Facts II: Reality Strikes Back
This is a follow-up to my Facts Are Cool post, which was a follow-up to John Scalzi’s post on the SWM Setting in the Game of Life. Because sometimes blogging is all recursive and meta and stuff.
My post generated a fair amount of discussion, much of it thoughtful, some of it not so much. My favorite is the individual who tried to argue that the whole post was despicable because trying to attach morality to skin color (which isn’t what anyone was doing) caused the holocaust. Yeah, that comment got banhammered into next week. But there were other comments and arguments I wanted to respond to.
Don’t your facts show that straight/white/male culture is superior? Well, no. The facts are what they are. How you interpret those facts is another matter. You could try to use them to make an argument that straight white men are somehow superior to other groups, but I think that would be a poor argument.
For example, the fact that LGBT youth are up to seven times more likely to attempt suicide — if you think that’s because straight kids are inherently stronger than LGBT kids, as opposed to being due to bullying, threats, and hatred specifically directed at LGBT kids, then you’ve got your blinders on. Likewise, it’s rather absurd to argue that blacks receive longer jail sentences than whites for the same crimes, with the same criminal history and backgrounds, because whites are somehow superior.
Statistics and facts aren’t the be all and end all of the discussion. They’re one part of the discussion. However, it looks to me like the facts tend to support Scalzi’s argument about SWM being an easier setting, at least in my society.
Race is irrelevant. It’s all about class! Nobody said class wasn’t important. The fact that race, gender, and sexual orientation are all factors in the challenges people face (or don’t have to face) doesn’t mean they’re the only factors. Disability. Geography. Education. Lots of things intersect. Life is messy.
Asians have lower dropout rates and are more likely to earn a degree in four years. Shouldn’t we be talking about Asian privilege? The studies I cited showed that Asian/Pacific Islanders had slightly lower dropout rates (by .4%) and were slightly more likely to earn a degree in four years (by 3.5%). Of course, I also pointed out that Asian Americans were more likely to live in poverty (by 3.1%) and were severely underrepresented in Congress. Why the differences? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m going to repeat my previous point: a lot of things intersect. While racism against Asian Americans is still going strong, it’s not the only factor.
I don’t actually know what all of those factors are, but it’s something I plan to read up on and try to understand better.
By focusing on these things, you’re perpetuating the problem! We should be blind to race, gender, orientation, etc! You know what perpetuates a problem? Silence. Not talking about it. Turning our backs, plugging our ears, and pretending it doesn’t exist. As for ignoring race, gender, orientation … there’s a much larger conversation here, but in brief, these things are part of who we are. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is a good thing, and I’d rather celebrate diversity than ignore it.
Finally, please read this post by Michelle Sagara: Please don’t tell me how I should feel oppressed, thanks. It’s powerful, and addresses a lot of the things that came up during the discussions, things like intersectionality and individual vs. shared experience.
And now, a few more facts. Because as we know, facts are cool.
A study of orchestra auditions found that “blind” auditions, with no way of identifying the gender of the musician, led to a 50% increase of a woman advancing through the preliminary rounds, and increased severalfold the chances of a woman being selected in the final round. To phrase it another way, when the people in charge knew the sex of the musician, they were more likely to favor men over women than when they had to judge by skill alone. (Orchestrating Impartiality. 2000.)
“Black offenders spent a longer time in prison awaiting parole compared with white offenders, and the racial and ethnic differences are maintained net of legal and individual demographic and community characteristics.” Note: because the study was restricted to young men, the authors can’t say whether or not the results generalize to female prisoners. (The Role of Race and Ethnicity in Parole Decisions. 2008.)
In 29 states, it’s legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation. (The article refers to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. As of today, that act has not been passed.) (The Rights of Gay Employees. 2009.)
“The majority (73%) of family violence victims were female. Females were 84% of spouse abuse victims and 86% of victims of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend. While about three-fourths of the victims of family violence were female, about three-fourths of the persons who committed family violence were male.” (Family Violence Statistics from the U. S. Dept. of Justice. 2005.)
A study of how race is portrayed on prime-time TV for ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox found that “significantly more Latino (18%) and African American (9%) characters were portrayed as immoral compared to white (2%) characters … [and] significantly more Latino (18%) and black (9%) characters were viewed as despicable television characters, rather than admired ones, compared to white (3%) characters.” (The Portrayal of Racial Minorities on Prime Time Television. 2010.)
Looking at the world of books, Kate Hart did an in-depth study of YA book covers in 2011. 90% featured a white character. 1.4% featured a Latino/Latina character. 1.4% featured an Asian character. 1.2% featured a black character. 10% featured a character of ambiguous race/ethnicity. Compare that to the census numbers from my previous post: “In the total [U.S.] population, whites make up 66.0%, Hispanics are 15.1%, Blacks are 12.8%, APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander American) are 5.1%, and AIAN (American Indians and Alaskan Natives) are 1.2%.” (Uncovering YA Covers 2011.)
May 31, 2012 @ 10:03 am
To those who say “it’s all about class,” ask the amazing Nalo Hopkinson about the time she was dressed in business casual in a hotel hallway and had someone tell her they needed more towels in their room…
Jim C. Hines
May 31, 2012 @ 10:05 am
May 31, 2012 @ 10:32 am
Thanks for sharing, Jim. I had not heard of the orchestra study before. That was really interesting.
May 31, 2012 @ 3:53 pm
I’m generally not a fan of reality television, but I do have to admit watching the Blind Auditions on the voice, for just the same reasons noted by the Orchestra survey. It’s very interesting watching the judges reactions when the voice doesn’t match their mental image. (Of course, I am sure there’s a certain amount of casting bias before that point).
May 31, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
As far as the Asian rates, I think that is more of a cultural thing. I have known many Chinese students (first or second generation Americans) at my Kung Fu school, and I can speak from experience that their parents set a higher expectation on their kids’ work ethic and accomplishments. the same can be said for a Vietnamese friend of mine in high school. I have read this in many places as well, but wanted to back up the viewpoint with some anecdotal evidence of my own.
May 31, 2012 @ 7:52 pm
“90% featured a white character. 1.4% featured a Latino/Latina character. 1.4% featured an Asian character. 1.2% featured a black character. 10% featured a character of ambiguous race/ethnicity.”
Now, it might just be me, but that adds up to more than 100%.
Jim C. Hines
May 31, 2012 @ 9:12 pm
Many covers feature more than one character.
May 31, 2012 @ 9:48 pm
I recall reading an article about the orchestra audition study. In one case, the committee was blown away by the excellence of one (unseen) candidate. After they had picked that person, and she walked into the room, they were stunned and embarrassed. She had worked for the orchestra as a temporary fill-in on several occasions, and it they had never seen her as more than adequate.
May 31, 2012 @ 9:49 pm
Figured it was probably something like that.
June 1, 2012 @ 12:45 am
The class advocates tend to ignore stats too such as that white lower class people still receive shorter jail time or lesser sentences than black lower class people in criminal court. That black males are eight times more likely than white males to be stopped by police while walking or driving, regardless of their social class. That black people, particularly black males, still find it difficult to get a taxi to pick them up, even when they are well dressed (i.e. clearly upper class.) That in academia (where wealth and social class are roughly equal,) female professors are still less likely to be interviewed for teaching jobs, employed for teaching jobs, get tenure track jobs, get tenure, get promoted to full professor, become deans and university or college presidents than men, and only earn 80% of what male professors make at all levels, which is a bit better then the national average but certainly not encouraging. http://www.catalyst.org/publication/327/women-in-academia
The class advocates are trying to claim that people don’t react to skin color or gender, only to wealth, but half the time, people don’t know how much money you have when they encounter you. Yet the same patterns occur, and the same patterns of discrimination occur at upper and lower levels even with cues about a person’s wealth status. Wealth is a factor but wealth is a highly mutable factor. Discrimination for race, religion, gender, etc. transcend wealth issues. We live in a world where SWM can have it very hard in life and may be poor. But they don’t have to deal with issues that wealthy and poor non-SWM have to deal with every day, and those non-SWM at their same social class level, whatever that individual level may be, face statistical discrminations that their fellow whites in the same social class do not. That’s all that Scalzi was pointing out.