Monday, May 21, 2012

Prejudice - how to tell if an action is motivated by it.

My last post was about recognizing prejudice when you hear/see it.

It's OK to be prejudiced.  It is in fact a natural part of being human.  We make wide generalizations - they help us make quick decisions.  Bears bad.  Rabbits nice.  (unless of course, the rabbit is infected with some weird disease).   We can't get rid of all prejudice, we can only limit the negative consequences of it.

Just because you are prejudiced doesn't me you let it control your actions.  We may not be able to eliminate prejudice, but we CAN eliminate the evil that prejudice does.  We can prevent it from affecting our legal and legislative decisions.

It's OK for a prejudiced police man to arrest a black criminal.  It's not OK to arrest all black people - or even more black people than white people.

So, how do you tell if an action is caused by prejudice as opposed to other factors.    There are several tools we can use:

  1. Look for laws that specify the name of the discriminated group - or worse, go out of the way to describe them - without a generally accepted (by all political sides) reason for doing so.  That is, it is OK to prevent women from entering a bathroom designated as male only, but not to prevent a black man from using a 'whites only' bathroom  Similarly, it NOT OK to prevent gays/lesbians from adopting.  Same for gay marriage.   It's not up to the prejudiced people to decided if their law is prejudiced - it's up tot he NON-prejudiced people to make that decision.     No significant number of women ever complained about not being allowed in the men's bathroom.  No significant number of jews ever complained about not being allowed to teach at a christian university.   No significant number of black people ever complained about not getting enough research into black skin cancer (and yes, black people do get skin cancer - but at a lower rate)
  2. Stastiical analysis.  To determine if the police are prejudiced against jews, you could do a statistical anlaysis of arrests comparing jews to non-jews.  If X% of crimes are committed by jews, then X% of arrests should be made of jews.  If we see more than X% of arrests, then we have to find someway to reduces the number of arrests for jews and/or increase the number for non-jews.  Which should be determined by comparing conviction rates - if more jews get convicted, then non-jews, you need to increase the non-jew arrests.  If jews get convicted less often, than that means you need to arrest less jews.   Current statistical analysis of the stop and frisk in NYC policy of blacks indicates that police are prejudiced against black men.   In New York City,  (2010 census), 44.6% are white, 25.1% are black, 11.8% are Asian, and 27.5% are Hispanic.  But the 2010 Stop and Frisk NYC program stopped 54% black, 33% Latino, 9% white.  As 86% of them were not even arrested, this is not a case where we need to stop more white and asian people.     The police claim the results happen because they are running the programs in high crime areas which happen to be non-white neighborhoods.  The Bronx has the least white population.  If you restrict it just to the Bronx, you get 10.9% white, 30.1% black, 53.5% Hispanic.    That is, in the poor neighbor hoods, latinos outnumber blacks but the stop and frisk program still concentrates on blacks.   Thus we know it is racist.  Not because it stops too few whites but because they don't stop enough Hispanics. 
  3.  They use religion as a reason/excuse for legal actions.   Religion has a place in making your OWN mind up about right and wrong - it has no place in making political arguments to OTHER people about right and wrong.  Because other people are allowed to have different religions from you, you can't use religion to convince them that you are right.   This is actually fairly simple.   Freedom of Religion doesn't only mean we are allowed to be Jewish, it also means we can call ourselves Protestant and not believe what other Protestant people believe.   No politician (particularly a government employee) can tell me what religion to worship, which means they can't try to convince me to follow their religion's beliefs.  When a member of government or even someone aspiring to government service uses their religion to tell me what is right and wrong, they are actively trying to force me to obey their religion.  In fact only a priest or other clergy men has any excuse for telling people what a religion says to do.  If you aren't one, then why are you preaching!   You don't ask your plumber for advice on religion, you go to a clergy.  Politicians are not more qualified than plumbers to talk about religion - despite the fact that they seem to think they are.
  4. Claims of tradition/history.  It doesn't matter that traditionally women didn't work, or that blacks didn't traditionally have rights in the US, or that Jews couldn't join clubs. Nor does it matter that marriage was traditionally between men and women.    If the best excuse you have is tradition, you are just acting on prejudice.   
  5. Bad Morale:  "undefined interference" claims - aka "I get angry if other people can do what I don't want them to do."   This is so obviously a bad excuse, so people try to make it sound reasonable by making it vague: "If they do X it will somehow affect my ability to do X."  That is, if black men/gay/women/athiests/ can join the army/marry, it will somehow affect white/straight/male/religious morale, making the rest of us fight poorly/get divorced.   You want to claim that their rights interfere with your rights then you must fully and specifically explain how the interference happens - without resorting to claiming "it will affect me psychologically."

When people are caught using these excuses, we should automatically reject them.  We spent years finding out how wrong they are for original prejudices, don't let idiots try them out on new prejudices.

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