racial profiling and stereotypes ( again ) updated

I apologize ahead of time for addressing this topic again, but the current events and odd circumstances leave no other choices. As you may recall, I attempted a bit unsucessfully to mock our inherent prejudices about race and culture. I also wrote about the value of instinct in decision making in "the power of thinking without thinking: Blink" (Malcom Gladwell). Well, you would not believe it but two events happen thie week that are closely linked to those issues.
1- The increased commotion caused by the Mohammed cartoons in the newspaper of Dennmark, then France and Germany. Free speech vs. perceived lack of respect for one's faith.
2- A great article by Gladwell in the New Yorker about racial profiling. ( OK I admit it, I, in fact, am Malcom Gladwell and I am desperate for anyone to buy my book ! I am sorry but I just think the man knows how to explain things ).

Everyone has their own opinions about the cartoons. I will only say this: I think the timing is pretty lame for such humor. On the other hand, there are plenty of humoristic cartoons about Jesus and no one has raised hell yet. ( that was a very poor pun) My point is: it should have been a non-issue because the cartoon did not have a point even a comic one therefore should not have been published. I aslo think that the islamic community could have taken the high road but missed an opportunity to show perspective.

Now, I want to "copy paste" a few interesting passages from the New Yorker article and highlight the main points:

"In epidemiological studies of dog bites, the pit bull is overrepresented among dogs known to have seriously injured or killed human beings, and, as a result, pit bulls have been banned or restricted in several Western European countries, China, and numerous cities and municipalities across North America. Pit bulls are dangerous. Of course, not all pit bulls are dangerous. Most don’t bite anyone. Meanwhile, Dobermans and Great Danes and German shepherds and Rottweilers are frequent biters as well, and the dog that recently mauled a Frenchwoman so badly that she was given the world’s first face transplant was, of all things, a Labrador retriever. When we say that pit bulls are dangerous, we are making a generalization, just as insurance companies use generalizations when they charge young men more for car insurance than the rest of us (even though many young men are perfectly good drivers), and doctors use generalizations when they tell overweight middle-aged men to get their cholesterol checked (even though many overweight middle-aged men won’t experience heart trouble). Because we don’t know which dog will bite someone or who will have a heart attack or which drivers will get in an accident, we can make predictions only by generalizing. As the legal scholar Frederick Schauer has observed, “painting with a broad brush” is “an often inevitable and frequently desirable dimension of our decision-making lives.”


“We have a policy against racial profiling,” Raymond Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner, told me. “I put it in here in March of the first year I was here. It’s the wrong thing to do, and it’s also ineffective. If you look at the London bombings, you have three British citizens of Pakistani descent. You have Germaine Lindsay, who is Jamaican. You have the next crew, on July 21st, who are East African. You have a Chechen woman in Moscow in early 2004 who blows herself up in the subway station. So whom do you profile? Look at New York City. Forty per cent of New Yorkers are born outside the country. Look at the diversity here. Who am I supposed to profile?”

Kelly was pointing out what might be called profiling’s “category problem.” Generalizations involve matching a category of people to a behavior or trait—overweight middle-aged men to heart-attack risk, young men to bad driving. But, for that process to work, you have to be able both to define and to identify the category you are generalizing about. “You think that terrorists aren’t aware of how easy it is to be characterized by ethnicity?” Kelly went on. “Look at the 9/11 hijackers. They came here. They shaved. They went to topless bars. They wanted to blend in. They wanted to look like they were part of the American dream. These are not dumb people. Could a terrorist dress up as a Hasidic Jew and walk into the subway, and not be profiled? Yes. I think profiling is just nuts.”


Then which are the pit bulls that get into trouble? “The ones that the legislation is geared toward have aggressive tendencies that are either bred in by the breeder, trained in by the trainer, or reinforced in by the owner,” Herkstroeter says. A mean pit bull is a dog that has been turned mean, by selective breeding, by being cross-bred with a bigger, human-aggressive breed like German shepherds or Rottweilers, or by being conditioned in such a way that it begins to express hostility to human beings. A pit bull is dangerous to people, then, not to the extent that it expresses its essential pit bullness but to the extent that it deviates from it. A pit-bull ban is a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general. That’s a category problem.


In other words, the relation between New York City (a category) and criminality (a trait) is unstable, and this kind of instability is another way in which our generalizations can be derailed.


It was a textbook dog-biting case: unneutered, ill-trained, charged-up dogs, with a history of aggression and an irresponsible owner, somehow get loose, and set upon a small child. The dogs had already passed through the animal bureaucracy of Ottawa, and the city could easily have prevented the second attack with the right kind of generalization—a generalization based not on breed but on the known and meaningful connection between dangerous dogs and negligent owners. [...]

It would have required, that is, a more exacting set of generalizations to be more exactingly applied. It’s always easier just to ban the breed.

End of article:

I know that was a lot of reading but I think he covered everything that explains the actual tension in the world between different cultures and how the problem can be addressed. It is certainly more complicated than neutering pitbulls, but the concept is right there. Now if our world leaders would focus more on the "real "reasons instead of the "obvious" one.... personally, I feel much better after reading the article ..and on meeting a pitbull face to face !!!

Be great and stay away from instable owners of pitbulls.

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