Like many others, the recent US presidential election and the subsequent increase in hate crimes have been very troubling to me. As a new father, there are so many things I want to explain to my son. I want to put all of this in context, explain why people sometimes do things that are wrong, and ensure that he grows up to be a kind and compassionate person.
At just two months old, he’s still too young to understand, but I’ll record my thoughts here with the hope that someday he will read through these posts and know who his father is a little more clearly.
With the election of Donald Trump and his ties to the “alt right” white national party, racism and antisemitism has resurged in our country in a way that I have never seen before in my life.
With this unfortunate turn of events, we must remember what racism and antisemitism is.
Popularly, we call it hate, we call it prejudice – and it is all of those things. But it’s likely that those descriptors don’t resonate with some of the perpetrators of racism and anti-semitism.
There are, of course, some people who are truly disturbed or evil, but I would guess that many racists and anti-semites don’t see themselves as hateful at all. Rather, in a way, they are simply misusing statistics.
Let me explain.
- You see people with brown skin committing crimes on the news and associate all brown people with crime.
- You see Muslims committing terror attacks on the news and associate all Muslims with terror attacks
At some level there is logic here (albeit incorrect logic). You see a person from X group do Y behavior – therefore all people from X group do Y behavior.
However, in the case of race or religion, this is not a correct conclusion. There is nothing about race or religion that causes people to do any specific illegal behavior.
If you saw a trend of engine problems showing up in cars made by a specific brand – you might hypothesize that all cars made by that brand are susceptible to engine problems. By making this hypothesis you’re tying an independent variable – the manufacturer of the car – to the dependent variable – problems with the engine. With proper research, you may very well find that your hypothesis is correct and there is a causal relationship between those two variables. A problem with a specific manufacturer could affect the engines in all of their cars.
However, if you were to tell me that all blue cars were prone to engine problems – that’s a different story. In this example, we still have an independent variable – car color – and a dependent variable – engine problems – but there is no possible way those two things could be linked. No matter what examples you see on the news, there simply is not a causal relationship between car color and engine function.
I believe this is precisely the mistake that some racists and anti-semites are making. They associate the independent variables of race and religion to dependent variables of crime and terror attacks.
Now, it’s true that some people with brown skin commit crimes and some people who are Muslim commit terror attacks. However, the fact of having brown skin or being a Muslim on an individual basis does not make any one person more or less likely to do anything illegal.
There is no causal connection.
Hopefully this logic will help my son understand some of the bad things that exist in this world and be a little better prepared to combat them when it is his turn to defend what is right.