The SAT’s racist roots and continued discrimination



Juniors prep for the SAT, but is the test really worth it?

Katelyn Fonkert, Senior Reporter

The dreaded SAT season has arrived and juniors across the nation are about to take them, but the question is are they even worth it? Do they really show someone’s intelligence? The real question: has this test been more hurtful or helpful?

The SATs have extremely racist roots and the discrimination in the SATs is still prevalent in today’s education. The SAT was created by Carl Brigham in 1926, after creating the Army IQ screener, Army Alpha, thought he could determine someone’s race based on their intelligence. Brigham believed the white people were superior therefore more intelligent, this prompted the creation of the SAT as a way to determine someone’s race.

This allowed for colleges to require this test as a way to discriminate against applicants of color. Harvard was the first college to require the SATs and soon after many other ivy league schools followed suit. It took a while before state universities eventually required the SATs, with California being the last in 1960. 

“In 1998, the SAT tested two questions and found that Black students answered one correctly at a higher percentage than other groups, whereas white students disproportionately answered the other question correctly. The SAT later discarded the question on which Black test-takers outscored white test-takers — but kept the question on which white students scored higher,” Genevieve Carlton Ph. D. said. The corruption allowed within College Board has continued the discrimination and oppression towards students of color making it harder for them to get into colleges before they even apply.

“Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools,” historian Ibram X. Kendi said to the National Education Association in 2021.

In 2019, only 12% of Hispanic students and 9% of Black students scored a 1200 or higher while 45% of white students scored a 1200 or higher on the SAT. Within our public education system more government funding typically goes to schools that have a majority population of white people, meaning they have more access to pre classes and other tools to better prepare than students of color that go to schools where they’re the majority.

Currently 80% of colleges don’t require the SATs due to the pandemic, but California stopped use of the SATs and ACTs in 2021 citing charges that they disadvantage students of color. Since California is one of the top states for high level education, many other states are most likely going to eliminate the requirement for the SATs and the ACTs as well.

Some say that we should not eliminate they SATs as they provide important data, while others argue that they should no longer be used. California no longer uses the SATs, but they are looking into creating a new standardized test that benefits everyone and not just one race.

Whatever route colleges decide to take, one thing that is clear is the SATs need to go. This test is very discriminatory and has been making it harder for people of color to go on to higher level education for years. Whether a new standardized test is created, or they are no longer in use, there is a need for equality in education and opportunities.