by Robert Schmad
Two librarians at the University of Minnesota recently published a research guide claiming, among other things, that statistics and search algorithms like Google’s are racist.
The guide “was developed in response to librarians fielding multiple requests from UMN researchers looking to incorporate anti-racism into their research practices,” according to the university website.
The digital resource also mentions Critical Race Theory, which it characterizes as a positive force.
The guide, “Conducting research through an anti-racism lens,” is formatted to provide readers with purportedly racist research practices with tips on how to mitigate the harm caused by said practices. Accordingly, the first section concerns how researchers can “decenter whiteness in primary research.”
The authors advise researchers to acknowledge that “medical racism” and bias among researchers cause “BIPOC” to “distrust science and refuse participation in studies.” To rectify this, the guide recommends researchers directly recruit “BIPOC.”
It also cautions academics against making comparisons to “white outcomes” and encourages them to use their research as a vehicle for advocacy.
The next section, which discusses decentering Whiteness in secondary research, advises scholars to specifically seek out and engage with sources authored by Black women.
Specifically, it instructs readers to “read Black women’s work,” “integrate Black women into the CORE of your syllabus (in life & in the classroom),” “acknowledge Black women’s intellectual production,” “make space for Black women to speak” and to “give Black women the space and time to breathe.”
Additionally, the guide tells researchers to take into account the race of an author when they decide whether to cite their work to ensure enough “BIPOC” scholars are included in their work.
The next section, dubbed “Acknowledge that data is not objective”, criticizes modern statistics for being racist.
The guide supports this assertion by claiming that formative figures in the discipline held racist views. To address this, authors recommend that researchers read a number of books touching on racism in methodology, including one titled “Can you really measure that? Combining critical race theory and quantitative methods.”
Following this point, the guide claims that the process of peer review is racist, or when the work of one academic is examined anonymously by other scholars to ensure that it meets the standards of a given scholarly journal.
According to the guide, since the majority of those involved in peer review are White, the process itself is racist.
To correct this situation, the authors suggest that scholars consult non-peer reviewed sources when conducting their research. Among the sources they recommend is a seemingly defunct website called The Somali American.
The guide also claims that search algorithms, specifically those belong to Google, are sometimes structured in racist ways.
Similarly, the Dewey Decimal system is deemed “racist” because it was “designed in a racist and white-centered system.” According to the guide, the Library of Congress is likewise “a reflection of the white male dominance of American culture and publishing since its founding.”
Campus Reform reached out to the authors of the guide and the University of Minnesota for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
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Robert Schmad is a Senior Georgia Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. He is a junior at Emory University studying political science and statistics.