Is it Racist to Talk About the Achievement Gap?

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Today at my school "The Lance", a school newspaper, came out with a controversial front page story. The story presented statistics regarding the black achievement gap and made suggestions on how to help minorities academically.

Around the school I have begun to hear comments about how "racist" the story was. This brought me to a central question which I analyzed during my classes today: Is it racist to talk about the black achievement gap and highlight the shortfalls of certain demographics? I came to the conclusion that it is not racist, and actually helps prevent racism to highlight the gap.

First of all, we must realize that the achievement gap does not point any inferiority in the first place. The achievement gap does not point out an inequality of the cognitive potential of blacks and minorities; it only points out the historical differences that these groups have experienced.

Minorities have historically been discriminated against and oppressed throughout the world. Blacks have especially been oppressed in the United States. The achievement gap does not point any cognitive shortfall of minorities; it only shows that they have been oppressed in the past and need help catching up.

This concept is very similar to the purpose of affirmative action. If highlighting the achievement gap were racist, then affirmative action would be racist towards the minorities as well. However, when America implemented affirmative action, they understood that historical disadvantages needed to be made up for; they did not see the need for an affirmation action as manifestation of the lack of intellect inherent to that demographic. 

Second of all, if we set the prevention of racism as our main goal, I feel that highlighting the achievement gap actually helps achieve this goal, while ignoring the gap perpetuates it. We must first realize that these statistics are true; they don't lie. Blacks do fall behind academically, on average, whether it's politically correct to state this or not. So keeping this in mind, examining these statistics can help us solve this issue.

Awareness is the first step towards solving a problem, so we need to make people aware that blacks do fall behind. Once this is done, we can actually begin to address this issue and more effectively combat it. To combat it and mitigate the gap is to prevent racism. This is because the more academically proficient minorities become, the less stigma they will face from peers and society. On the other hand, if we ignore the achievement gap, and continue a societal oblivion regarding this issue, the achievement gap will be perpetuated and racial stigma will continue.

So is highlighting the achievement gap racist? When examined from the right perspective, it is clear that it is something that needs to be done to combat racism and bring equality to our society.