On the Mathematicians of the African Diaspora Page

That post and the page it refers to is quite interesting and has caused some interesting reactions.
One thing nice about that page is it should disabuse racists (Though it won’t) of this notion that all Blacks are stupid. It’s dumb, but racists actually believe this. Barack Obama is dumb. The guy was an Ivy League Law Professor, for Chrissake! But he’s dumb because he’s Black. Michelle Obama is an attorney! She graduated from Law School and passed the bar! How can could you be and still pass the bar?
These math programs, I assume, are rigorous, or at least they ought to be. Even at the BA level. In math, you can do the work or you can’t. You either solve the problems or you don’t. So grading should be quite simple. I assume any Black with even a BA in Math is intelligent. I know one very dark skinned Black woman with a BA in Math and she is quite smart. At the MA and of course at the PhD levels, you know these Black math brains are smart as all get out.
In a way it’s a bit sad that only 1% of mathematicians are Black, or that only 2% of MIT faculty are Black, but if that 1-2% are really super-qualified (And I know they are!) then in a way, that’s just fine. I’d rather have it like than to have those numbers upped to say 5-10% with a bunch of lower-quality Blacks who are not cutting it like the rest. Agree?
One excellent argument against Affirmative Action is that it allows lower-quality minorities into the workplace and schools where they rub shoulders with Whites and Asians who are superior students and workers. An AA POV to the African Mathematicians page above would be to strive to have 13% of all mathematicians in the US Blacks, and 13% of the faculty at MIT Blacks. But there is no way you could do that without hiring obviously inferior Black mathematicians and Black faculty at MIT.
The result might make Blacks feel better, but surely it would degrade the quality of MIT and our other institutions of higher learning. So, while those 1% and 2% figures are sad, I’m very happy when I think that those small numbers of Black scholars are super-duper ultra brains who deserve every centimeter of their status and every nickel of their income. They made it on their own, competed on a quality basis, and cut the mustard, even despite some racist bullshit they probably put up with.
I also enjoy the non-whining tone and quiet dignity of that site, written by Scott W. Williams PhD. Even when he writes about racism these folks faced, he doesn’t whine about it. The tone is one of, “Hey, we sucked it up and handled it, and we aren’t bitter. Yeah, we put up with a bunch of stupid racist crap, but we weathered on anyway, and look at what we accomplished despite all the speed bumps. And by the way, screw you racists. We’re better than you anyway, and we know it. And whatever obstacles you put in our way, we’re going to try to roll right over them.”
It’s an interesting tone, and I wish more Blacks would adopt it. This endless whining gets really tiresome. A lot of other mathematicians on there have a similar dispassionate (“We did it anyway, screw you racists.”) tone. I wonder what’s going on. Mathematicians are pretty logical and non-emotional folks, so they’re unlikely to do a Professor Gates Amos n Andy routine on their front doorsteps for applause and a new book contract.
What I get out of these mathematicians is a quiet sense of dignity, possibly derived from the extreme level of accomplishment they attained. Very high levels of accomplishment are good for humans, and few of us attain them. But at the end, they really should prove to us our worth, despite whatever anyone else is saying. A Black with a very high level of achievement and the stars and medals to prove it is possibly less likely to whine and bitch. “I did it on my own dammit. My achievements are beyond debate. And by the way, screw you racists. I’ll bulldoze right past you.”
I also like that that entire page is scrupulously edited, with excellent writing, perfect grammar, no misspellings, etc. So many Black geniuses are sloppy for some reason, but Williams is not. These is one of those things that separate Blacks and Whites. Even bright Blacks often have a “let’s wing it,” or “whatever works” mindset.
Bright Whites are often the “uptight” Black stereotype of the White person who dots every i and crosses every t and freaks out when you don’t. I’m not saying one mindset is better than the other, but as a neurotic, uptight White who’s compulsive about dotting i’s and crossing t’s, the Black mindset really irks me. I bet it bugs other Whites too.
This is a place where Liberal Race Realism could come in. If we realize that this “wing it”, “whatever works” mindset is part and parcel of an essential Black Intelligence or Black Outlook and maybe they can’t really help it, then maybe we Whites won’t get so mad at them. Maybe we can just accept that this is the way they are, and work around it somehow. Or better yet, use this “Black intelligence” to device teaching methods and workplace politics that play into Black strengths and de-emphasize Black weaknesses.
I’d love to be at a meeting full of those Black math geniuses. You see, there’s a part of me that’s racist. Deep down inside, I think Blacks are dumb. Even really smart Blacks, sometimes I wonder about them. I know I’m not supposed to feel that way, and I fight it, but I can’t help it, it’s still there anyway. Hanging out in a room full of folks that did dissertations on Multiple Integral Problems in Parametric Form in the Calculus of Variations and The Transfinite Cardinal Covering Dimension ought to disabuse me of that real quick.

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2 thoughts on “On the Mathematicians of the African Diaspora Page”

  1. Gracious. You wouldn’t need to be in a room full of Black math geniuses to know that not all Black people are dumb. My dear old dad would have shown you that.
    Speaking of math, I was one of those kids that hated it. And that’s probably because I didn’t have great math teachers. Some of those math classes were, to me, the equivalent of being waterboarded.
    In teaching it to children I learned, at least, to appreciate it.

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