Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Awww, look at that cute stereotype ! Quick, let's feed it !

Riding the subway over the past few months has led me inexorably to two conclusions:

1. If somebody is acting stupid on the subway, the probability that that person is black is higher than the probability that the person is any other color. In probabilistic terms,
p(black | acting stupid) > p(any other color| acting stupid)
2. If a person is black, the probability that they will act stupid is higher than if they're any other color. In other words, p(acting stupid | black ) > p(acting stupid | any other color)

- I'm not saying anything about intelligence, innate abilities etc. My statements are purely reflective of exhibited behavior. There are lots of talented individuals who are @$$holes.
- I'm not saying this out of some misguided self-hatred. I'm happy I'm black. The observations above are just facts, however inconvenient they may be.

I guess the reason this bothers me so much is that I'm concerned that that sort of behavior is too easily taken as representative of all members of the race, including me. Stereotypes are convenient shortcuts that we all use [to varying extents, but I assert that everybody uses stereotypes in one way or another], so when a stereotype that concerns me is being fed, it bugs me [other stereotypes being fed bugs me too, but they don't have the same sort of personal impact]. On the flip side, though, it's not like I ever really feel like I'm "representing my race" or I have to "act properly" to avoid bringing shame to a set of people, so I suppose I'm applying a bit of a double standard: I want other black people to not act ignorant because I think they're feeding a stereotype but I don't have the same concern about my actions.

Ok, I've got that out of my system, now it's time to go to class.


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