American students vary in educational achievement, but white students in general typically have better test scores and grades than black students. Why is this the case, and what can school leaders do about it? In The Color of Mind, Derrick Darby and John L. Rury answer these pressing questions and show that we cannot make further progress in closing the achievement gap until we understand its racist origins.
Telling the story of what they call the Color of Mind—the idea that there are racial differences in intelligence, character, and behavior—they show how philosophers, such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant, and American statesman Thomas Jefferson, contributed to the construction of this pernicious idea, how it influenced the nature of schooling and student achievement, and how voices of dissent such as Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and W. E. B. Du Bois debunked the Color of Mind and worked to undo its adverse impacts.
Rejecting the view that racial differences in educational achievement are a product of innate or cultural differences, Darby and Rury uncover the historical interplay between ideas about race and American schooling, to show clearly that the racial achievement gap has been socially and institutionally constructed. School leaders striving to bring justice and dignity to American schools today must work to root out the systemic manifestations of these ideas within schools, while still doing what they can to mitigate the negative effects of poverty, segregation, inequality, and other external factors that adversely affect student achievement. While we cannot expect schools alone to solve these vexing social problems, we must demand that they address the dignitary injustices associated with how we track, discipline, and deal with special education that reinforce long-standing racist ideas. That is the only way to expel the Color of Mind from schools, close the racial achievement gap, and afford all children the dignity they deserve.