Standardized Tests Really are Racist Against Black People
In the 1970s there was a very big todo about standardized tests being racist against Black people. When I heard about the debate, when I was old enough to even take a standardized test and made aware of the debate, I didn’t see how the test could be racist, because there was nothing on the test, in my view, that even hinted at racism. However, I am now about to take the CFA, chartered financial analyst, exam. While this exam is not racist, I just had an epiphany.
Reading an Alien Language
What I couldn’t comprehend before, I now comprehend. There was an episode of “Good Times” that I saw on rerun, of course. In the episode, the youngest son of the family, who was always portrayed as a Black militant, all 4 feet ant 10 yrs old of him, had a monologue about how standardized tests were racist. The mother, playing the straight man to his schtick was the devil’s advocate and asked him to explain how the tests were racist. He said, “for instance: the quests asks ‘if jane and george go to the diner for lunch, and jane won’t sit next to suzy and suzy won’t sit next to harold and harold will only sit next to jane, who is sitting next to whom'”. Now the mother asks, what’s wrong with that question. So he answers, “Black people don’t even go to diners so they don’t know what a diner is, and these names are white and Black people have never heard of them, and Black people don’t go out for lunch. It’s racist.” Of course they play the laugh track to laugh at the monologue.
But, they were trying to hint at a very real problem.
Where do I come in? So I am taking the CFA exam. There is nothing wrong with the exam, nor the study guides the institute actually sends you. The problem is that nearly all study groups online are with people from India. On its face, that’s mostly not a problem, since they do speak English. The problem comes when they reference me to use their study material. you see, the CFA is a very big deal in India. So they have many professors that have study material of their own.
Here is where the problem comes in. While trying to listen to the Indian study material, it struck me like a ton of bricks. I don’t understand 50% of what the guy is even saying. The units and names and references are to things I cannot even imagine what they mean. This is where the epiphany about the standardized tests came in. I suddenly realized what “Good Times” was trying to say.
It’s not that the test was racist, it is that in the hands of a Black person, the test is literally like trying to read an alien language, with no point of reference of how to even begin. In the debate, they rewrote entire standardized tests in pure Black colloquial terms, and with references that Black people would understand and every Black person that took those exam scored much higher.
To give you an example of how reading or listening to my indian study guides, the professor will say something like this: “the conditional probability of when India ****, ** *****, ***** at 36% and **, ****, **** at 50%, give us the probability of **** *** and **** ***.
I literally cannot tell what he is saying. And, as the lecture goes on, he gets more and more obscure with his references.
Here’s another example that may show you what I mean. “When in Accra I had the best fufu. The best fufu is only found in the bush. When in the bush you sit and watch the fufu being made. The Tri make the best fufu.” Now, unless you’ve been to Africa, that probably should make no sense to you. So here are the definitions of the words I just used.
- fufu = a pounded root that is pounded into a plastic like dough that you eat raw
- Accra = a city in Ghana Africa
- bush = the interior of a country away from the coast, which has nothing to do with bushes. It just simply means you are really far in the countryside.
- Tri = a major tribe in West Africa
Even if you are fairly intelligent, without these references and definitions that sentence should have been terribly hard for you to understand. This is how I feel while studying Indian study guides and this is probably how inner city Black kids felt when taking the standardized tests. They were literally reading what would be alien language to them.
It is ironic that the Mexican immigrants come here and everyone bends over backwards to get over the language barrier for them. However, for Blacks there was never such effort. Don’t get me wrong, ebonics is not Black language, seeing as the very word and concept wasn’t even invented by Blacks. I am referring to a social and cultural barrier that is hard to understand unless you are Black yourself.
When I went down south to attend college, it took me a month to understand everyone. Mind you, I was at college, so we are not talking about unintelligent people. They literally spoke a foreign language, from my perspective. After about a week of asking people to repeat themselves, I gave up. Slowly but surely, after a month had passed, I began to understand everyone. I would literally walk around and if someone spoke to me I would apologize and tell them I could not understand them. As hard as I found it to understand them speaking, I cannot imagine the difficulty they had when they had to take national tests.
And, if you think I am exaggerating because it was just one college campus, it is not the case. When I went to visit family around the country, they were all struck by how differently I spoke. One of my uncle’s was certain that I would change after staying him for a few months. He was quite surprised that I did not, which he mentioned as I was leaving. He was sure I was faking, and that I would come around and let the joke end.