#oscarssowhite: did you watch the show?

I warily watched the opening ceremony, and felt some relief that Chris Rock managed to call out at least the implicit racism (“the sorority racism:  we really like you but you are just not a kappa”) in Hollywood.  Every once in a while I turned the TV back on:  racism was a major topic.

here’s the transcript of Chris Rock’s opening monologue.

  1. The NY Times chief films critics discussed the ceremony here.  The beginning of their discussion:

MANOHLA DARGIS Our national nightmare is over: The 2016 Academy Awards are history. They were also history, too, just because for a few minutes Chris Rock tore the smiling mask off of the industry. Unlike most Oscar hosts, who just have to ease us through another grindingly dull show, he had a tough job Sunday night because everyone knew he had to confront #OscarsSoWhite, which he initially did pretty brilliantly.

Because while at first it seemed as if Mr. Rock was going to go easy on the room, with soft laughs about the “White People’s Choice Awards,” you could feel the room begin to cool when he started dropping words like “raping” and “lynching.” Rarely have the cutaways to the audience seemed as surreal. It was as if a chasm had suddenly opened between this single black performer and all those increasingly uneasy white people. The industry likes to obscure its racism and sexism, but its inequities and hollow insistence that the only color it cares about is green have become untenable as more people speak out. So, I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed watching that room squirm.

Examples of implicit racial bias at work

An article in the NY Times contains important information on research into implicit bias. It also has a number of useful, though upsetting, examples. Here are some of them:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

■ The criminal justice system — the focus of current debates — is harder to examine this way. One study, though, found a clever method. The pools of people from which jurors are chosen are effectively random. Analyzing this natural experiment revealed that an all-white jury was 16 percentage points more likely to convict a black defendant than a white one, but when a jury had one black member, it convicted both at the same rate.

A number of these can also be used as examples of white privilege.

Fantastic new directory of philosophers from underrepresented groups!

Ruth Chang writes:

It is fully searchable and really neat. If you’re a conference organizer looking for philosophers in your city who work on X, you can search the directory and come up with a list of such philosophers from underrepresented groups that fit the bill. If you’re on a hiring committee, and the usual suspects keep coming to mind but you’d like to do a more thorough search, you can pull up the directory and find all philosophers in the directory who work in a general AOS or even on a specific research topic. If you’re an editor looking for a list of possible candidates to invite to contribute to a volume or to referee a paper, the UPDirectory can help you.

This sounds like a really wonderful tool. Go check it out!

Philosop-Her on Gender and Journals

Philosop-Her has opened up another discussion on an important topic: whether quotas could help address gender balance in philosophy journal publishing. (The aim of the post is to start a conversation, rather than to argue for a view about this issue.)

In response to a comment that notes a familiar kind of worry about whether such actions may serve to reinforce prejudice, Meena writes (also in the comments):

Many people argue against affirmative action in the workplace for the reasons that you mention – namely, that it may be stigmatizing. In the end, I’m not sure if this is really the case. Research shows that once people are surrounded by people of colour, for example, and start working with them they start to perceive people of colour differently and more positively. I wonder if something similar wouldn’t apply to the case of seeing more articles by women in top tier journals. Once they are there, we may view the authors and their work more positively.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible”

A petition and a brave spoken word performance aimed at bolstering diversity initiatives at UCLA.

Now you tell me that I should be proud to be at UCLA?
When only 35 of us are predicted to walk across that stage?
When most of us are dropping out from the lack of financial aid
While Judy Olian, Dean of Anderson School of Management just spent $647,000 on first class flights and hotel stays
But waiting for an apology is asking for the impossible
Because no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible
But you tell me I should be proud to be a Bruin

When we have more national championships than we do black male freshmen
It’s evident that our only purpose here is to improve your winning percentage
So now black high school kids can care less about grades, just as long as the number on the back of their jersey doesn’t fade
And you tell me I should be proud to be a Bruin

Does affirmative action help the disadvantaged students it is supposed to benefit?

The Supremes are going to take up an affirmative action (AA) suit. One argument against AA may seem to be the result of benevolent concern for under-represented groups. It employs mismatch theory.

“Mismatch theory” says that AA clearly gets some students into better schools than they are otherwise qualified for. But such students are then at a disadvantage, since those who get in on merit will out perform them and leave them at a loss in class after class.

As Dan Slater in the NY Times says:

[Mismatch] is the idea that affirmative action can harm those it’s supposed to help by placing them at schools in which they fall below the median level of ability and therefore have a tough time. As a consequence, the argument goes, these students suffer learningwise and, later, careerwise.

And Slater seems to think a 1991 study of the law bar is significant, though very imperfect:

In 1991, more than 27,000 incoming law students — about 2,000 of them black — completed questionnaires for the B.P.S. (Bar Passing Study)and gave permission to track their performance in law school and later on the bar.

Among other things, the questionnaire asked students (a) whether they got into their first-choice law school, (b) if so, whether they enrolled at their first choice, and (c) if not, why not.

Data showed that 689 of the approximately 2,000 black applicants got into their first-choice law school. About three-quarters of those 689 matriculated at their first choice. The remaining quarter opted instead for their second-choice school, often for financial or geographic reasons. So, of the 689 black applicants who got into their first choice, 512 went, and the rest, 177, attended their second choice, presumably a less prestigious institution.

Those who went to their second choice schools did significantly better.

Duke researchers have weighed in and they argue that it is STEM fields that mismatch causes problems. Stem courses build on expertise acquired in earlier classes, and problems can multiply in very serious ways.

As far as I know, this is pretty much the whole mismatch argument, made famous in fact by Clarence Thomas. I’m really interested in hearing what you think of it. I’m going to restrict myself to pointing out that the mismatch argument proponents don’t seem very concerned about all the others who get into universities on something other than academic merit. For starters, legacy students and athletes are among them. Perhaps also famous actors, members of royal families, the children of presidents, and so on. And since the worry is that students who benefit from AA will be below the median, shouldn’t we worry about all the other students there too?

Raising Female Leaders (in India)

The February 2013 South Asia Newsletter of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab references important research results on Raising Female Leaders in India.

“A quota system for female village leaders in India [reserving for women in India a randomly selected third of the village council leader positions] changed perceptions of women’s abilities, improved women’s electoral chances, and raised aspirations and educational attainment for adolescent girls.”

Here is a policy brief [in PDF format] from April 2012 titled “Raising Female Leaders” summarizing ongoing research/data collection/analyses that confirm and clarify very promising policies and policy lessons regarding progress on deeply ingrained gender stereotypes (by Lori Beaman, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande, and Petia Topalova). (This confirmation and clarification -even if no surpise to many – arguably very, very important for all sorts of reasons…)

Featured/previously published evaluations:
Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India. Lori Beaman, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande and Petia Topalova. Science Magazine 335(6068), February 2012.

Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias? Lori Beaman, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande and Petia Topalova. Quarterly Journal of Economics 124(4): 1497-1540, November 2009.