The paper On the Brilliance of Black Children: A Response to a Clarion Call encourages us to ask ourselves:
What do I really believe about Black children and their abilities? How does my work reflect those beliefs?
Danny Martin suggests that is a socially constructed racial hierarchy of mathematics ability in the US. In his paper Researching race in mathematics education, he argues that:
Just as race is a sociopolitical construction, so are standards for who is judged to be mathematically literate. As part of this social construction process, existing mathematics education research and policies have facilitated the social devaluation of African American, Latino, and Native American students with respect to mathematics literacy while affording social appreciation to many White and Asian American students. This has legitimized the racial hierarchy of mathematics ability... It is important, however, to situate the racial hierarchy of mathematical ability in its larger sociopolitical and sociohistorical contexts to better understand how it has emerged and how socially constructed racial groups have been positioned in society relative to one another.
Is there a racial hierarchy of mathematics ability here in the UK? How is this narrative re-inforced and re-produced?
In The Mathematical Lives of Black Children: A Sociocultural-historical Rendering of Black Brilliance, Maisie Gholson describes the role of families and schools in the socialisation of Black (US) children, and explains how achievement gap rhetoric shapes this socialisation.
How can we change the educational narrative for Black children? In Proofs and Refutations: The Truth about Black Children and Mathematics, Danny Martin suggests that we need a ubiquity of brilliance, which involves seeing brilliance in the ordinary, everyday lives of Black children and not seeing brilliance as the exception or counterexample.
He suggests the following ways forward:
- We must accept, and insist on, the brilliance of Black children as axiomatic.
- We must avoid the trap of having to prove that Black children are brilliant.
- We must avoid generating arguments, logic models, and counter-narratives requiring proof that Black children are not brilliant.
Are we in education prepared to make these changes? Are we even aware that changes need to be made? In her article Thinking about erasure, equity and math education, Erika Bullock asks:
I wonder if the mathematics education community writ large is willing to interrogate its positions as Dr. Martin suggested and consider how, in spite of all of this talk about equity, those positions are still perpetuating violence on Black and Brown children in mathematics. Is it possible to take a step away from business-as-usual to look in the mirror and interrogate ourselves? How are we complicit? What are we willing to do not to make ourselves look or feel better, but to make it right?
Are we ready to interrogate our positions? Let us ask ourselves:
- What are our beliefs about the black and ethnic minority children we teach?
- Are we complicit in re-producing a racial hierarchy of mathematical ability?
- Can we move towards a ubiquity of brilliance for our black and minority ethnic children?