Friday, January 15, 2016

Systemic Ideological Segregation vs Systemic Racial Segregation

In an earlier post, I explained that while a white-looking person is less likely to be discriminated against for their skin-color, that doesn't prevent her from from being discriminated against for every other possible reason in the world.

In Megan McArdle's recent Bloomberg column, she demonstrated how impacting this can be by presenting a woman likely rejected for a doctorate program, at least in part, because she was home-schooled and went to a Christian college which the reviewers derided as an institution of “right-wing religious fundamentalists” that was “supported by the Koch brothers.” She opened this by telling the story as if the woman grew up in a high poverty neighborhood and went to a small, historically Black college. She framed the issue the way "white privilege" is typically outlined (remember she is actually talking about a white ideological minority in academia):
No, no one said “we don’t want blacks in this program”; they don’t have to. They just have to decide that traits common to black candidates, like growing up in a high-poverty neighborhood, or attending a historically black college, disqualify you from being “one of us.”
But the paragraph the that resonated strongest with me was her assessment of stereotypes:
[T]he problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue. (Lee Jussim has done a lot of work showing that stereotypes are often quite accurate.) The problem with stereotypes is that people use them instead of other, better information. Women are, on average, less likely to be interested in science, technology, engineering and math. That wouldn’t make it a good policy for a STEM program to discard the applications of all women, on the grounds that most women don’t want to be engineers.
 As I said in the earlier post:
[The bigot's] error is that ancestry is a useless proxy for weighing the human soul or guessing the path of a human life.

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