Friday, March 14, 2014

The Innocence of Youth

A very interesting study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology systematically overestimate the ages of children of color, particularly Black children, who are accused of crimes. The result is that they view them as less innocent and more culpable, and treat them more harshly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rate That Apology!

Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo (R) posted the following tweet a few days ago:
"Let's be honest, 70% of teams in NBA could fold tomorrow + nobody would notice a difference w/ possible exception of increase in streetcrime."
Booo! But that's old news. Garofalo has now, after initially playing defense, apologized:
"I sincerely apologize to those who I unfairly categorized," said Garofalo, who's seeking a sixth term in the fall. "The NBA has many examples of players and owners who are role models for our communities and for our country. Those individuals did not deserve that criticism and I apologize."
I find apologizes interesting, because there are some standard tropes which people typically use and which they are always criticized for. The most prominent is "I apologize if you were offended," which denies personal responsibility and foists the problem onto the (bizarrely) offended party. People always use this construction and it always goes over poorly, which makes me wonder when they're going to update whatever PR manual recommended it in the first place.

So off the bat, I give points to Garofalo for not saying that, and for specifically identifying the "criticism" itself as what was problematic, not the offense taken to it. If I was being uncharitably I could quibble with "those who I unfairly categorized" (arguably implying that there are a not-trivial number of persons fairly characterized as street criminals), but I'm feeling generous.

Garofalo proceeded to say:
"I don't have a racist bone in my body. I pride myself on the fact I've tutored in inner-city Minneapolis," Garofalo said, adding there are "no excuses. I apologize. I'm responsible for my actions."
Many people would say that the first part of that passage contradicts the second, but the instinct to try and contextualize is so strong that I don't think it's fair to automatically equate it with an "excuse". That being said, the "I don't have a racist bone in my body" is annoying defensive and not something Garofalo is necessarily in a position to verify -- certainly, his tutoring gig doesn't verify it. What would be ideal -- though it would never happen -- is for someone to acknowledge the possibility of latent racial prejudice and then commit to working to overcome it.

Anyway, all in all -- 6.5/10. Not bad, could be better, but still an improvement over the norm.