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.)