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On Rational Racism

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Can we - should we - must we - discriminate against specific groups of people if it is expedient and rational?

For example, if we know that the propensity to be a terrorist is definitely highest among people of Arab descent, is it ethical to develop a "random testing" preference for people who appear to show pertinent physical characteristics?

Ryan Bingham: [on getting through airport security] Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love 'em.

Natalie Keener: That's racist.

Ryan Bingham: I'm like my mother, I stereotype. It's faster.

(this is from Up in the Air.. Ryan Bingham is George Clooney)

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My two cents: analyzing a national character supported by research is fine. But once it becomes caricature and over-generalization, that's gone too far.

Sometime's it's difficult to measure the fine line between the two.

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Don't really get the quote, but I think stereotyping for national security is fine, just not taking it to extremes, so i sort of agree with the above poster.

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I never walk behind Asians, they walk slow.

We do it all the time without thinking.

Stereotypes are there for a reason, they usually document the behaviour of the stereotyped people. Are there people who fit the stereotype but not the behaviour? Sure, but there are a whole lot more that do. And it's stuff like this that is useful for law enforcement.

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I think one must be careful with this. The xenophobic political party is arguing extactly like this, "more foreign people rape, so to limit migration is one part of the solution." One could also say that "more men rape, so let's limit the number of men". It doesn't really work....

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First of all, if you were to reword this, it would make a great knowledge issue for TOK. :)

I would have to say that I pretty much agree with everyone else and that I would have to say it's a "necessary evil". As long as it doesn't go to extremes, and it's used for national security, then I don't really have a problem with it.

Although, there are some issues with this. One issue is that many people selected in the "random" security screenings are completely innocent people, and it infringes on their civil rights (depending on what country their in.)

For example, I think a recent conflict in the U.S. the "Arizona Immigration Bill" allowed law enforcement officers, after pulling someone over for a traffic violation, to check if their of citizenship/permanent residency/whatever was legal. Also, I heard that this law would lead to racial profiling of people who would most likely be illegal immigrants in the state. I think that this form of "racism" is somewhat wrong, yet somewhat justifiable. As said before, racial profiling is a necessary evil, it's an insult to all of the people who fit that racial profile, who are innocent of the crimes that they are being profiled for. Yet, the government has some right to protect its laws and people. For example, I wouldn't want to be searched for bombs in Country X just because I'm of Caucasian heritage, and especially if I were a citizen of Country X.

I apologize for my ramblings lol.

Note: Country X and bombs aren't some symbolic mist to critique some country, they were just the first things that popped into my head lol.

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I think it can be very dangerous and easily be abused, such as in the case of the Arizona Immigration Bill mentioned above. And considering this racial profiling often seems to be raised in the context of terrorism and Arabs, what about the people being profiled? Won't it seem like discrimination to them? I don't think that officially designating someone as a potential security risk just because of their ethnicity is going to make them feel like an accepted member of their society. And is that a good idea when so many terrorists seem to be "home-grown" - that is to say, turned to extremism because they feel alientated in their own adopted country (e.g. UK, US etc.)?

In any case, even IF most terrorists are Arab, and say Arabs are 6 times as likely to be terrorists (I'm making up numbers here), the fact remains that so, it's only an infinitesimally small percentage: maybe 0.00001% of caucasians are terrorists compared to 0.0001% of Arabs (again, numbers are made up. But they would be very small). So although Arabs might be MORE likely to be a threat, they're still HIGHLY unlikely to be so, in which case in the vast majority of your racial profiling, you'll be wrong.

On the other hand, there is probably that increased chance, however small. So maybe racial profiling could be included in some way, but surely other factors would have a much stronger correlation to security risk, and should therefore be given MUCH heavier weighting. Like ... oh, evidence, maybe?

ok, sorry, rant over :) and, er, can I just say I LOVE the "up in the Air" quote?

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Can we - should we - must we - discriminate against specific groups of people if it is expedient and rational?

For example, if we know that the propensity to be a terrorist is definitely highest among people of Arab descent, is it ethical to develop a "random testing" preference for people who appear to show pertinent physical characteristics?

Ryan Bingham: [on getting through airport security] Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love 'em.

Natalie Keener: That's racist.

Ryan Bingham: I'm like my mother, I stereotype. It's faster.

Can we? Easily, we all do, even if we really wish we never did/would. Should we? Since your question is talking about rationalizing discrimination, well how would we do that? You can try to use some sort of scientific method and find some statistics but even if you happen to find a trend of crimes or whatever in one ethnicity but that only focuses on one (or many if you do multiple I guess).

Now, must we? No. I see no way to rationalize discrimination from my point of view. After only junior year in IB I have tried to stop judging based off look or anything else and yes it's difficult to stop stereotyping like that but it has certainly had more beneficial effects than detrimental.

As for your example, choosing who to stand behind just kind of shows how much of a selfish person whoever it is is. Picking specific people to stand behind so that YOU can get there faster. Standing behind that old person, even if he/she is old, and letting them go first and do it at their pace shows a decent amount of respect and willingness to actually put someone before you. None of that is directed at you by the way, just following the example :)

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I think stereotyping is one of those things, that when taken too far, goes horribly wrong. It's a necessary evil in life, and we do it even when we say to ourselves that we won't. That first, split-second judgment that we make when we see people for the first time is one of those things that can't be helped. But, it's important to see past stereotypes and understand that all people are different. It becomes a problem when you use them as a blanket judgment for every, single, person that falls under it, and judge them negatively for it, even when they have shown that they don't behave that way.

For the record, I don't think any kind of stereotyping, based on just appearance is right. =/ There's a fine line between harmless stereotyping that is easily dispelled once you get to know a person, and the horribly wrong type that is used as a base for discrimination against ALL people of a certain appearance. People sometimes can't tell the difference, and they often fall into the second category more often.

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First of all, kudos for an excellent quote from an excellent movie.

Second, although my position on stereotyping may seem like a double standard, rest assured it's not, and makes perfect sense to me personally.

Stereotyping is a fantastic tool, an unparalleled unit of measurement for otherwise unquantifiable things, when used in the general sense. And the use of stereotyping must always be checked and balanced by the knowledge that people exist as individuals, not as empty vessels of a homogenous collective mind. Any possible stereotype out there today will have exceptions.

Stereotypes are great for making a snap judgment, an initial reaction, something that can guide one's thoughts and actions following. But one has to take care to avoid making those sweeping generalizations permanently, and be open to the idea of confronting those stereotypes, and the idea of individuals being able to break them.

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