No. of Recommendations: 5
I just started reading the posts on justice and bias and it is an interesting read. Before I shoot off my loud mouth I should probably go back and read them more carefully (particularly the statistical claims), but I've never been known for doing what I ought to. :o)

<You know what? I have no idea what it is like to be black. I am just a white guy sitting here trying to analyze the situation and start a dialog.>

And I think that you started a very good dialog about a topic that is very important as we move forward as a nation. Thanks.!!

<My actual statement was roughly "it sucks to be black with respect to criminal justice", the reason being bias.>

I think it probably sucks being black with respect to many things. All involving bias. Every species of animal, humans too, are conditioned to respond to things that they have experienced, or been taught, so that they can be a little "smarter" and stick around on earth a little longer (for animals it is for mating purposes, for human maybe just to see the stock market recover :o) ). Having said that, that is no excuse on the parts of humans to allow biases about other human beings to over-ride their abilities to make rational decisions based on single data points. It is important to remember that statistics about personality traits desribes a population's characteristic (average AND standard deviation) it doesn't necessarily describe an individual in the population's characteristic. And it is also important to remember that as humans we have many behavioral traits that are correlated to each other. So many that I would challenge anyone to be able to say that one particular trait is driven by one particular characteristic. I think that <ericB888> made this pretty clear with his red beret and suspicious behavior analogy. People *see* the red beret (cause it's in our faces and its immediate) but we have to sit back and watch to see the suspicious behavior. So our first model for determining guilt is: red beret means criminal. Step back and watch and our model becomes more sophisticated: suspicious behavior means criminal and the presence of a red beret amy make us even more suspicious. It is very important to realize that using the old model would capture criminals in a population of red beret wearers but using the new model captures criminals from the population described by suspicious behavior.

<Every one of us has advantages and disadvantages. If you are black, one of your disadvantages is that if you are put on trial for a crime, there is a somewhat greater chance you will be found guilty.>

Not a particularly happy situation if your only population characteristic is being black (or wearing a red beret, not that punishing bad fashion statements is a bad thing :o) ). I think that the US is much too wonderful of place to have this as an exceptable situation.

<On the other hand, if you are not a criminal, you probably will never be in a situation where it matters.>

Hmmm. Maybe. The problem with this is that once you are percieved to be a criminal law inforcement starts looking for crimes. And they start looking for crimes among your friends, your family because if you are in custody because of wearing a "red beret" then other biases start kicking in: like the ones that say "red bereted people have friends that are criminals too." Also, with the millions of laws on the books nowadays it's just not that hard to be a criminal. Maybe we aren't all drug trafficers, rapists, or murderers. But recently a car full of young black men was driving along side of me and there was a police car behind us so of course we were obeying the speed limit. They were pulled over. For what? If it was racial profiling who knows what crime they could be charged with : expired license plates, underage smoking, just being stupid and lipping off to the officer. If it had been me that was pulled over what might have been my crime: signals that might not work, no registration papers in the car, no proof of insurance. I don't have those things on me but I have them, of course. Which would mean a trip in to prove it to a judge or someother irritating inconvenience.

<I think many are reluctant to acknowledge the disadvantage because to do so invites remedy, which will be worse than the problem.>

The best rememdy is individuals in this society to start looking beyond the color of the beret and to start building better models for judgement. I think people will always judge (intuition based on experiental observation is part of what makes us human). That doesn't mean that we have to use stupid models. We have incredibly complex reasoning power, as a species (even if you base your judgement on your observations of the population as a whole) let's start using it in our daily lives. And let's not wait for the schools to teach it. Good problem solving skills and a parents responsibility to teach them start the day you are born.

<Think about the implication of society trying to compensate for individual disadvantage. And we are talking about individuals here.>

The implication is that we live as we do today. What happens is that as our models become more sophisticated and we see that we have punished individuals as a result of biases based on population traits we develop a sense of guilt. So we overcompensate. Again, it's a human thing. The pendulum always swings wildly. But you are correct, too much reaction is as bad as none at all. As I said earlier, the problems in our society that are driven by biases will ultimately be solved one individual at a time.

<It is the individual who is disadvantaged, not the group.>

I would have to disagree here. It is the group that is disadvantaged because of the bias. The individual is just the one that deals with the consequences of the bias. How they deal with it is what is of the utmost importance (both for them and our society). It wasn't that many years ago that, lots of people may have believed that as a women I wasn't as smart as a man in the same career field as myself. Or that I couldn't make good financial decisions. Or that I would become overly emotional if someone was critical of my views or ideas. I could have let that affect my career and life plans. But I didn't. There are still people today that think these things about me. I'm probably not going to change them. But I think that most people's models about women are more sophisticated today then they were 20 years ago. And they are more sophisticated because the individuals in the population that was being judged changed societies biases. I'm glad I didn't put my life and career on hold waiting for the goverment to come up with a plan that would change people's biases against me. I don't think it can be done by the government. It will happen when people who are judged determine that they will not wear that yoke any longer and when society as whole recognizes and rewards the ones that have taken off the yoke. The reward will be the development of more sophisticated models for determining behavior.


PS Sorry for the long post. Just can't seem to shut-up
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