The Common Misconception of Bias

B

The Common Misconception of Bias
Sexism and Racism

FALLACY1

Particularly in the past few decades, the surge in tolerance and legality of ethnicity, gender and homosexuality has lead to a rather huge shift in moral standpoints. It is generally accepted that discrimination, including ethnic bias (racism) and gender bias (sexism), is largely immoral, and the explanation as to why it is immoral is almost universally understood; because distinction in skin colour, or sexual physiology, are not valid justifications of peoples’ intrinsic value. Unfortunately, this moral standpoint has caused a huge confusion in identifying bias situations – leaving people to be ostracized when they do not deserve it.

A Lady's False Accusation of Racism on Facebook

A Lady’s False Accusation of Racism on Facebook

I had just recently saw an image (portrayed above) of a woman complaining about a certain image’s racist remarks on Facebook, despite the fact that no racism nor negative stereotype was even remotely conveyed in the image. She gave a further explanation as to why she considered it racist, suggesting that the descriptive words used (slackass etc.) were inherently targeted towards black people, but her justification was nonetheless refutable, and simply misunderstood. Although some people agreed with her, I felt compelled to send the lady, whose anonymity remains, a message explaining in detail as to why the image in question was not biased at all. While the message* (below) was directed at her comment specifically, it still relates to any situation in which people’s comments are inaccurately accused of having biased undertones – something which I see far too often. Hopefully, the following message will give some clarity in identifying discrimination.

Original Image, Accused of Racist Pretense

Original Image, Accused of Racist Pretense

Facebook Message

I saw an image which showed you accusing an image of having racist pretense, and I’m going to tell you why that post isn’t racist:

     Firstly, the post wasn’t relative to black people at all.There were no suggestions that black people are lazy/slack etc. and the adjectives were attributed to the person in the picture, who was wearing ridiculously baggy pants. The mockery was targeted towards the clothing style. Just because you associated baggy clothing and laziness to black people, it doesn’t mean that the post associates its comments to black people.

     In fact, if you claim that those adjectives were typical of a black person, then you’re not only falsely interpreting the original post, but you’re the one perpetuating the negative stereotype on black people.
Secondly, even if it did claim that black people wear ridiculously out-of-proportion clothing, it still doesn’t constitute as racism, or any bias for that matter. See the definition of racism below;

racism: Noun
Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.” – Google result, definition

Just because the concept of black people wearing baggy clothing is considered stereotypical, it doesn’t mean that black people are marginalised or discriminated against; a stereotype can have truth to it, and that exempts it from racism. If somebody said that black people predominantly live in the housing Projects, which is true, then it would be a stereotype – not racism, because the comment is based on statistical evidence and it’s not suggesting that black people live in the projects BECAUSE they’re black. It didn’t claim that people vary in intelligence/character according to their skin-colour – it didn’t even remotely portray a stereotype about anybody.

If you’re ever confronted by anything which people deem as racist, then remember the fallacy: correlation does not imply causation.

If black people are statistically more likely to live in poverty, then it’s suggesting that black people correlate with poverty. It doesn’t, however, suggest that black people are the cause of poverty. In this case, if somebody ever suggested that black people wear baggy clothing, then they’re giving a correlation between baggy clothing and black people – not a causation.

Morgan

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Common Misconception of Bias

  1. Hi Morgan,

    That seems to be a good example of an erroneous accusation of racism. I think another important distinction to make is related to the difference between bias and criticism. I don’t think that “bias” arising from justified criticisms is “wrong”.

    Simply being of a particular gender, “race”, religion or culture shouldn’t automatically constitute a criticism. So bias cannot be legitimately applied on that basis. However, criticism can be directed at the abilities, practices and beliefs of individuals and groups. And legitimate bias might result from those criticisms. Someone being a member of a minority shouldn’t make them immune to criticism.

    It seems many people find it difficult to see the distinction between a legitimate criticism levelled at an individual or group (and resulting bias), and unjust, prejudicial treatment based on gender or race. Some confusion might simply arise from alternate definitions of “discrimination”: (1) unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things; (2) recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.

    A related problem is distinguishing races from religions and political ideologies. For example, it can be difficult to distinguish people that are of Jewish descent from followers of Judaism. It can also be difficult to distinguish people that are Muslim from people that have an Islamist political persuasion. People that criticise cultures, religious institutions and ideologies, and fight against their political agendas, are sometimes (unfairly?) characterised as racist.

    I think religions and political ideologies are fair game for criticism and justified bias. It may have been a mistake for some places to enshrine what essentially amounts to a right to be wrong, or, perhaps more dangerously, a right for each of us to believe we are right.

    I’ll stop before I drift further off topic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s