William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Another increase in moronicity

This story has been making the rounds (I first heard of it from Roger Kimball’s blog). It’s so incredibly asinine that it deserves broad exposure.

The headline from England’s Telegraph is Toddlers who dislike spicy food ‘racist’. The article leads:

Toddlers who turn their noses up at spicy food from overseas could be branded racists by a Government-sponsored agency.

The National Children’s Bureau, which receives ?12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says “yuk” in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

The guide is 366 pages long! Yuk!

Nurseries are encouraged to report as many incidents as possible to their local council. The guide added: “Some people think that if a large number of racist incidents are reported, this will reflect badly on the institution. In fact, the opposite is the case.”

That is to say, nursery workers are encouraged to rat out small children to the local Party Leaders. No doubt horrific injustices like denying a love of curry will be noted on the tots’ permanent records. Can re-education day camps be far behind?

This reminds of a guy (whose name I expurgated from my memory) invited to campus when I was still at professor at Central Michigan. The topic was—what else?—diversity. This guy, who had many letters after his name, was touting a theory called micro-racism. These are racists acts that are so small that the person perpetrating them, and the person being disparaged, cannot see them. Only people specially trained could spot and analyze the atrocities.

Professors were told that when overhearing something shocking like—if you have a weak stomach, please do not read further—“Where are you from?”, we should recognize the ill intent behind the words and caution the student to modify his behavior.

That’s the only example of “micro-racism” that I can recall. Not too many examples were given. This of course makes it easy for the PC Police to label anything they want as “micro-racism.” Only an exceptionally dull person could not take any phrase whatsoever and twist it into an example of intolerance.

I don’t have the National Children’s Bureau’s guide, but I can only hope they include material on micro-racism.

4 Comments

  1. The discipline of statistics has a dark record in these matters. RA Fisher, who invented ANOVA and much else in statistics was a devout racist and eugenicist. Statistics have been used to promote and defend racist policies ever since, including in Hilter’s Death Camps.

    It’s not you and it’s not me, but as heirs to the tradition we do have a responsibilty to speak up about the misuse of statistics, and especially in such hurtful usages. So I commend your report above.

    But we must look even deeper and more introspectively at the situation. One root of the problem is bad binning, improper subdivision of human beings into allegedly intra-similar groups. It’s a common statistical practice. The employment form says please list your race, but don’t worry, it’s just for statistical purposes.

    What the heck is a statistical purpose?

    Variation within the bins exceeds variation between. The binning is bogus, yet we are hardpressed to deny the faulty mindset. Is Obama black or white? Which bin does he fit in? Why does it matter? It is all a distracting gloss, or worse, a deliberate flaw in basic thinking that leads to tragedy, often of monumental proportion.

    Bad binning. It is an evil thing. Burn the records. There is no such thing as a statistical purpose. Human beings are not rats in an experiment.

  2. Briggs

    July 9, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Mike, you’re spot on.

  3. “Human beings are not rats in an experiment.”

    I thought we were human beings in an experinment being conducted by little white mice 🙂

  4. Micro-racism sounds similar to the old Marxist false conciousness. Being able to detect false conciousness showed you were an intellectually and morally superior person. The prols couldn’t tell they were deluded by false conciousness.

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