2+2=4? New York professor says purity of math reeks of 'White supremacist patriarchy’ and Internet loses it

2+2=4? New York professor says purity of math reeks of 'White supremacist patriarchy’ and Internet loses it
Laurie Rebel (Brooklyn College)

A Brooklyn College professor has said that the idea that math is objective or neutral is a myth. The math educator Laurie Rubel also tweeted that the mathematical equation 2+2=4 “reeks of White supremacist patriarchy”. She has also received support from several academics at universities and colleges across the country who retweeted and promoted her claims. The tweets from Rubel are part of a trend on social media where a number of math professors and academics from top universities have debated the 'Eurocentric' roots of American mathematics.

“The idea that math (or data) is culturally neutral or in any way objective is a MYTH. I’m ready to move on with that understanding. Who’s coming with me?” Rubel said in a tweet. While in another post, she added: “Along with the ‘of course math is neutral because 2+2=4’ trope and the related (and creepy) ‘math is pure’ and ‘protect math.’ Reeks of White supremacist patriarchy. I’d rather think on nurturing people & protecting the planet (with math in service of their goals).” She also recommended people to read about “mathwashing” by posting a link as well as writing, “or read Cathy O'Neill's work @mathbabedotorg on "Weapons of Math Destruction" or any or all of Rochelle Gutierrez' scholarship.”





Harvard PhD candidate Kareem Carr supported Rubel and tweeted: “People say it’s subjectivism to ask if math is Western. I don’t get that. It’s an objective fact that some groups were more involved in the creation of modern math than others. They may have been *trying* to make it objective but it’s not stupid to ask if they actually succeeded!” Rochelle Gutierrez, Maths Ed Professor, community activist, frequent user of Creative Insubordination, said: “YES! This attends to the Cultures/Histories dimension of RM (addressing Western/Eurocentric maths). And, we also want to attend to the Living Practice dimension (which is more about imagining a version that builds upon ancestral knowings, but does not yet exist).”


However, there were many people on Twitter who do not seem to be convinced as one wrote, “You’re confusing math with data science. Mathwashing is about flawed algorithms and how they are created (by flawed humans). Ewing posits that it is harmful to blindly trust an argument which has a veil of math, since math can be the authority in an appeal to authority fallacy.” Another one said: “I refuse to engage with an obviously insane person.” “‘Teacher’ How about this, i will start a gofundme and you an deposit $100 a day until you figure out math,” added third.




More people joined to slam Rubel as a user said, “She is not a mathematician:  she has a degree in math education.  Big difference.  She probably could have gotten an MA but clearly didn’t have the chops for the PhD in math.” Supporting them, another one questioned her: “If math is not real then how does your computer work? Seriously, how does it fill buffers and draw on your screen if 1+1=(anything) or 2+2=5?” “You are a professor and you don't know the difference between mathematics and computer algorithms? I assume you didn't get a STEM degree?” added user who goes by the name Anarchy Softworks.




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