Why You Treat (And Should Treat) Races Differently

A lot of people have the belief that the race of a person has no influence over what they think of that person or how they treat that person. I’m going to demolish that idea and explain why it would be irrational to act and think that way.

The simplest example to show that people treat races differently is to ask them what they would say if you asked them what colour a black persons skin was and what colour a white persons skin was. In these two scenarios they would give different answers.  This establishes the truth that people treat others differently because of their race, as skin colour is primarily determined by race.

Here’s a more complex scenario that involves decision making.  Suppose you are looking to find the tallest person you can from looking at résumés. You randomly select 2 from a database and they are identical except for the fact that one person is Caucasian and the other is Asian. Is it logical to come to the conclusion that one should expect that theirs heights to be, on average, equal?

We know that people of Asian origin are more likely to be shorter in height than those with a Caucasian background. However, simply using this fact to arrive at the conclusion that one should expect the white person to be taller is not rigorous, mainly because we have the ability to choose what information we use to reach the conclusion.

By using information outside of the résumé we open ourselves up to potential bias. For example, we could have ignored the fact that only female Caucasians are in the database, and only male Asians are in the database and this could potentially reverse our conclusion.

Bayesian inference is a very complex topic and it is easy to get wrong. Statistical analysis is often wrong even when done by experts. Problems of this nature is why major psychology journals recently banned p testing in their papers.

Knowing that someone was treated differently because of their race isn’t enough to determine that the person was wronged. For example, if a group of Africans and one Irish person are in the Sahara desert and have sun lotion enough for only one person and it is given it to the person of Irish origin, treating the Irish person differently by giving him the sun lotion is to his benefit, and makes sense as his skin is more vulnerable to damage from the sun. By treating all races equally in this scenario, you would needlessly subject someone to skin damage.

One common phrase I hear is “everyone is equal”. This is not true in a strict sense. People may have equal rights, but everyone is a different size, a different height, a different smartness. The collection of genes that make up a person can be good or bad. The genes for multiple sclerosis is bad and the genes for intelligence is good. To claim that all races have an equal chance of having certain genes is to reveal scientific ignorance about how genes vary between groups.


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