Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stereotypes: Are They True?


Participating on a blog, like this, can be annoying at times. Equally as annoying is engaging individuals on associated topics, when, inevitably, you get branded a supremacist (note I don't add white, since it is assumed that only whites can be supremacists), a bigot, a xenophobe, a racist or some other descriptor. In reality, the problem may be complex, but usually involves a poor grasp of the definitions.

Since racism is often used as an all encompassing term, it will be prudent to quickly analyse a definition thereof.

According to the Oxford Dictionary racism is a belief or ideology that members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, distinguishing it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups.

So there are two components, belief and superiority, and this is where many of our critics come unstuck.

Yet, consider this, any statement made by a white person, referring to another race, is considered potentially racist; even though it falls outside of the definition.

Recently Black Coffee branded me as being racist for pointing out that average sub-Saharan black IQs are below 90. Is that racist? Let's look at the definition. No it isn't. I did not mention IQ in order to reinforce a view that whites are superior. I mentioned IQ in the context of internet usage. However, the fact that white IQs are higher than sub-Saharan black IQs, by definition, makes whites superior BUT only in so far as IQ is concerned. If the belief is absent, namely the belief that I am somehow better than you, then it is not racist. I know black males, on average, are better at long distance running than me. This makes them superior, when it comes to running, but it isn't racist to make this claim.

If we look at most exchanges revolving around race, much of what we experience is not racism, perhaps stereotyping. Let's look at a few examples.

Peter De Villiers suggesting that the international press corp and David Dowd are racist.

This is complete nonesense, and should be treated with contempt. De Villiers makes his assertions based on flawed assumptions. Those assumptions are that ALL whites believe they are superior to blacks. This projection reveals De Villiers to be a bigot. Although his stereotype may be correct, it says nothing about the individuals involved.

Black men are a bunch of raping, thieving thugs.

Of course this is untrue, not all black men fit this profile, but the stereotype is valid.

Both examples do not reflect racist remarks, but rather stereotyping. Below is an article on stereotyping.

What Is Stereotyping?

What people call “stereotypes” are what scientists call “empirical generalizations,” (What I call the preponderance of probablity) and they are the foundation of scientific theory. That’s what scientists do; they make generalizations (Deductive reasoning). Many stereotypes are empirical generalizations with a statistical basis and thus on average tend to be true.


If stereotypes were not true, they wouldn't be stereotypes.

The only problem with stereotypes and empirical generalizations is that they are not always true for all individual cases. They are generalizations, not invariant laws. There are always individual exceptions to stereotypes and empirical generalizations. The danger lies in applying the empirical generalizations to individual cases, which may or may not be exceptions.


But these individual exceptions do not invalidate the
generalizations.


An observation, if true, becomes an empirical generalization until someone objects to it, and then it becomes a stereotype. For example, the statement “Men are taller than women” is an empirical generalization. It is in general true, but there are individual exceptions. There are many men who are shorter than the average woman, and there are many women who are taller than the average man, but these exceptions do not make the generalization untrue. Men on average are taller than women in every human society. Everybody knows this, but nobody calls it a stereotype because it is not unkind to anybody. Men in general like being taller than women, and women in general like being shorter than men.

However, as soon as one turns this around and makes a slightly different, yet equally true, observation that “Women are fatter than men,” it becomes a stereotype because nobody, least of all women, wants to be considered fat. But it is true nonetheless; women have a higher percentage of body fat than men throughout the life course (and there are evolutionary reasons for this as well). Once again, there are numerous individual exceptions, but the generalization still holds true at the population level.

Stereotypes and empirical generalizations are neither good nor bad, desirable nor undesirable, moral nor immoral. They just are. Stereotypes do not tell us how to behave or treat other people (or groups of people). Stereotypes are observations about the empirical world, not behavioral prescriptions. One may not infer how to treat people from empirical observations about them.


Stereotypes tell us what groups of people tend to be or do in general; they do not tell us how we ought to treat them.

Once again, there is no place for “ought” in science.

As empirical generalizations borne of the observations and experiences of millions of individuals, most stereotypes are on the whole true. If they are not true, they cannot survive long as stereotypes. Nonetheless, theory and research in evolutionary psychology
have overturned a few stereotypes and shown them to be false.


So is it wrong to hold a stereotype?

Of course not. It is our way of short circuiting mental processes. You wouldn't survive very long if you required a solid body of evidence on every individual prior to taking action; but of course the Libbies will make you feel guilty for stereotyping. What you need, though, is personal honesty. Recognise when you have made a mistake, and judge individuals on their merits. On this basis, you may even find that you will have a black/muslim/gay friend.

If a group of black youths walk towards me, in a lower socio-economic area, it would be imprudent not to cross the street; not racist.

If you ignored this short circuiting system, you may get a Noddy badge from some, but you will incur a lot of hardship and your "gut feel" will be absent.

20 Opinion(s):

Doberman said...

It's funny how certain groups don't mind some stereotypical perceptions about them i.e blacks being better at sports, or better dancers, or bigger dicks. None of it is true of course. Yet when you point out that whites are better at say, chess, ice hockey or landing men on the moon, that's racist. I guess from these stereotypes we can surmise that whites are better at issues that require higher cognitive abilities and blacks better at physical pursuits. See, now I'm being racist because I dared to stray too far from what is "acceptable" stereotyping.

Vanilla Ice said...

@Dobes, which is one of the issues. Definitions are great, but not when it applies to whites. For us definitions change. Just the mere mention of somebody's race, religion or ethnicity makes us racist, regardless of the context, facts or stereotype. So a working Racism definition, for whites, would be something like. "For persons of caucasion descent, the mere mention of race, or the accusation of racism, regardless of the context, constitutes racism."

Anonymous said...

@ VI...

Excellent, erudite, and obviously written by a white racist supremacist cracker bastard trying to vanilla coat his prejudice...

You should be ashamed of yourself. You are an incorrigible bigot...

But... You aren't, and neither am I.

Vanilla Ice said...

@Anon 4:44. JP is that you?

Dachshund said...

@VI: Pay no attention to JP, it's a good, well thought out post. By the way, when are you going to update your own blog JP? Too much reality causing writer's block there?

Anonymous said...

@ VI and DACHS...

Nope. Not this JP person.

Read it again...
Very tongue in cheek...
Just a bit of fun with us "cracker bastards".

Life is too short to worry about the crap the liberal communist inspired soap opera is trying to force feed us. If we can't laugh with them, at least lets laugh AT them.

FishEagle said...

@VI, I enjoyed that. I can tell you get enjoyment from your own mind. Lol.

Viking said...

Great Article, VI.
Interestingly, I've read that even positive stereotypes are considered "racist" i.e. the Chinese are good at maths, and I think this is taking it to the extreme! It's un-PC to make any associations based on race it seems...

Vince R said...

Good post VI, the point about short circuiting the system is valid. It is probably an evolutionery "hard wiring" in our brains. We humans are above all, pattern recognisors. It makes no evolutionery sense to sit and mull over each particular situation, we need to be able to recognise a situation as quickly as possible and react appropriately. The rule of thumb reigns in the jungle. And like it or not, our evolutionery make up is still very much part of us, despite our mobiles, moon rockets, and yes, our altruistic urges.

Vanilla Ice said...

@Anon 8:25. No worries, no offence taken. Actually, if I had known it would go down so well, I would have polished up on the writing. It is always a crap shoot.

FishEagle said...

It is so important to have these discussions about IQ, and other stereotypes from a practical point of view! In my office we have many blacks and we have been working without a supervisor on the floor for more than a year. (You can imagine the liberties that are being taken by the staff!) Yesterday I had an argument with a black lady because she insisted that the attendance register should be in her office, which is OFTEN empty and locked. Firstly, she can’t grasp that for an office attendance register to work everyone must have access to it. Secondly, it is an issue that will take up all of her energy for the next few days because she is adamant that an attendance register should be “private” and can’t understand otherwise. Had I not known that her IQ was possibly 67, and probably less, I would have approached the problem in the wrong manner. The right way to deal with it is not getting angry. I haven’t been having deep philosophical thoughts about the white race’s superiority after this incident. Frankly, the problem has been resolved and I have been able to get back to my work. These are the practicalities of life in South Africa that first world countries just can’t grasp.

Anonymous said...

Craig Bodeker does a very good discussion of exactly this topic. See http://www.aconversationaboutrace.com/ ... and some extracts on youtube.

Black Coffee said...

Back to censoring comments that we don't like? First, let me say that from little bit that I have skimmed about IQ tests, they appear to be unreliable as measures of intelligence, this from literature cited such as "American Psychologist" serial. Second, there is no evidence from IQ scores that an inherent difference between blacks and whites exists, only perhaps that the tests are culturally skewed. Third, based on some of comments I see here and especially on SAS I am beginning to wonder if on average black South Africans are actually more intelligent than their white counter-parts.

FishEagle said...

Black Coffee, you are not willing to look at the research and you are not willing to accept people's experience either to establish whether blacks are less intelligent. That brings me to the conclusion that you don't actually care about this issue. See why I don't waste my time with you?

Black Coffee said...

FE - I am willing to look at the research. I suggest you look at Wikipedia's article about IQ and about IQ and race and the numerous citations those have to literature in psychological journals.

Vanilla Ice said...

@FE. I agree with you. This arse wipe, BC, comes here with zero credibility and then brings the existing research into question. He is a nobody and a time waster. I would suggest if he thinks he is such a whizz, he should attempt to get his BS published in a peer reviewed journal, if he can find one. In my field I have published, presented at conferences, lectured, contributed to books in publication, am quoted and referenced. As regards the history of research on IQ, I enclose a link to a publication written by world reknowned and accomplisheds researchers, J. Philippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen.

Vanilla Ice said...

Again, his reference? Wikipedia. Now there is a credible reference. Do you even know how Wikipedia works BC?

Black Coffee said...

VI - I am not an expert in psychology/psychiatry. What I will attempt to get published in a peer-reviewed journal are articles that are more historical in nature. The Wikipedia articles I cited are full of citations, otherwise I myself would have dismissed them. What comes out even for someone who is NOT an expert in psychology, is that psychologists DO NOT agree among themselves that IQ tests actually measure intelligence, nor do they agree about inherent cultural biases of IQ tests and whether these biases skew results. There has been similar debate in US about the SATs that high school students write before they get into college. So, I ask who is it that is ignoring the research and literature that does not fit into their worldview? Perhaps we both are, but to me it is common sense that intelligence is not something one can easily quantify, if at all.

Vanilla Ice said...

@BC. No shit sherlock. You aren't an expert at anything. You think that because something has a lot of citations it passes as legitimate enquiry, when in fact you aren't even familiar with the "movers and shakers" in the field. You are a typical ignorant dickhead, that simply ignores the evidence or flat out denies the truth, when the truth is unpalatable. Common mythology likes to believe that tests have a bias, which is tantamount to saying that they are designed by whites, to favour whites. In other words, the whites simply cheat. Well sorry for you, schmuck (I am sure you are familiar with this word), but then if this were the case, why do they favour Asians?

Anonymous said...

stereotypying is nature at play. to an Impala all lions are dangerous. Whether the lion was hand reared by humans to not eat Impalas and only cat pellets, does not change its gtenetic predisposition to raw meat. Liberals like to think they can turn this genitic predisposition by education and throwing money at it. When mother nature hits them on the nose, they look for all other reasons, except reality. Race and genes are everything. It is the Alpha and the Omega.

I do not fully grasp the subject of racial or religeous steorotyping. I hope the writer will do a follow-up on this excellent post.