Thursday, January 19, 2012

The knee-jerk racial apologists are at it again


I wasn't surprised to see that reactions to Microsoft's proposed safe navigation app for smart phones have already polarized along the lines of racial politics. CBS DFW reports:

The as-of-yet unnamed product is being referred to as the “Avoid The Ghetto” app by those who are concerned with where it will guide users.

“I’m going to be up in arms about it if it happens,” said Dallas NAACP President Juanita Wallace.

Wallace spent her afternoon at a rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and said she felt safe there, but fears the app may project otherwise.

“Can you imagine me not being able to go to MLK Blvd. because my GPS says that’s a dangerous crime area? I can’t even imagine that,” she said.

Microsoft says the app will use crime statistics to determine what parts of town are to be avoided. But it’s unclear where the data will come from and how it will be interpreted.

Microsoft has filed a patent for the app, but the actual product is unnamed and not available yet.

Opponents like Wallace fear it could hurt minority communities.

“It’s almost like gerrymandering,” she said. “It’s stereotyping for sure and without a doubt; I can’t emphasize enough, it’s discriminatory.”


There's more at the link.

Ms. Wallace is either so misguided as to be ludicrously uninformed, or she's deliberately lying. I can't see any other explanation for her ridiculous comments. If Microsoft's app is relying on actual, officially-recorded crime statistics, how on earth can it be 'gerrymandering' or 'stereotyping' or 'discriminatory'? Facts are facts, dammit!

When I worked as a prison chaplain, we used to get the same sort of negative, uninformed, knee-jerk reverse-racist comments from people like Ms. Wallace concerning the alleged 'racial imbalance' among prison inmates. They seemed to think that because a higher proportion of black people were incarcerated in the USA than members of other races, this indicated some sort of racist bias or discrimination against black people. They absolutely refused to admit that the real reason more black people were incarcerated, proportionately speaking, was because they were committing more crimes in proportion to their numbers than other races! That happened to be the simple, literal truth: but it wasn't acceptable to them. It was 'politically incorrect' even to think that, let alone say it: and those of us who weren't slow to point it out were alleged to be racists for doing so. Quite ridiculous, of course: but that's the way such people thought . . . and still seem to think.

More power to Microsoft's app, say I. I don't give a damn about the racial makeup of any area I visit, or through which I travel, but I care very deeply about how safe such areas may be. I'll certainly select the less crime-ridden areas in preference to those more plagued by such problems. In the same way, I don't avoid traveling to Mexico because of any sort of racial problem with Hispanics; I do so because there's a full-scale crime war under way in that country, with tens of thousands already murdered by feuding drug cartels. In both situations, race has nothing whatsoever to do with my behavior - risk management is the only criterion. If Ms. Wallace and others of her ilk can't understand that, or accept it, that's their problem. I refuse to allow it to become mine.

Peter

7 comments:

JD said...

She be entitled to her own facts.

Billy said...

My only problem is crime statistics do get skewed by law enforcment to make things sound better so this app will probably be worthless. In my own city certain crimes are re-cateogrized on orders from on high to make the stats look better.

Anonymous said...

When I worked for the air-ambulance company, it would have been very nice to have had something like this for when I had to drive to the hospital (in an unfamiliar city) at 0200 in order to pick up the med crew. Paramedics can be popular targets for robbery.

LittleRed1

Anonymous said...

"Facts are facts, dammit!"

What a quaint old fashioned thought.

Shell said...

“Can you imagine me not being able to go to MLK Blvd. because my GPS says that’s a dangerous crime area? I can’t even imagine that."

From one of Chris Rock's stand-up routines: "In any city in America, if you go to a street named after Martin Luther King, there's gonna be some violence goin' on."

Unfortunately for the woman quoted and the people like her Peter is writing about, Rock is absolutely right.

Shadow said...

Constructing things like this is a pretty common exercise in university geographic information system (GIS) classes. One takes datasets for arrest and crime report data (govrnmrnts at various levels maintain this to support apportionment of federal LEO funding as well as for planning things like patrol areas and new police station locations) and then conducts nearest neighbor analysis of the data. From the nearest neighbor information a dataset for crime density can be developed and mapped. If one has the software, such as Arcview to do this, it's not real difficult.

perlhaqr said...

They absolutely refused to admit that the real reason more black people were incarcerated, proportionately speaking, was because they were committing more crimes in proportion to their numbers than other races! That happened to be the simple, literal truth: but it wasn't acceptable to them.

This might be true, but the proportion of black to white prisoners incarcerated isn't necessarily evidence one way or the other.

A categorically bigoted justice system would produce the same result, with different inputs. If black people were more likely to be convicted and imprisoned for the same crime, or sentencing guidelines were stacked against crimes more likely to be committed by black people (the 100:1 weight ratios used for sentencing between powder and crack cocaine, for instance), you would end up with proportionally more black people in prison, without necessarily a higher proportion of black people actually committing crimes.

I'm willing to accept the proposal that black people commit more crime, proportionally, but conviction rates aren't the be all and end all of evidence to that effect.