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This is a combination post of some of the ways race is coming up in 2017 (so far). It is easy to become numbed to how many shocking things are said on a regular basis now, but we agree with John Oliver in this NSFW video—this is not normal and we need to remember that! So today, here’s just a sampling of things that we need to pay attention to and not just accept as “normal”. These are not normal things. What is even more disturbing is these are stories all published within the past week.

A lawyer who stood up for what was right

Here’s a terrific example of an attorney (Christina Swarns) who stood up and refused to believe that race (being African-American in this case) should be used as an argument for future dangerousness. This NYT article includes an extended interview with her and comments on “Dr. Death”—an expert witness who “routinely would find the defendant posed a risk of future dangerousness, and thus should be executed” (because Black men are dangerous). It is a powerful read.

Being discriminated against can (literally) kill you

“A growing body of evidence suggests that racial and sexual discrimination is toxic to the cells, organs, and minds of those who experience it.” So says an article by Dhruv Khullar, MD that was recently published in the New York Times. For those who want “proof” rather than anecdotal evidence, this article is full of facts found through years of research.

Police are “less respectful” to Black drivers

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published a study showing police were less respectful to Black drivers than they were to White drivers. The studies were conducted using data from body cameras worn by 245 officers during 981 stops in April of 2014. This article is available open access on the web and here is a sentence from the abstract of the paper itself.

We find that officers speak with consistently less respect toward black versus white community members, even after controlling for the race of the officer, the severity of the infraction, the location of the stop, and the outcome of the stop.

Here are some quotes from the research article that were published on the Black Legal Issues website:

The paper included examples of remarks that were rated as disrespectful and respectful. “All right, my man. Do me a favor, just keep your hands on the steering wheel real quick,” was given a negative “respect score” of -0.51 partly because the driver was addressed informally and because of the directive on hand position.

Another phrase, “Sorry to stop you. My name’s Officer [name] with the Police Department,” received a score of 0.84, with the officer’s apology and introduction leading to the positive rating.

The study found that white motorists were 57 percent more likely to have heard one of the most respectful statements in the data set, while black community members were 61 percent more likely to have heard one of the least respectful.

That’s our word and you can’t have it back”

In this powerful video, Bill Maher gets schooled by Ice Cube over Maher’s use of a racist phrase on his HBO show. Since this is Ice Cube (the famous rapper and actor)—it is also NSFW (Not Safe For Work) due to coarse language. It is strongly emotional and touching as an explanation of why it is never okay for White people to use the N word. Symone Sanders (the activist and political commentator) also has some choice words for Mr. Maher about the lack of privilege experienced by the Black women he referred to so callously. Bill Maher, for a change, is speechless.

 

Rob Voigt, Nicholas P. Camp, Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, William L. Hamilton, Rebecca C. Hetey, Camilla M. Griffiths, David Jurgens, Dan Jurafsky, and Jennifer L. Eberhardt  (2017) Language from police body camera footage shows racial disparities in officer respect. PNAS 2017; published ahead of print June 5, 2017, doi:10.1073/pnas.1702413114

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You have likely heard many stories repeated about increased racial prejudice since the 2016 national elections in the US, but is there any evidence-based proof that alleged increase is real?

According to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, yes—at  least when it comes to a willingness to say things aloud that have not been “okay” for a very long time. Vox has written a plain language explanation of this paper that you may want to look at to get a quick (and clear) synopsis.

Essentially, the message is that when you see leaders behaving badly, you become numb to the impact and give yourself permission to also behave badly. The researchers wondered if the results of the 2016 elections left people more likely to respond negatively to immigrants (as measured by whether they were willing to donate money to an “openly anti-immigrant” organization). The researchers did not wonder for long. There is a quote in the Vox story (from University of Kansas psychologist Chris Crandall) that is a wonderfully clear summation of what the researchers found.

Dr. Crandall says the electoral college winner did not “create new prejudices in people—not that quickly and not that broadly. What he did do is change people’s perceptions about what is okay and what is not okay”.

In a later quote, Dr. Crandall says that “it took away the suppression from the very highly prejudiced people. And those people are acting.”

(Vox also points us to Bloomberg for a more complete explanation of the research.) And then, Vox ends their article with this wonderful quote:

“We need to keep our leaders accountable for their bad behavior. If we don’t, it may not just become the norm in politics, but throughout American life.”

Here’s what happened in the research:

Before the election (according to the NBER working paper), 34% of the participants said they’d donate to an anti-immigrant organization when the donations would be made public. But 54% said they would donate if the donation were kept private.

After the election? The reluctance to make a public donation diminished with 48% saying they would donate when the donation was made public.

The researchers echo Vox (using more academic language) by saying, the election outcome did not “make these participants more xenophobic, but instead made those who were already intolerant more comfortable about publicly expressing their views”.

It’s been a few years since we’ve written about this sort of comfort in expressing highly prejudiced views. We posted about a woman in a mock trial who talked about “those Mexicans” while Black and Hispanic/Latino jurors exchanged meaningful glances. We also had a project staffed by multiple NYC attorneys who were new to Texas jurors and there was a shocked silence in the client observation room when one male mock juror made comments about a witness that were not backed up by any facts introduced into evidence.

One of the female jurors mentioned a witness seemed “depressed and beat down” and that she had been surprised by his demeanor. An older white male snorted and said, “Surprised? You’ve never been to New York City. I guarantee you, one in three business men in New York City look just like him.” The woman expressed confusion, and the man expounded further, “He’s a Jew. Now I don’t mean nothin’ bad by that.” (Our blog post from 2014.)

All the juror knew was that the witness was from New York. Religion and ethnicity—used to explain the juror’s discrediting of the witness—was both inaccurate and irrelevant. More often, bias is spoken about in code and no one says exactly what they mean. One code we’ve learned here in Texas (and almost certainly elsewhere, too) is that random references to people from “New York City” is often code for some anti-Semitic sentiment. Bias, in many forms and guises, is crucial to discern. And oddly, it is at its most insidious when the bias is completely irrelevant to the facts of the case.

We’ve seen this sort of bias expressed all across the country when people’s emotions are touched by a story (like this post from work in Arkansas). So no. It isn’t new. It’s been lurking under rocks for a while now. We repeat—this is not new. It is just that after decades of effort to create a healthier tolerance in our society we as a national society have back-slid, and it is seen as much more okay to express racism and intolerance following the 2016 elections.

Leonardo Bursztyn, Georgy Egorov, Stefano Fiorin (2017). From Extreme to Mainstream: How Social Norms Unravel. NBER Working Paper No. 23415. Issued in May 2017. http://www.nber.org/papers/w23415.

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We’ve written a number of times about dangerous women here and our readers (as well as random internet visitors) seem to be fascinated by them. But there is disagreement among those that believe their personal experiences/exposure define reality instead of the actual facts.

For example, we published a post on a prospective research study. The study questioned whether women were sentenced to more time in prison than men who were convicted of the same crimes. A legal blogger known for his moral outrage wrote about the post and asked why in the world we would use our blog to perpetuate a myth that did not fit with his own observations (nor his friends). His readers piled on.

It was odd. First of all, a “prospective study” is investigational and is not meant to be taken as fact. It is a first look to see if it was worth looking into further as full-blown and statistically controlled research.

How dare we report research being introduced by a well-regarded national research firm? Wow. It was a lesson for us in not engaging with angry men (especially those who hide behind pseudonyms) on the internet.

In truth, we don’t apologize for our previous posting, or for this one. We often write about preliminary research studies that raise questions for further examination. That is the heart of science. We often express our views about whether the follow-on research is likely to confirm or refute the original study, and we are not shy about criticizing flaws in experimental design or the researcher’s conclusions. But if there is a conflict between legitimate scientific inquiry and political correctness/personal opinion, there can be no quarter given—scientific inquiry must prevail.

But we digress. Today’s study is a report looking at the forty-year span from 1976 through 2015 and at gender differences in the commission of homicide by both men and women. We want to give you some highlights here of their findings and encourage you to read the full article if you are interested in the facts that are documented rather than internet opinions.

The researchers comment first that gender has not really been studied much in terms of homicide since most homicides are men killing men. However, they say, there are “substantial differences in the trends and patterns of female offending and victimization”. They think the patterns and trends in homicides by women get lost in the sea of men killing people. So they are looking.

Here are some of the differences they found when examining data collected over the past forty years (from the FBIs Supplementary Homicide Reports).

The killing of women (‘femicide’) receives more media coverage but almost 3/4 of homicides in the past forty years have exclusively involved men (as both predator and victim).

Women are much more likely to kill men (78%) than to kill other women.

Males are 10 times more likely to commit murder than women and are victims of homicide nearly 4 times as often as women.

Nearly half of all male murderers are younger than 25 but only 35% of women who kill are younger than 25. (Women are more likely to commit murder when they are middle-aged.)

Men (almost 3/4) tend to rely on guns to kill than women (almost half) with women using what the researchers call “more distant and cleaner” murderous strategies. Women are responsible for more than “40% of homicides involving poison, drugs, drowning and asphyxiation” (the last two categories are especially prevalent when women kill children).

The researchers also describe the drop in females killing their male intimate partners (which has declined almost 60% in the past four decades). They hypothesize that the reduction has occurred due to the “increase in the availability of social and legal interventions, liberalized divorce laws, greater economic independence, as well as a reduction in the stigma of being the victim of domestic violence”. In other words, women have options for behavioral choices in addition to murdering their domestic partner.

The article is based on dry statistics but is a fascinating read if you are interested in different ways men and women kill, whom they kill and how they kill. The authors think the study of why women kill has to be separated out from male-generated homicides in order for these patterns to be seen and thus to develop improved prevention efforts.

Fox, JA Fridel, EE 2017. Gender differences in patterns and trends in US homicide, 1976-2015. Violence and Gender, 4(2).

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Time for another one of those posts that combine the things we’ve been reading into a ‘this and that’ sort of post that gives you information on issues you may want to know more about and that certainly make you a more interesting conversationalist. Or perhaps a more memorable conversationalist.

Employers are less likely to hire women wearing headscarves

It seems like it has been forever since anyone suggested we were living in a post-racial society but it probably has been more than 150 days. (Sigh.) We’ve written before about women who wear head scarves but in the context of witness preparation and jury persuasion. So now we have a study that says if you wear a head scarf, you are less likely to be hired. This is research conducted in Europe but, at this point, we wonder if the results would be the same in the US.

The researcher created applications for three different females who all had identical qualifications. They were different only in their names and the photograph attached to the resumé. The same woman was in each photograph—but in one she had a German name (Sandra Bauer), and in two others she had a Turkish name (Meryem Öztürk). One of the Meryem’s wore a head scarf in her photo but it was, the researcher said, “arranged in a modern style to signal the applicant was a young, modern woman who could easily fit into a secular environment”.

The researcher says this:

About 1,500 applications were sent out in response to job advertisements during the course of the experiment. We found that when “Meryem Öztürk” wore a head scarf, she had to send 4.5x as many applications as “Sandra Bauer” to receive the same number of call backs for interviews.

When “Meryem Öztürk” did not wear a headscarf, she still had to send 1.4x as many applications as “Sandra Bauer”.

In her interview with the Harvard Business Review, the researcher recommends that employers stop asking that photographs accompany resumés. It would be interesting to see the results of a study that had that as an added variable—would employers treat “Sandra Bauer (no photo)” the same as “Sandra Bauer (western, with photo)” or “Sandra Bauer (head scarf, with photo), or any of the various iterations of the “Meryem” applications. The possibility has to be considered that for those opposed to Muslim employees, or who want to avoid workplace attire and/or religion issues, the lack of a photo could increase bias against those with ethnic names, out of concern that they may also (perhaps) wear ethnic attire or simply “be” ethnic (whatever that means to the hiring manager).

The Toilet Paper Roll Personality Test

The battle over whether the toilet paper roll should be placed with the end hanging over or under has gone on for ages. (Although we will tell you that it is definitively solved by looking at the patent application for the toilet paper roll which shows the roll should be placed with the end hanging over.) In a fairly ridiculous twist, researcher Gilda Carle says how you place toilet paper (i.e., “over” or “under”) tells us about your personality.

According to Dr. Carle, “over” people are more assertive, more likely to be in leadership roles, and more likely to have a take charge attitude. (Additionally, 20% of “over” people reported they had switched the roll around to their liking at another person’s house.) “Under” people are more submissive, agreeable, flexible and empathetic. People who roll “under” also make less money than those who roll over.

I agree—you didn’t need to know that. And anyone who starts including these questions to screen prospective employees? Well. You didn’t learn this from us!

Somebody’s watching you….

Cue a 2004 Motown song and you have the gist of this next tidbit. Tom Stafford over at Mind Hacks blog explains what goes on in our brains so that we just “know” someone is watching us. This is a weird post that basically says you really can “sense” it if you are being watched even if you are consciously unaware of it happening.

He ends his post this way:

So when you’re walking that dark road and turn and notice someone standing there, or look up on the train to see someone staring at you, it may be your non-conscious visual system monitoring your environment while you’re [sic] conscious attention was on something else.

It’s a creepy post. It also reminds us of the post we did a few weeks ago on the invisibility cloak illusion where we all believe that we watch (and judge) others constantly, but we, in turn, are not as watched and judged by others. Simply untrue, said those researchers. Neither Tom’s post nor our post are ‘feel good’ research.

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