Shaking Up Logic and Methods

Before reading the content of White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology, edited by Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2008), I was perplexed by the boldness of the title. I initially thought the book was going to go one of two ways, the first being focused on the harm white researchers have played throughout history (specifically in eugenics) or, second, the history of how white men looking at race have perpetuated racial methodologies about looking at race. I was soon to discover that it was much more complicated. To be honest, I had to read several sections of this book over again because the way race was presented by Zuberi (2008) was so different than typical research articles on the subject.

Most of the articles and books that I have read prior single out race as a major indicator or causality in their findings. Most of the previous research looks at the “effects of race” within their specific research field. However, Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva (2008) “suggest that when we discuss the ‘effect of race,’ we are less mindful of the larger social world in which the path to success or failure is influenced” (p.6), pointing out that “If we begin with a racially biased view of the world, then we will end with a racially biased view of what the data has to say” (p.8, 2008). Essentially, what I took from this is that one simply cannot look at the effects of race without understanding what the original influence is on the given situation (external factors). By just looking at the effects of race, one continues to perpetuate the biased view of the world just as Francis Galton did with his eugenics experiment to suggest racial hierarchy (Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva, 2008).  When Galton set out to find empirical data that showed racial hierarchy, he was already determined to show that there was a cause and effect relationship between genetics and race, hence, Galton was able to find data that suggested racial genetic differences to support his theory through molding the empirical data. Zuberi and Bonilla (2008) elegantly describe this situation, “empirical results may be a way to understand what is happening; however, these same data tell us very little about why it is happening.” (p.9).

I would have to agree with Zuberi and Bonilla (2008) in this instance. As researchers, we often get so caught up in getting specific results or seeing correlations that we often forget about the many factors and determinants that play into the empirical data we gain. At the beginning of this summer semester, I was taking another class that observed the effects of race in the K-12 system. Several assignments in the course asked us to reflect on given racial high school data and determine different ways to fix problems with the achievement gap in education between white and colored students based off of testing standards, grades, and dropout rates. So I would do as assigned, prescribing a remedy for the factors presented.

Looking back, it would have been beneficial to look at the resources that were provided to the students, the type of atmosphere, the learning practices and the effectiveness of the administrators in the high school rather than simply looking at diverse student’s success rates and test scores. Maybe looking at the bigger picture would have helped to develop a more accurate and effective answer than just looking at how to improve the grades and test scores of students of color.

Zuberi, T. (2008). White logic, white methods: racism and methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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