by Guest Contributor M. Dot, originally published at Model Minority
I was reluctant about today’s class going in.
We read Mary Waters’ Ethnic Options and her book Black Identity. I reviewed Black Identity which focuses on the process of West Indian Americans coming to identify or avoiding identifying as Black.
The book contained lots of qualitative interviews with West Indian folks talking about why they don’t like African Americans, why they are Black, but not like Black Americans, that Black Americans are lazy, expect handouts etc.
I had no idea how the class was going to react to this.
Fascinating stuff, though, right?
Especially when you look at the presence of African Americans vs. West Indian Americans on four year college campuses and in graduate, law and business school in the Northeast.
The book is awesome in how it gets at how first generation verses second generation West Indian immigrants deal with assimilation, with proving that they are not Black and also with identifying as Black. The most fascinating part for me was learning that women who worked as teachers and nurses in Jamaica, came to the Brooklyn, worked as teacher and nurses yet, class wise their lives were not the same. The material difference is the on their salary in Jamaica, they were middle class, so they could afford nannies and house keepers, and their housing was more spacious and safer. In the US, housing was more expensive, there was more opportunity for jobs and education for their children but the housing dollar didn’t go very far.
Which brings me to my classmate.
Jamaica’s system is based on the British system*, which means that children are tested and tracked at a very young age. They either go into vocational track or academic track.
Apparently Germany and much of Europe is the same way.
My Black classmate said, that he agrees with this.
I responded saying that standardized tests are measures of familial wealth, not student aptitude. And the aptitude of a four year old cannot be measured because they have only been on the earth 48 months. He responded saying that the British system is better because it separates the students early and that there are some who shouldn’t be in school and college.
I said that this was racist. We do not know what children are capable of at 4.
They responded saying that it wasn’t racist.
I said, it was both racist AND classist because of the disparate impact that the same policy has on Black boys in the US. Ann Fergusons’ Bad Boys talks about this at length, if you want to read more about it. It’s an awesome study on a public elementary school in Berkeley, and it hones in on the ways in which school policy and teacher subjectivity impact how Black boys are disproportionately disciplined and placed in special ed classes.
I asked him how he reconciled his approval of early testing and prediction with the fact that standardized tests measure familial wealth not student aptitude.
He responded saying “Yeah, tests are culturally biased but math isn’t.”
My eyes rolled. That did NOT refute nor address my argument. Continue reading