Black + Math = Revolution
|October 15, 2011||Posted by brucepoinsette under Musings|
I like to think I started putting limitations on my dreams when I quit playing basketball before my senior year of high school. Truth be told, I built a ceiling for myself months earlier when I got Ds in both Physics and Pre-Calculus.
I wasn’t necessarily a superstar in math and science but I was a grade ahead in one and got mostly As in the other.
However, when junior year came around I faced an inspiration dilemma.
My Pre-Calculus teacher did everything he could to discourage me but that was no excuse to stop working hard. Likewise, my Physics teacher had a hard time keeping me engaged but that was no reason to think I was above putting effort into his class.
I coasted for the first part of the year and figured it would be a tough phase before I got back to my normal good grades.
After I got Ds, that all changed.
At the time I had no idea how many doors I was closing for myself.
Recently I talked with a professor from Portland Community College and I was surprised to find that specializing in math is one way to get on the fast track to becoming a dean and a six figure salary.
Compared to my prospects as a journalist (especially as one with a soul) that sounded very enticing.
Considering that test scores are going down across the board in the US, there are plenty of openings, especially for people of color who are underrepresented in these areas to begin with, in math and science related fields.
The term “revolution” often evokes thoughts of violence. However, what would be more revolutionary than blacks taking advantage of the gaping holes in math and science.
These fields power everything from health care to energy to war. Mastering them could yield both wealth and significant societal control.
For example, America’s infrastructure is in shambles. We need construction work but if you talk to people in the field, many young, aspiring construction workers aren’t qualified because they aren’t proficient enough in math.
My father always encouraged me to take an interest in construction but I figured my focus on writing was already way more than most expected of me as a black basketball player.
As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” If I had known back in high school what I know now, I would never have succumbed to the limitations I put on myself.
Instead of wallowing in what could’ve been, it’s important people like me ask ourselves what we can do to make sure we don’t lose the next generation as well.
My parents didn’t fail for lack of trying. I was just stubborn, like many young adults.
Part of the solution is connecting math and science to history and a sense of self. After all, this is what elevated my love of reading and writing.
The American education system does a poor job of teaching about the African kingdoms before slavery. This history holds the key to relating technical fields to the lives of our people.
Ancient Greeks used to go to Kemet (Africa) to study under men like the “Father of Medicine” Imhotep, a black man, to learn math and science.
These ancient kingdoms produced many new innovations like the step pyramid, which utilized the Pythagorean Theorem formula that Pythagoras would allegedly “discover” thousands of years later.
The knowledge of math and science gave these kingdoms control over civilization because other ancient kingdoms were dependent on their wisdom.
It is much easier to steer black children away from these subjects when they don’t know this history. However, they’re much more likely to take an interest if they can see the footsteps they’re following in.
Not to mention, having considerable influence and control over society is a much more enticing reason to take interest in a subject versus the prospect of simply getting a stable job.
When I was young I wanted to be an engineer. I never really knew why but the history of my people suggests it was something that was always in me.
We must take all measures to reawaken this spirit in our children as well as continue to encourage our aspiring black scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc. who don’t get nearly enough support from society.
As black people we can overcome all the odds as soon as we stop putting limitations on ourselves.