Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for July, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell’s hair

I don’t know whether this is true or apocryphal, but I’ve heard that Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point was inspired by his experiences as a multiracial man growing out his hair. He felt that when his hair was shorter, he was generally assumed to be and treated as a white guy. As his hair grew out, there was some length at which people would suddenly start to assume him to be and treat him as a black guy. In particular, he would start to get pulled over more often. This story, although it may not be true, resonates with me as a light-skinned guy with thick, curly, black hair. The main reason that I keep my hair longer is that when I don’t I get a lot more resistance if I mention being Black. When my hair is short the reaction is generally, “What?? No way! You’re crazy!”. When my hair is long the reaction is generally, “Huh. I wouldn’t have guessed that, but, yeah, I guess I see it.” So my life, my daily conversations, are just a little bit easier when my hair is long.

Oh, Bloomberg, you crazy racist bastard.

I love Bloomberg for a lot of reasons. I also gets under my skin for a lot of reasons. I suspect that most people are in the same camp as me. He seems like a controversal figure.

This week he defended the policy of frisking minorities in New York, saying that, if anything, too many white people were being frisked, since so much crime is perpetrated by minorities.


Not only is this crazy racist, but he had the audacity to say that people who don’t agree with him are lacking in basic numeracy and logic. His argument goes that 86% of the people frisked are minorities. But 90% of crimes are committed by minorities (a dubious statistic, but let’s accept it for the sake of argument). So, he says, logically, only 10% of the friskees should be white, when the actual number is at 14%. The fallacy that he’s falling into is that statistics involving the subset of criminals don’t necessarily apply to the population on a whole. Most criminals are minorities, but most minorites aren’t criminals. Therefore it’s a terrible basis for probable cause. Our justice system is based on the idea that it’s better to let a guilty man go free than imprison an innocent one. His loose understanding of how numbers work runs against that basic assumption.

I think it would be more clear to most (white, male) people if you switch race for gender. It’s certainly true that most criminals are men. But most men aren’t criminals. I think most of us would be rightfully upset of the mayor of a city gave their police free reign to search any man without probable cause, other than, “Well, most criminals are men.” It’s a ludicrously low standard upon which to violate our Constitutional protection against search and seizure.