who hire undocumented workers do so because they can exploit them more than a domestic "minority" thanks to the fact that the latter knows the law, knows there is a minimum wage, and can't be threatened with deportation.
In... The Source of the River, social scientists Douglas Massey, Camille Charles, Garvey Lundy and Mary Fischer examine longitudinal data for students of different races who were enrolled in selective colleges and universities. Among the issues they explore is the degree to which differential performance among black and white students in college, in terms of grades, could be attributed to blacks or their families placing less value on academic performance than their white and Asian counterparts. After all, this claim has been made by some like McWhorter, Steele and a plethora of white reactionaries who seek to explain the persistent GPA gaps between blacks, in particular, and others in college....[T]he authors of this study found that black students' peers in high school are more likely than white peers to think studying hard and getting good grades are important, and indeed white peers are the least likely to endorse these notions.
In fact, the mere knowledge that negative views about one’s group are prevalent has been shown to adversely impact the academic performance of blacks, by creating the added stress of trying not to confirm the stereotype when one takes a standardized test, for example. The added burden of having to disprove a negative stereotype is enough in many cases to fully explain the scoring gaps between blacks and whites on tests like the SAT, according to groundbreaking research by Claude Steele, chair of the Psychology Department at Stanford who has studied the phenomenon of “stereotype threat” for years and whose research remains unrefuted.
As anyone who has taken the SAT or a similar test remembers, there is an experimental section on the exam -- either an extra verbal or extra math section -- which contains questions that are not counted toward a student’s score. The section exists so as to "pre-test" questions for use on future versions of the test.But as ETS concedes, questions chosen for future use must produce (in the pre-test phase) similar gaps between test-takers as existed in the overall test taken at that time. In other words, questions are rarely if ever selected for future use if students who received lower scores overall answer that particular question correctly as often or more often than those who scored higher overall.The racial implications of such a policy should be clear. Because blacks, Latinos and American Indian students tend to score lower on these exams than whites and Asians, any question in the pre-test phase that these students answer correctly as often as (or more often than) whites and Asians would be virtually guaranteed never to appear on an actual standardized exam!In practice, questions answered correctly by blacks more than whites have been routinely excluded from future use on the SAT. Although questions that whites answer correctly 30 percent more often than blacks are allowed to remain on the test, questions answered correctly even 7 percent more often by blacks than whites have been thrown out.Although the rationale for this practice is not overtly racist -- the testing company, for example, does not intentionally seek to maintain lower scores for blacks -- the thinking has a racist impact.Essentially, the company’s position is that for any question to have "predictive validity" it should be answered correctly or incorrectly in rough proportion to the overall number of correct or incorrect answers given by test-takers. But since the general scores have tended to exhibit a racial gap, such logic results in the virtual guarantee of maintaining that gap, as a function of test development itself.If test questions were made less culturally biased, so that the racial gap shrank or disappeared in the pre-test phase, those questions would likely be thrown out, simply because, being less culturally biased, they failed to replicate the racial gaps produced by the rest of the exam.Interestingly, as testing expert Jay Rosner has demonstrated, the makers of the SAT could reduce the racial gap between whites and blacks while still maintaining the same level of overall test difficulty by choosing questions that, although equally tough, produce less differentiation between white and black test-takers. That instead they maximize these differences by way of the questions they choose, and that reforms of this nature are not being offered by ETS, indicates how unconcerned they truly are about test fairness.