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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5515/stereotyping-defended/

Stereotyping Defended

August 24, 2006 by

Most people feel that stereotyping is always wrong and unfair. It is, however, a method that people use, consciously or subconsciously, as an efficient way of economizing on information costs. Prejudice means pre-judging. Of course you may not be correct in your judgment, and your later judgments will be affected by the success or failure of the accuracy your forecasts. But the alternative is to use a completely random basis on which to make pre-judgments, which is very silly and probably impossible. FULL ARTICLE


TGGP August 24, 2006 at 7:55 am

We see the name Ninos Malek at the top of the page, which makes us less likely to assume you are a “stereotypical WASP”, but I still wasn’t sure what your real ethnic background was. A good article at any rate. It reminds me of Walter Williams’ argument that “Everything worth doing is NOT necessarily worth doing well”.

Marco August 24, 2006 at 8:36 am

I agree with most of what you wrote, apart from the issue of security from terrorist attacks. Here there is a feedback loop which is absent in the other scenarios. Assuming there is indeed a terrorist threat, and that security staff tend to check men more than light haired women, an opportunity arises for real terrorists to use a woman as a bomber. This is what happened in Israel, where many suicide bombers (both attempted and successful) were women who disguised themselves to look like Israelis.
I live in central London. About a month ago I suddenly started seeing police officers walking around in the area. At first I was happy, I assumed this was in order to tackle drifters and aggressive beggars, following several complaints from local residents. However, I soon noticed that all these officers seemed to be doing (they have since stopped) was stopping and searching passers-by. As far as I could see all those searched were dark skinned men and were wearing shabby clothes. I have always been ignored, even though I have a darker complexion than the average Englishman, probably because 95% of the time I am wearing a suit. This doesn’t make me feel much safer. A real terrorist can either put on a nice suit or send a woman to carry out the attack. This is just a waste of taxpayer money.

cameron weber August 24, 2006 at 9:23 am

was it not duke ellington who said that the clothes make the man?

well yes the benefit-cost analysis – and marginal revolution – says that one doesnt have to know everything before acting. of course the argument around stereotyping and social policy is just another one for limting the power that the powers-that-be have to prevent (limit) any type of non-rational discrimmination.

ed August 24, 2006 at 9:31 am

A point not mentioned is the excess affront we feel when stereotyped against. We can argue all day that a person or company should have the right to stereotype or discriminate but both individuals and society as a whole take an especial offiense to discrimination.

Its one thing to reject a new hire for earrings and tattoos and quite another for having black skin. Again a company should have the right to hire whomever they want for any reason. But lets not forget the passionate anger when you’re fired by a redneck for being brownskinned.

N. Joseph Potts August 24, 2006 at 10:10 am

This can be a very reciprocal, self-reinforcing thing. Not long ago, I stopped my car at a traffic light in a “bad” neighborhood. I locked my doors as a shabbily dressed dark-skinned man approached the car.

My children immediately piped up, “Dad, you’re prejudiced.”

I replied, “Well, kids, I might be, but mainly, I’m afraid HE might be prejudiced.”

They’re still thinking about that, I hope. Of course, everyone in the car was very light-skinned.

david August 24, 2006 at 10:14 am

Yes, as this article points out, we all stereotype to a greater or lesser degree, the more so when we are dealing with strangers about whom we do not have any individual-specific information on which to form opinions about that particular individual. And there is nothing wrong with that as far as that goes – it gives us a provisional model that is open to refinement or adaptation as more detailed information emerges about that individual. I pity those who would refuse to open themselves tolearning more due to wholesale rejection of the entire stereotype, but I can’t blame them – its their choice and I have no right to dictate their choices.

Stereotyping requires the weight and force of a government policy to make it assume evil proportions: when the members of a particular group ( however defined: cultural, religious, racial , political affiliation, whatever) become the subject of policy or laws relating to their rights and/or obligations, such that those rights and obligations are different from others not of that group, is when the use of the stereotype assumes monstrous proportions.

IN SOuth Africa a few decades ago, for example, when members of some race groups ( themselves absurdly defined at the margin) were barred from taking employment in various professions on the grounds that they were collectively not deemed fit for those professions, irrespective of any individual’s own competence.

IN the US some 50 years ago, the blanket internment of all Japanese-Americans, whether they were US citizens or not, and without consideration of the individuals’ own views on the war, was an indefensible act of discrimination based on a simple stereotype – and a gross infringement of liberty by any standard.

george August 24, 2006 at 11:53 am

To discriminate is to choose. The essence of freedom is choice. I choose what I want, and by that discrimination I am also categorizing what I do not want. Only coercion, the essence of government, forces unchosen choices on the individual.

To discriminate using the law is evil incarnate as it builds a class or caste system.

dis‧crim‧i‧nate  Pronunciation[v. di-skrim-uh-neyt; adj. di-skrim-uh-nit] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation verb, -nat‧ed, -nat‧ing, adjective

–verb (used without object) 1. to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality: The new law discriminates against foreigners. He discriminates in favor of his relatives.
2. to note or observe a difference; distinguish accurately: to discriminate between things.
–verb (used with object) 3. to make or constitute a distinction in or between; differentiate: a mark that discriminates the original from the copy.
4. to note or distinguish as different: He can discriminate minute variations in tone.
–adjective 5. marked by discrimination; making or evidencing nice distinctions: discriminate people; discriminate judgments.


[Origin: 1620–30; < L discrÄ«minÄ?tus separated, ptp. of discrÄ«minÄ?re. See discriminant, -ate1]

—Related forms
dis‧crim‧i‧nate‧ly, adverb

—Synonyms 3. See distinguish.

Nydra August 24, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Although I think the ideal security would be done by each individual airline and each captain of each flight (standing the most to lose if your airline become a target and others don’t). But barring that option, put up reward posters in airports. If you can successfully get a banned weapon through security, you drop it in a lockbox and receive a check for $20,000 when you tell authorities how you did it. Your weapon is also returned to you at the end of your journey.

And all TSA members on that gate are fined and fired immediately.

After all, we treat the possession of a weapon as the crime, when the real crime is terrorism.

happy lee August 24, 2006 at 1:31 pm

I liked airport TSA screening story. I assume Ninos is swarthy like me. I too watched as my reagged, unshaven and tired self was overlooked for additional screening in favor of a scantily clad beautiful woman. Where did the TSA inspector think this lady was going to hine anything? Or perhaps I shouldn’t ask.
Steroptyping is something I try to impart on my wonderfully innocent daughter. It could one day save her life or soul.
If someone looks like trouble, or dresses in a manner and carries himself in a fashion popular with those who like to cause trouble, the best bet is to avoid him. And may you be proven wrong, rejoice in the learning experience and update your stereotypes accordingly. (I’ve long since learned, for example, that not all Sicilians will try to sleep with your wife.) Stereotyping, in addition to all its other benefits, is cost free for all.
As pointed out by Professor Michael Levin many years ago (maybe in these pages?), by choosing not to associate or deal with a person I take nothing from him. It is, he said, like refusing to share my ham sandwich with someone. Have I TAKEN anything from him? No. Of course, in today’s world where everybody claims to be owed something from everone, such traditional and commonsensical notions have no traction. Sadly.

Som August 24, 2006 at 2:07 pm

The fact that all humans stereotype is a great reason to abolish government. Since governments are just groups of people carrying out their own preferences, their legislation (and any legislation) passed into law will destroy some aspect of equality before the law and thus not be impartial. Afterall, these days, the SEC looks at business executives with great prejudice, as cops look at african-americans and teenage boys with great prejudice, but the real prejudice and lack of fairness is re-enforced by partial laws (drug laws for minorities, anti-trust laws for successful business men). Thus, if you don’t want inequality before the law, then don’t have legislators create law because they have prejudices and preferences of their own, meaning don’t have legislators period. Instead, lets all read Bastiat – The Law.

bstender August 24, 2006 at 5:13 pm

i agreed with everything except that “we live in a world of scarcity.”

not sure where that myth stems from, but it is definately some sort of pathological error, causing much mayhem.

bstender August 24, 2006 at 6:40 pm

oh and “and that sometimes the reason stereotypes exist is because, well, they’re true.” is a disappointing stumble…stereotypes are by definition often accurate, but they are never “true”. an important distinction.

it’s almost as if he was some kind of redneck or something ;-)

Pete Canning August 24, 2006 at 7:05 pm

“i agreed with everything except that “we live in a world of scarcity.”

not sure where that myth stems from, but it is definately some sort of pathological error, causing much mayhem.”

Is this a joke?

bstender August 24, 2006 at 7:13 pm

Is this a joke?

no, seriously!

sunflowerseeds August 24, 2006 at 8:17 pm

Everything seems to have been said. Nevertheless, I think it is important to point out that stereotyping is justified under certain circumstances. The author pointed out several cases in which a person is reasonably justified to stereotype. It may seem paradoxical to use the term “reasonable” in the same breath as stereotyping.

However, one need not have overwhelming evidence to make the reasonable choice. This, of course, assumes that people only look to the available evidence to make choices, and this is not always the case.

On an aside, I tend to agree with all that you’ve written. And, if in fact we are in err, I would rather do so on the side of caution.

Bryan August 24, 2006 at 10:29 pm

For example, if somebody offered you $1 million to solve a complex mathematical problem and, furthermore, you could choose anybody on a university campus to help you, I doubt you would choose the Paris Hilton–type sorority girl or the Abercrombie and Fitch–wearing fraternity boy. Now consider the young man wearing glasses and a pocket protector in his short-sleeve, button-down shirt: would you not think that he is a better bet?

No I don’t. See that’s what’s wrong with stereotyping. Why would a guy wearing glasses and a pocket protector be automatically a better bet for the task at hand than some blonde sorority girl? I’m looking for someone who actually can help me with a mathematical problem and not for someone who merely tries to look like he could help me solve a mathematical problem. That’s where the snag with stereotyping is buried.

This might come as a surprise to most people who were exposed to all this Hollywood type-casting all their life. You see, as far as I’m concerned some pretty blonde girl might well be a math genius while I’m not so sure that a guy who just likes to sport a nerdy look can even add 2 and 2 correctly. You see, it might have to do with my background too. Not everybody who dresses up like an Indian is one. Not every Anglo who comes on to you with those honest-Joe airs can be trusted. Not every Anglo who talks like he really knows something actually has a clue. In my neck of the woods you learn in a hurry that appearances can deceive.

If you were a soccer coach and had to draft a player for your team and the only information you had was that Player A is from Brazil and Player B is from the United States, who would you choose?

Should be whom but frankly on the information there, I wouldn’t choose either.

Finally, assume that you are walking down the street and you have only two choices — either walk on the left side of the street or the right side of the street. Before you choose, you notice that on the left side there are ten tattooed, muscular men with shaved heads walking and talking together, while on the right side you see ten “clean-cut” men wearing dress shirts and ties carrying Bibles. Now, what would you do?

I’d take my chances with the muscular guys because the ones carrying the bibles are probably mormons and you gotta watch those crooks.

If you chose the “nerdy” student with the pocket protector in the first scenario, the Brazilian player in the second scenario, and the right side of the street in the third scenario, are you being immoral or “prejudiced”? In fact, what does the word “prejudice” really mean? One of the definitions that is normally overlooked is “a preconceived preference or idea.” In other words, prejudice simply means pre-judging.
Of course you may not be correct in your judgment, and your later judgments will be affected by the success or failure of the accuracy of your forecasts. But the alternative is to use a completely random basis on which to make pre-judgments, which is very silly and probably impossible.

If you choose the nerdy one, the Brazilian, and the bible-toters, all you’re showing me is that appearances can easily deceive you, you’re merely the brownie that comes along making the day for a con-man. The truth of the matter is that with the facts you have, tossing a coin is about as accurate as using stereotyping or prejudice.

When it comes to profiling done by the police on these grounds, I’m afraid I’d have to fire a police force like this because they truly promise to waste most of my time and money going on wild goose chases. It’s like asking me would I trust a guy in overalls less than a guy in a nice 3-piece suit. Excuse me? Who are these people? A plumber and a mafioso? A mechanic and an evangelist? A carpenter and a politician? A KKK-member and a guy who dressed up for his brother’s wedding? A rednecked crook and a dude who’s going to a funeral?

I’m afraid that my answer to all these scenarios is really that if you’re worth your salt as a cop, a security guard, a whatever, you’ll simply have to buckle down and get more information about the people in question. As it stands, with the information you have about any of these people, your stereotyping simply is no better than tossing a coin, than using a completely random basis. In other words, profiling, stereotyping is as silly and impossible as anything else that’s short of real work, yanno, going through the trouble of finding out facts about the individuals.

“… that going to the word’s Latin root, to pre-judge simply means: making decisions on the basis of incomplete information. Here’s an example. Suppose leaving your workplace you see a full-grown tiger standing outside the door. Most people would endeavor to leave the area in great dispatch. That prediction isn’t all that interesting but the question is why. Is your decision to run based on any detailed information about that particular tiger or is it based on tiger folklore and how you’ve seen other tigers behaving? It’s probably the latter. You simply pre-judge that tiger; you stereotype him. If you didn’t pre-judge and stereotype that tiger, you’d endeavor to obtain more information, like petting him on the head and doing other friendly things to determine whether he’s dangerous. Most people quickly calculate that the likely cost of an additional unit of information about the tiger exceeded any benefit and wouldn’t bother to seek additional information. In other words, all they need to know is he’s a tiger.”

This part is particularly silly and inane because there are numerous things you know about tigers, and one of them is that they’re wild animals. That’s not stereotyping but education. If you know absolutely nothing about this tiger than the fact that he’s a tiger, I’d strongly advise you to keep your distance and keep your petting and stroking for an encounter with your neighbor’s cat. That’s not a matter of stereotyping but common sense and knowledge of wildlife. You see, unless a tiger is specifically trained to welcome petting by total strangers, he’ll bite your hand off period. No ifs ands or buts about that. It’s uncharacteristic behavior for a tiger to be friendly toward strange humans. You simply can’t compare a wild animal to human society. Humans are humans, tigers are tigers, and to assume that a tiger isn’t necessarily a tiger is just plain stupid. We’re talking here about stereotyping and profiling people and not the characteristics of a totally different species.

Acquiring information is costly. Moreover, we assume that rational people economize. As beings who want to get the “biggest bang for their buck,” people will apply this rational behavior to information as well. Assuming that I am that person who, when he sees a tiger running at him, gets scared and tries to run to safety, am I being unfair or prejudiced? If I hear there is a murderer in my neighborhood, am I prejudiced if I start looking around the neighborhood for a suspicious looking male rather than a female?

While acquiring information might be not only costly but also time-consuming as well as requiring real work, to do anything else is even costlier and more time-consuming because it’s called a wild goose chase. If I see a tiger running toward me, I’ll try to intimidate him by standing my ground and if that doesn’t work, my goose is cooked. That’s just that. A tiger doesn’t run toward a human being because he wants to be petted and running away from him is really stupid because a tiger can run twice as fast as even an athlete. This still doesn’t explain why wasting time by stereotyping somehow is supposed to give me a bigger bang for the buck.

If there’s a murder in my neighborhood, should I look for a male or a female in my investigation? Well I hope any police officer has enough sense to study the facts, the evidence, witness testimony, etc. before he starts looking for anybody period. The murderer can really be male or female, the investigation should therefore revolve around motive, opportunity, murder weapon, etc. After all, you’re trying to find the actual culprit so you can arrest him and not a likely group of suspects who could have done it if they had. When the police just determines a statistical norm in this murder case, what are they doing aside from wasting time and money? Their job is to make an arrest, and if the one they arrest is the culprit, then by golly we got some bang for the buck.

This topic of course has implications when it comes to social policy. After 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration agents at airports, to show that they were impartial, would pull aside old ladies and little children to make sure that they were not carrying dangerous items that could lead to terrorism.

And just what makes anybody think that a terrorist couldn’t plant the weapon on a little old lady or a child? Somehow these TSA agents in the US are obviously lucky that this entire terrorism scare here is phony as hell because obviously they couldn’t spot a real terrorist if he had a T stamped on his forehead. Whatcha think? Terrorists are stupid?

Actually, America’s TSA is so busy sniffing up the hiney of every islamic grandma that they totally overlook Tim McVeigh, ain’t that a fact? I don’t believe for a minute that the planes on 9/11 were hijacked by any Middle Eastern terrorists, and I can even list you the reasons why I know it was faked. Where do you want me to start? A hijacker packing an instruction manual into his checked luggage that tells him how to fly a plane? A suicide hijacker packing his q’oran into his luggage? A hijacker rolling down the window of an airplane (huh?) to throw out his passport? An airplane crashing into a building and the wings disappear completely? The school where Bush was establishing his alibi never was evacuated. Why not? How did they all know this school wouldn’t get attacked after Bush leaves? How can anybody be so sure the terrorists would know precisely when Elvis Bush left the building? Then Bush flies around the country because he’s afraid he’s a target, or so he said, but the kids stay in the school like sitting ducks? And the next day Bush already knew exactly who done it, how it was done, how many people were involved, what weapons they had, and who their commander is. In fact, even after it turns out that at least 7 supposed hijackers are still alive and well, so apparently at least 7 traveled with fake IDs, yet Bush still knew who they all were. Interesting, ennit? What’s even more interesting is that since it would stand to reason that all the hijackers traveled with false IDs, how exactly did Bush establish that they’re members of this Al-Qaeda? It seems to me that even if you knew their identity, unless you have a list of all the members of this organization, how would you know if they’re members of it and not of some other organization? Or should I make it plainer? How about: Bush was the man who knew entirely too much.

This brings us back to motive and opportunity. The 9/11 incident took place in the US and therefore the American government had the best opportunity to carry it out. Doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t have done it but I doubt a guy on kidney dialysis there in Pakistan who’s been reported to hang out in a cave in Afghanistan (likely story since the man’s a multi-millionaire) would have much opportunity to order the USAF to conduct a stand-down, to avoid trying to avert the second and third collision, to make sure the airlines don’t cancel those 4 flights due to the small number of seats sold, etc. And now the motive. Well, 9/11 enabled Bush to bomb Afghanistan as he had promised to do in July 2001 already when the government there didn’t want this pipeline to be built. It enabled Bush to attack Iraq considering that the weapons of mass destruction weren’t there anyway (and now he even told us that nobody ever claimed Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 either — well bubba, then why exactly did you attack that country?). It enabled Bush to establish himself as the dictator over the United States, completely ignore the constitution and other laws, and empower himself with the enabling act aka patriot act. Most of all it made it possible for Bush to cower the whole world with his threats of further terrorist acts.

So yep folks, if the TSA were on the ball, they wouldn’t bother to check little old ladies and children, in fact they wouldn’t even bother investigating young Middle Eastern males. If those people did their work instead of stereotyping, they’d march right up to the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, and arrest that entire gang of terrorists there.

By the way, I am half-Hispanic and half-Middle Eastern. I am not your “stereotypical” WASP — but I’m sure you didn’t think that while reading my article … right?

By the way, while I didn’t even think about his ethnicity at all as I read his article, I suspect this author is an American, I’m sure, and quite an idiotic one at that. First of all, is there such an individual as a “half-Hispanic?” Hispanic means that the person is from a Spanish-speaking background which is what? A Filipino? A Puerto Rican? A Latin American? A black person from Angola? A Spaniard from Spain? Mostly it means that either his native or his second language is Spanish. So where does a half-Hispanic come in? Is that someone who can only half speak Spanish? Maybe speaks Spanish but can’t understand it? Or understands Spanish but can’t speak it? How about only knows oral but not written Spanish? What exactly is half-Hispanic? And incidentally, many Spaniards have Middle Eastern roots because of the Moor invasion of Spain way back. Maybe he’s not stereotypical WASP but he’s certainly as dumb as one. So he kisses up to the racist WASPs, what does that tell me? That his character is at least as “flawless” as that of Gonzales, Rice, and Powell? So he’s another token minority who’s kissing up to the Bush administration, what else is new? BTW, I’m Dineh from Arizona.

George Gaskell August 24, 2006 at 11:12 pm

So he kisses up to the racist WASPs, what does that tell me? That his character is at least as “flawless” as that of Gonzales, Rice, and Powell? So he’s another token minority who’s kissing up to the Bush administration

At the risk of prompting you to write another book-length thesis, I’ll venture this one observation, Bryan: since Mr. Malek did not mention Gonzales, Rice, Powell or any of the WASPs in the Bush administration in his article, and demonstrably did not “kiss up” to any of them, as you so delicately put it, it seems that you are exhibiting, with this statement, the very irrational prejudice that you erroneously attribute to him.

How ironic.

tz August 25, 2006 at 6:36 am

Libertarians, at least those who would argue for their side need to see both sides. That is why I recommend “The Professional Thief” which dates from 1936, but shows “the other side” is also capable of thought.

The one advantage of believing in demons (as well as angels) is that you must then consider someone who is intelligent in the extreme, has a monomanical purpose, and is entirely evil and wishes nothing but death and destruction. Sort of like the state.

WWLD? (or WWSD – what would lucifer / satan do?)

The “nerds carrying bibles” might belong to the KKK, and those with shaven heads might be a christian athletic or biker group.

(Another good intro is the recent Discovery Channel’s “It Takes a Thief”, where two ex-burglars would – with the owner’s permission – invade and steal.)

Terrorists aren’t dumb. I rarely quote fiction, but I do remember the scenario where an arab terrorist dressed like an orthodox jew (suit, hat, long beard and forelocks, etc.).

Worse, as a response just after 9/11, someone published (Carnival booth algorithm) on how any profiling makes us less safe. Terrorist group has 8 people. They send them through N airports to determine probability of being searched. They select out the ones with the minimal probability and he/she carries the weapons (the others can go through without and arm themselves on the other side).

But it goes further than that. Or perhaps it was why Rothbard didn’t consider slander and libel to be actionable. If you think Jews, Arabs, WASPs, Irish, or whomever are out to cheat you, you won’t trade with them. No bothering with credit checks, and as many in the mideval period did, they would borrow from Jews, and when they couldn’t pay, started pogroms. After all, they must be guilty of something – prejudice apparently is a court card when it comes to justice.

The negative side is “would you be willing to give those people equal protection under the law”. Those with the utre dress. Those on the wrong side of the street.

Just as in the sermon on the mount says “they have already murdered in their hearts”, and “they have already committed adultery in their hearts”, the person in the example has already judged the people guilty of violating his rights – perhaps only in potential, or a virtual sense – in his heart, so feels free to maybe, potentially, violate their rights.

So the person in the suit across from the person in the tie-dyed t-shirt stare across at each other and make up evil acts each other probably did, knowing nothing about their true nature – the suit probably cheated people in his business – the t-shirt probably went on a drug-crazed rampage…

And instead of greeting each other, they hurtle epithets.

You don’t mind being profiled? – wear a palestinian t-shirt and use El-Al, and then go through the street. Or a star of david shirt in gaza.

Freedom is hard, BECAUSE justice and reason are hard. And risky. Information is precious. But disinformation – a.k.a. prejudice – is free.

But error is error. Believing the best or worst of someone because of facades is not better than believing the state can solve all the problems. I can’t fight either example of ignorance.

Statism is the ultimate positive prejudice and profiling. It looks strong and says it wants to do you good, and is so, so, nice. It sometimes goes on to do horrible things, but it says the victims are either evil and deserved it or it was unfortunate but necessary.

And like the nicely dressed charming person, the State gets away with it every time – who are you going to believe, your prejudices about the state or your lying eyes?

Eric August 25, 2006 at 7:45 am

Stereotyping is nothing more than neural net pattern matching. Billions of years of nervous system evolution is not going to be changed because some people don’t like the way our brains work. If it wasn’t an economically superior survival technique, it would have evolved into something else.

Good article: could be another chapter in “defending the undefendable”.

Oleg Volk August 25, 2006 at 8:09 am

We certainly stereotype the TSA, expecting to be needlessly felt up and otherwise molested by them. The important distinction is that prejudging by stereotypes should not be used as the sole data point, only as part of the observation.

TGGP August 25, 2006 at 8:32 am

So how is being insane working out for you, Bryan?

mark August 25, 2006 at 10:16 am

Stereotyping is nothing more than neural net pattern matching. Billions of years of nervous system evolution is not going to be changed because some people don’t like the way our brains work. If it wasn’t an economically superior survival technique, it would have evolved into something else.

The very theory non selective screening is designed to to keep out.

scooter August 25, 2006 at 11:51 am

This is really a variation of a Walter Block lecture.

joe August 25, 2006 at 12:59 pm

This is completely bogus.

This is just an old excuse for prejudice behavior. Yes, I believe people have prejudiced. I believe it is human nature to categorize everything: food, entertainment, people, etc. However, certain areas of life such as hiring, housing, education, law enforcement need to be run without prejudice.

By his own argument. It would be perfectly legit to deport him oversees. Hey, the US should not expend the resources to determine if he is an arab terrorist or not. Hey even if he is not well do we really need more guys to mow lawns?

Where you supposed to read his article thinking: Hey this is the writtings of a guy too lazy to be a terrorist? OR Were you supposed to read his writing and think about it. Only later to find out that that he is an arab and a hispanic.

I believe his argument is incorrect about terrorism. The british and the Israelis, supposedly, have taught their security officer to look for behavior clues rather than physical clues when seeking out terrorists. They have found this more effective than just saying: Male, 20-30, no wedding ring.

By this argument: african americans would never play sports, or in this modern time, white guys need not try out for basketball. Men should not try to be cooks. etc Hey it is just steriotyping…. as he said “the reason for steriotyping is they are right.”

Closet Libertarian in the Military August 25, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Stereotype and do not initiate force (a variation of the Old Testament Psalmist’s “be angry and do not sin” exhortation). Unfortunatley, real world stereotyping brings about disasterous consequences. It’s seen in the propensity of my colleagues over in CENTCOM to shoot inocents that indeed looked suspicious but were nevertheless inocent. Sure, they live, as will I, through another day; but the outrage keeps making new real enemies. My best friend was quite a cosomopolitan guy before his deplpyment. i fear he’s gone over to the bigoted side.

Scott D August 26, 2006 at 12:24 pm

I wanted to respond to Bryan’s comments. I realize that you are very passionate about and, in fact, correct in stating that it is preferable to acquire as much information about a person or situation as is practical, but the lengthy argument put forth really just misses the point. You are making the argument for sound, reasoned judgment instead of predjudicial decision-making, with which I think you’ll find everyone here will happily agree.

That’s not the problem. The problem is what happens when that information is unavailable, or difficult, costly or risky to obtain. If you suspect harm from a person, often the only means you have of confirming that suspicion is to ask them, or wait to find out what they do. While it is true that someone who wishes you harm and has the time, resources, and intelligence to take advantage of your preconceived notions could deceive you in this way, the problem is hardly the “toss of a coin” that you make it out to be.

Really, what is at issue is the limiting of freedom that comes about because of legislative and social pressure. While the intentions are quite likely good, the methodology being pursued is deeply flawed. The answer to curing harmful prejudice is not to teach people to ignore the stereotyping mechanism of decision making completely, but to work to change the distortions of perception that bring them about, and encourage people to use reasoning to make there decisions when it is possible to do so.

Josephine Lindsay Bass August 27, 2006 at 1:29 am

Plain ole common sense! That’s is what came to my mind when I read your article.

Back to the basics is what this country needs. God gave you a brain use it!

“Live simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly”

Paddy O'Horton August 30, 2006 at 11:50 am

Malek, you’ve really outdone yourself this time. You have succeeded in stimulating an interesting debate, while, at the same time, flushing some true meatheads out of the bushes. Good work.

preeti September 4, 2006 at 12:40 am

Nice read :)

Kevin Nye September 8, 2006 at 9:34 am

“If there’s a murder in my neighborhood, should I look for a male or a female in my investigation? Well I hope any police officer has enough sense to study the facts”

95% of all crimes are perpetrated by men, that’s a fact. It’s a safer bet than a coin toss.

Kevin Nye September 8, 2006 at 9:47 am

“I don’t believe for a minute that the planes on 9/11 were hijacked by any Middle Eastern terrorists, and I can even list you the reasons why I know it was faked.”

You’re in O.J. land.

If it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk and tastes like a skunk, most often IT IS A SKUNK.

Start being rational and stop blaming George Bush for the pubes in your cereal.

Alexandre November 3, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Well, Your view is rather capitalist and not idealist. A better world means to live together rather than divided by groups. People like you do not help other people that want to fight for social and economic inequalities. Instead of economize we shall get closer and try to know the people, they probably have a reason for why they behave differently. People and tigers are not comparable.

Anthony November 3, 2007 at 10:42 pm

“Well, Your view is rather capitalist and not idealist. A better world means to live together rather than divided by groups. People like you do not help other people that want to fight for social and economic inequalities.”

Oh god… do you people not get tired of spamming this site without having the first clue of what you’re talking about? As if a view being rather ‘capitalist’ makes it evil, or non-idealistic, or ‘selfish’, or some other sort of anti-concept. I agree that warring groups are bad – so get rid of democracy. Problem solved.

scineram November 4, 2007 at 11:09 am



Sarah November 16, 2007 at 9:31 am

Well you see its not only stereotyping people inside of your own mind that the public sees to be wrong or unkind, its the sort of people who use stereotypes as a way to harass others. Name calling and such whilst using stereotypes is wrong. No matter how you look at it. Just for the simple fact that yes, everyone may say such things in their head but theres no need to call people down in that way. When people look at me they may think goth, emo, punk, maybe even that Im a bad person… but its when they shout across the room to me, calling me a rude slang to impress their friends… thats when the line is crossed. I admit that I do stereotype people, everyone does because we would all be at a loss of what to do if we didn’t, but I also don’t throw names around just to hurt someone else and make myself feel better.

Mark Baldwin November 16, 2007 at 10:47 am

With ‘prejudice’ lot depends on the time available to gather information to help you make your decision. If you’re on your way home and you’ve got to either walk down street ‘A’ past your group of skinheads or street ‘B’ past your group of clergymen, you have to make a decision on the spot. Some groups are just flat out more dangerous than others (men than women, blacks than whites etc.) and with no time to research your choice you go with what your head tells you is sensible at that moment. Since the cost of getting it wrong to you is potentially much higher than simply ‘offending’ someone, then it’s a no brainer if you ask me!

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