Re: Is white racism nec. all bad?

Gerold Firl (
20 Apr 1995 13:17:59 -0700

In article <3mg9df$> (Paul Bernhardt) writes:
>Gerold Firl ( wrote:

>: I think that people believe that blacks commit more
>: crime for one of three reasons:
>: 1) direct personal experience: they work in a business where they interact on
>: a daily basis with large numbers of people, and are thus able to form a
>: statistical model of group behavior.

>People make very poor estimates of these kinds of things. A basic error
>in judgment that people make is called the illusory correlation. It
>describes the fact that people see relationships between two variables
>when none actually exists.

Good point, albeit overstated. In the case of the differential crime rates
in american subgroups, a real difference exists.

This ties in with the whole problem of stereotyping. Stereotyping is
endlessly denounced, yet poorly understood. A stereotype is a *caricature*,
which exagerates the deviation from the norm. Think of the caricatures in
political cartoons. It takes a skillful artist to render a face so as to be
recognizable, unless the features are caricatured. Caricatures are a useful
device, and will continue to be used for that reason, even if they are not

>Blacks are arrested and convicted at higher rates, true. Blacks have
>generally lower economic resources. When arrested, few have the ability
>to defend against the charges as well as the typical white person.
>Of course, once anyone gets a record, they are more likely to become the
>target of future investigations.

Just as a stereotype will exagerate the true magnitude of the deviation
from the norm, the processes you describe will boost the differential crime
rate. But it sounds like you're making excuses here. We need to keep in
mind that the ultimate cause of all the effects you describe is an actual
disparity in the commission of violent crime. All the handwaving in the
world won't make that go away. The black community will have to make a deep
and serious committment to change, a change that comes from within,
stemming from an honest appraisel of the true costs of criminality.
American black culture has suffered deeply for the transgressions of their
criminal minority. The police can't change that, and white americans can't
change that. Only the black community can change it. But as long as they
continue to deny this fact, and to place all the blame on others, it will
be very difficult to make any progress.

>Please note that I in no way rely on item 3 for my explanation for items
>1 and 2. You are right in one sense, the causality flows both ways. I
>prefer to say that the interactional dynamic flows both ways. That is,
>illusory corrlation increases biases against minority groups, this bias
>affects what is paid attention to which increases the likelihood that
>minority groups will be noticed when they act bad whereas majority groups
>will not be so noticed when they act bad. Etc. Etc. as Jesse Jackson
>would say, break the cycle of... whatever.

I agree. But I think the only way the cycle can be broken is from within.
Farakhan has it right, in one sense: blacks need to do it for themselves.
If his message wasn't tainted with racism and hatred, farakhan could have
been a true leader, instead of a destructive demogogue. His advocacy of
self-reliance and discipline is certainly timely.

It seems to me that many of your statements here, while well-intentioned,
are not helping to resolve this problem. By focussing on how american
culture makes it more difficult for blacks, you avoid the part of the
interactional dynamic where blacks are in control: their own behavior. That
is where each of us can make an immediate difference; "think global, act
local". Can't get any more local than ourselves.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf