The Amber Ruffin Show wrapped up its eventful and deceptively chipper first season on Friday. Or we should say, “eventful, deceptively chipper, and very successful first season,” as host Amber Ruffin and sidekick Tarik Davis led a show-opening audience singalong to celebrate the just-announced news that this Friday night Peacock entry into the late-night wars is coming back for a second full season, starting on October 8. Let’s all join in! “Amber Ruffin, say Amber Ruffin, Amber Ruffin...”
Well, now that Ruffin and we have gotten that out of our systems, Ruffin went on to one of her signature “How Did We Get Here?” segments. And, with all those school kids trading their Zoom screens for in-person learning once more across the country (except in states whose governors are clearly part of some COVID-worshipping, child sacrifice cult), Ruffin leapt ahead to the ever-looming specter of standardized testing, particularly the SATs. Or, rather, Ruffin zoomed ahead by looking back at how that bubble-coloring, one-standard-fits-all standardized test is super-racist, and has been, right from its inception.
How racist? Well, as Ruffin explained while tracing the gradual adoption of standardized testing in the 1920s, let’s look at SAT founder and spiritual father (seriously, Ruffin showed a picture and he looks like a particularly judgmental ghost), one Carl Brigham. The Princeton University professor came up with a supposed intelligence test under the self-professed dictum that the “Nordic race” will lose its innate (to him) superiority in the brain game since, well, we’ll just use Brigham’s entire quote. (“The decline of American intelligence will be more rapid than the decline of the intelligence of European national groups, owing to the presence here of the negro.”) Not much wiggle room there.
Yeah, that’s some bullshit. But, Ruffin asked, how could a test used a century removed from Brigham’s bigot ass still be biased toward whites and against literally everyone else? “When a bunch of white people design a test around the things they know, then they are, by definition, designing a test that white people will do better on.” You know, since, as Ruffin explained, white people—shockingly—seized upon the newly created “intelligence tests” to determine everything from which immigrants got to enter the United States (white ones), to reinforcing the need for segregated schools, to a whole bunch of other stuff that’s straight-up so Nazi-adjacent that she’d be accused (by white people) of making it up if she didn’t have the documentation.
Then there’s the adoption of the SATs to determine who got into college (Harvard being the first one in line), thus perpetuating the denial of generational wealth and higher education to exactly the sorts of people Carl Brigham figured his test would. And how the evolving SATs are traditionally were only changed to weed out the questions Black and Latinx students did best on, which, again, is so insidiously evil Ruffin (and we) can only steer readers toward the research. “The goal of these tests was never education, it was always exclusion,” concluded Ruffin, sending kids and parents back to school with plenty to think about. Beyond, of course, whether or not Republican death-fetishists are turning those schools into incubators to feed their dark, child-devouring COVID-god. Welcome back, kids. Good luck.