White Logic, White Methods; Racism and Methodology
Tukufu Zuberi and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
Theme: Leadership and Innovation within Action Research
In the introduction, the authors state that this article is “an attack on White supremacy in contemporary research”. That statement was certainly an attention getter, as I knew right from the onset that this was going to be a very critical report. However, I have been suspicious of claims of racial inaccuracies in data for some time now. So my interests were piqued when the article claimed that sociological research is full of inaccuracies. The authors provide an interesting analysis on data by explaining that researchers reach beyond the data when they “interpret” their statistical results (p.7). Zuberi explains that “data does not tell a story”. That comment challenges what I have learned about data thus far. I have always thought data to be concrete and irrefutable. The author goes on to state that we use data to craft a story that comports with our understanding of the world. My question is how does our biased view of the world influence the data? The answer to my question may be held within the concept that “statistics is a system of estimation based on uncertainty”.
As Zuberi referenced and defended his book Thicker than Blood; How Racial Statistics Lie (2001), he made several claims about the misuse of statistics. Citing that “the silence about the misuse of racial statistics as a cover for wronghead ideas about race across academic disciplines that remains at the heart of the problem. I recognized similarities between their studies and the Stephen Gould article, The Mismeasure of Man (Gould, 1981). Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva initiate a full scale attack on faulty research calling it “White logic and White Methods”. The authors explain the problems White logic and White methods cause sociology and its practitioners. Much of the Gould article focused on the roots of racial biased inaccuracies in research and data reporting. The idea of biological inferiority was widely accepted by society, and was substantiated by science, research, and inquiry. Zuberi exposes those inaccuracies in this compelling work by referencing the history of social statistics. Zuberi explains that inaccuracies in social statistics originated when mathematical statistics and evolutionary theory met (p.5). And just as the Gould article demonstrated a racial hierarchy in social status, the Zuberi article discussed Francis Galton’s philosophy on racial hierarchy in social status. Galton’s ethnological inquiry (1892), was an investigation into the subject of hereditary genius which lends to Zuberi’s argument that statistical analysis was developed alongside a logic of racial reasoning. Furthermore, the article goes on to claim that the founder of statistical analysis developed the theory of White supremacy and racial inferiority of colonial and second class citizens. This same line of reasoning can be seen the Levins-Morales book Medicine Stories (Levins–Morales, 1998). In the book the author talks about the justification of slavery, and hierarchical methodologies. The author states that slavers that kidnapped millions of West African people found endless ways to justify their behavior, even to the extent of claiming that slavery was a civilizing influence on the lives of the enslaved. It was this faulty logic that fueled racial inequalities and racial data inaccuracies for centuries.
In conclusion, as we seek a better understanding of society, it is important that we base our reasoning and logic on sound principles and historically correct ethnographical data. The overall resounding message of White Logic, White Methods; Racism and Methodology is; faulty logic leads to a faulty understanding of the meaning of race, which leads to a faulty use of statistical methodology. The author explains that racial identity is about shared social status. However, the article felt hostile at times and left me wondering would it be offensive to White sociological researchers that are currently working, researching, to right the wrongs of their predecessors. This was ever so evident when Eduardo Bonilla-Silva reported in his vignette, that when discussing the genealogy of the racially inaccurate data with colleagues, he was accused of “fanning racial flames” and insinuating they were racists. Those claims ultimately led to his dismissal from the institution. The Zuberi article leads me to believe that in order to establish Leadership and Innovation within Action Research, there needs to be more dialog on the history of exclusion of people of color in sociology.
Galton, F., (1892). Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its laws and Consequences. Macmillan & Co. New York, NY.
Gould, S., (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
Levins-Morales, A. (1998). Medicine Stories: History, Culture and the Politics of Identity. Cambridge: South End Press.
Zuberi. T., (2001). Thicker than Blood; How Racial Statistics Lie. University of Minnesota Press.