Saturday, February 26, 2011

White Hot Anger, Stereotypes, Prejudice and Discussion

Sometimes friends of mine who are black become angry with me when I talk about prejudice and segregation. I don't blame them. I understand it. If you let yourself stay caught up in the injustice of bigoted stereotypes you can become so angry that there is nothing left except an ultimate explosion.

Teachers and school administrators cause these kinds of explosions. Psychological profiling is a typical tool these days for police and school administrators. What is psychological profiling? Essentially Psych profiling is the statistical analysis of behavior probability. That's a mouth full, what the hell does that mean?

To make it simple some people exhibit particular behaviors. Psychological or behavioral profiling is not racial profiling, HOWEVER, people of particular races, religions or cultural backgrounds are more likely to exhibit particular behaviors than people of other races, religions or cultural backgrounds.

Still not clear? Yeah, I get that. Suppose you know someone who looks down constantly, slumps when they walk, rarely makes eye contact. In a single instance of behavior this means nothing. If you see a person walking down the street one time and they are doing this it means nothing. If you see a person behave like this all of the time it means something. The problem comes when you see people behave like this sometimes.

The subjective analysis of a primary behavior mode is where the problem comes in. Suppose a high school kid sucks at gym and feels bad every time they leave gym so they typically leave gym slumped and looking at the ground. If every time a teacher observes this kid the kid is walking from gym to math class the teacher may determine that the slumping, no eye contact behavior is a primary behavior pattern. On the other hand, if the teacher observes the same kid for the majority of the day they may observe that this no eye contact slumping behavior is no where near a primary behavior pattern.

So the teacher notices this “primary” issue and the teacher starts talking and the next thing you know all these amateur psychological profilers are finding behavior patterns consistent with a troubled teenager. They conduct an intervention and the kid becomes bewildered, then angry that they think he is someone who might shoot up the school. The actions of the teachers exacerbate the problem.

This problem is even worse because most school shooters are victims of excessive bullying and the amateur psych profilers actually become bullies.

On the other hand some school shooters go completely unnoticed until after they shoot up a school because the amateur psych profilers missed the real signs.

So what does that have to do with black people, segregation and anger?

It is all actually the same problem, the systemic belief that stereotypes have a basis in reality and we can use those stereotypes to predict behavior.

Psych profiling is much more difficult than that. To develop enough of a probability to accurately identify a potential problem you need overlapping primary patterns of behavior.

Dime store psychics are amateur psych profilers. “The body will be found near water” and they find the body in the middle of the desert by an empty canteen. “See, that canteen held water”. The issue is probabilities. The more general the assessment the more likely it is to be accurate.

What is the primary psych profile of a serial killer? A white middle aged male near water.

Is that a joke? Yes and no. It is true, that is an accurate generalization of your average serial killer. Does it describe all serial killers? No.

The idea is to find multiple behavioral patterns and focus resources on those people who fit within those multiple behavioral patterns. This allows for resources to be used most effectively.

A properly trained, reasonably objective, person can improve the odds or reduce the number of potentials. CAN, not WILL.

Psychology is subjective analysis based on previous subjective analysis and all subjective analysis is filtered through a person's internalized experiences.

What does that mean? This is actually pretty simple. If a person is abused by their father they will be more likely to identify people who are similar to their fathers as abusers. Essentially they will find the behavior patterns they are looking for.

The majority of psychologists and social workers are victims of abuse by family members, typically abuse by their fathers and that father is typically going to be a white male. As a result the majority of social workers will incorrectly identify a white male as an abuser about 1/3 of the time.

Does that mean every white male identified as abusive by a social worker is not? Nope. It means that a large number of white males identified as abusive are not.

Social workers and psychologists know this. This ain't news. Want to hear something really arrogant? Even though they know they are internalizing their filters these psychologists and social workers typically believe that they are objective enough to overcome their internal filters EVEN though they know that statistically they are probably part of the problem.

Huh? Ever see the movie “A Time To Kill”? Samuel Jackson tells Matthew McConaughey that he is one of the bad guys, that he knows Matthew McConaughey does not mean to be a bad guy, but he was raised a bad guy and he thinks like a bad guy.

I realized that about myself back when I was in the Army. I wrote a blog about that and you can hunt it down if you like. Matthew McConaughey realizes that he does think like a bad guy and changes his closing argument and Samuel Jackson goes free. Nice story, ain't going to happen in real life. Most people are never going to accept that they are just one of the statistical probability who are going to incorrectly filter someone.

You have to be aware that you are going to, not might but WILL, incorrectly filter someone and most people are so arrogant that they never think of themselves as the bad guy.

So the CEO of a company I used to work for is a Christian. One day before a meeting some of us were talking about jury duty and punishment. He was upset because some guy got away from man's justice when he had served on a jury. I shrugged. I pointed out that there is no justice with people, but that God's justice is perfect and inescapable. The person will either repent and change their behavior or find themselves judged.

This is a pretty basic Christian belief, but, my CEO was filtering through his own belief system which included the justice system people had created as an appropriate justice system.

I filtered it through my belief system. Since Christ tells us no one is good, that we “being evil” are still loved by God I accept that people are evil and incapable of righteous judgment so it really doesn't matter if someone goes to jail here on Earth or not.

In my belief system prison should only be used for people convicted of multiple violent attacks which result in bodily injury to others. Once imprisoned we might as well execute them since they are only imprisoned after they have been convicted of multiple violent attacks which have resulted in bodily injury to others.

Drug dealers, car thieves, etc can all do community service. I think all crimes should be punishable by probation and community service rather than jail time. Jail time is a waste and we can't afford to keep wasting resources.

Sound's like I am off track? Not really. You probably have a different filter system and exposing you to mine has probably made you consider your filter system. Filter systems regarding punishment for perceived wrongs are typically very strong.

As a society we need to bring these filter systems out into the open and accept that we are applying them in our decision making process. Until we bring them out in the open we will continue to waste resources and incite bad behavior in others.

A friend with a doctorate applied at a research organization. His work was very good, cutting edge and applied directly to a major research initiative at the organization. His application for employment was denied.

Why? Was management stupid or bigoted? Truthfully I think they were both. I won't go into the issues which lead to my belief. I am sure that these people have what they feel are “good” reasons for rejecting my friend just as they had “good” reasons for refusing to do the basic variability calculations behind a primary process variable in their research initiative.

I have a simple filter for this though, I don't believe there is ever a good reason to do something stupid so when someone does something I know is stupid my internal filter kicks in and it is very difficult to convince me that they are anything except stupid.

I am aware of my filter though, and I will try and listen. Occasionally someone will make sense of their stupid reasons although they very rarely ever seem to be anything except stupid to me and I am sure that other people can say the same thing about decisions I have made that they feel are stupid.

No one talks abut this stupidity because everyone becomes angry and offended.

There it is. The white hot anger burning and corrupting our society from within based on our internal stereotypes, filters and prejudices that we refuse to discuss because it just makes us angrier.