November 13, 2007
Stereotyping 101By Selwyn Duke
In a racial profiling lawsuit against the Maryland State Police (MSP), a plaintiff's attorney named Eliza Leighton said that some training documents contain "startling examples of racial stereotypes about Hispanics." According to the Associated Press:
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, we can now expect such information to be purged from the training documents. But, as I wrote about Dr. James Watson's comments regarding Africans, intelligence and genetics, this is part of a very distressing pattern. Everyone fixates on the fact that such comments constitute generalizations (about groups that are supposed to be immune from such things), as if this is an offense in and of itself. Yet, no one seems to ask the only relevant question.
Are the generalizations true?
Before anyone waxes stupid, please don't tell me that all generalizations are invalid because not every member of the given group will conform to a generalization. Intelligent people understand that legitimate generalizations are statements about a group's general characteristics, not individuals' specific ones. For example, if I say that men are taller than women, I don't mean that every man towers over every woman; nevertheless, it is an accurate relation of a general difference between the groups.
This brings us to an important point: While we must judge everyone as an individual, there are differences within groups but also differences among them. Thus, it makes no more sense to paint every group with the same brush than it does to pain every individual with the same brush.
My response to those who cannot or will not accept this is that if they can't understand commentary written for adults, they shouldn't read it. Besides, not all generalizations can be invalid simply because the statement that all generalizations are invalid is itself is a generalization.
Modern dogma holds that diversity is one of the greatest qualities a society can enjoy, that it bestows many advantages. But what does this imply? Well, by definition "diversity" refers to differences among groups. Now, not only is it illogical to assume that every one of these differences will be flattering, the supposition that diversity is beneficial implies otherwise. After all, if diversity is beneficial, it is only because certain groups bring qualities or strengths to the table that others do not. And, if a given group possesses a certain unique strength, then other groups are wanting in that area relative to it.
Any which way you care to slice it, this is a corollary of diversity dogma.
So, ironically, despite the fact that the diversity dogmatists would eschew stereotyping, a version of it imbues their ideology. So it's not that they don't have biases relating to generalizations, only that their understanding of group differences is clumsy and primitive, sort of like Archie Bunker but with advanced degrees, the illusion of intellectualism and the inability to be honest with themselves and others. So let's be honest now.
Stereotypes often arise because they have a basis in reality. For example, often it has been remarked that Irishmen liked to drink. Once again, intelligent people know this doesn't mean that every Irishman is a drunkard, but informed people might know something else: Ireland ranks number two in the world in per capita alcohol consumption next to Luxemburg.
Another difference among groups is that some are more patriarchal than others. We know that Moslem societies are quite so, as women are usually afforded fewer legal rights. In fact, Westerners will often emphasize and lament this difference as a way to burnish their credentials as believers in women's liberation.
In light of this, let's now analyze the MSP's statement that "Hispanic males are raised to be MACHO and brave, while females are raised to be subservient." Since some groups are more patriarchal than others, this can be true; and I venture to say that anyone who has had great contact with Hispanic people and possesses eyes and common sense will know it's often enough true compared to, say, Swedes
As to these matters, Raul Caetano, Catherine L. Clark and Tammy Tam, three Ph.Ds who received a government grant to study common sense, implicitly vindicate two of the MSP's assertions. They write in their paper, Alcohol Consumption Among Racial/Ethnic Minorities:
While these researchers didn't accept or reject this explanation, they didn't question the suppositions that Hispanic men drink too much and are "macho." So then why are the Maryland State Police probably going to have to pay money for saying what these academics got paid money to say? Well, it neither serves the left's agenda to sue a few eggheads nor can cash be extracted from them.
Besides, there is another factor: If a truth hurts, since you can't destroy the Truth, you destroy the truth-teller.
And here is another truth. I have only one thing to say about the idea that Hispanics are reluctant to learn English: I've never been asked if I wanted to press two for German.
Stereotypes aren't just woven into flawed leftist ideology (please forgive the redundancy) and million-dollar research substitutes for common sense; they also appear in entertainment. Just think about all the times that whites are characterized as nerdy, lacking rhythm or liking mayonnaise (as to this, watch the movie Undercover Brother or Al Yankovic's music video "White & Nerdy"). Yet, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller was practically clubbed to death for quipping that Tiger Woods shouldn't request fried chicken or collard greens after the latter's record-setting performance at the 1997 Masters tournament. (I was "startled" myself; since Woods' mother hails from Thailand, I would have thrown in phat gapow). Seriously, though -- or almost seriously -- if whites can be smeared with mayonnaise, other groups can be coddled with their cuisines.
This isn't to say that every stereotype or generalization -- or what is known as a "profile" in the realm of law enforcement -- is completely accurate. But when one is found wanting, it simply warrants the alteration of its flawed elements, not the throwing out of the baby with the bath water. If a difference is frivolous and fun, it should be a source of mirth; if it indicates greater ability, it should be applauded; and if the difference is damning, remedy should be sought.
But this standard won't be embraced until we accept what is perhaps the most valid generalization of all: The leftist thought police are a menace to civilization and free speech. They are turning us into an ideological state, a place where ideology isn't rejected when it departs from truth but truth is rejected when it departs from ideology.
As for remedy, the best antidote to political correctness is its opposite. We don't have to speak and joke and talk and think in a way that pleases those who prove that infantilism doesn't always peak in infancy. Instead, we should stand up for truth - be it in the form of wit, policy or paradigm - and those who speak it. Do this en masse and "startle" those thought police enough, and we just might be rid of them after all. That is, if they actually do have hearts.
Selwyn Duke is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. Contact Selwyn Duke