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Schrödinger’s Racist

The Cat is Out of the Box

One might say that I have become fascinated with Erwin Schrödinger and his infamous cat. I’ve certainly written about them enough in recent weeks to justify such an observation. For those who aren’t aware of the significance, Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment pertaining to a problem with applying quantum mechanics. Schrödinger proposed that if a cat were placed into a sealed box containing a radio active particle within a vial that could be broken at any time, the cat could be considered to be both dead and alive at the same time by any person outside the box. Only by opening the box could that person know the truth about the cat.

Schrödinger’s cat has been substituted by others with a rapist and I have added that the woman observing the rapist could be considered Schrödinger’s sexist. It works like this, A woman walking down an alley at night sees a strange man in the alley. She immediately becomes concerned for her safety and fears that he might rape her. The man is Schrödinger’s rapist, she has no way of knowing whether he is or isn’t a rapist so he becomes both in her mind. If she would not react in this same manner upon seeing a strange woman, she is a sexist.

Schrödinger’s rapist is an adaptation of Schrödinger’s cat often attributed to a female writer calling herself Phaedra Starling. Another adaptation can be referred to as Schrödinger’s racist or Schrödinger’s mugger. This is the idea that a White person might be fearful of a Black person encountered on the street. The mugger would be the Black person; the racist would be the White person.

In either case, if the racist or the sexist is fearful and thinks it is necessary to take precautionary steps to protect themselves (provided they don’t attack the rapist or mugger), I don’t really have much of a problem with this. Better safe than sorry. On the other hand they are no less a sexist or racist because they are acting from a sexist or racist perspective. The actions are based on prejudice and stereotype.

I bring this up because I have seen several article over the last few days concerning an author named John Derbyshire who apparently wrote an article for Taki’s Magazine that many consider to be racist and for which he was fired from his position at the National Review. The article is a sort of primer for use by parents of White children to teach them how not to become the victim of Blacks. After identifying what he considers to be differences between Blacks and Whites, he advises the following:

 “(10a)Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.” – Taki’s Magazine

The article goes on, but that’s more than enough to make my point. I’m not going to argue whether or not his statements are justified or whether his advice is prudent. Others have attempted such justifications. I am only going to point out that he is the perfect example of Schrödinger’s racist and he is speaking to other Schrödinger’s racists. Basically he is telling Whites to act as though their fears of Blacks are justified.

What I am going to say is that whether or not this advice is justifiable or prudent, it is racist. It is based on prejudice and stereotype.

There are better ways to instruct children on personal safety. The race and/or sex of a stranger shouldn’t matter. Children can simply be told not to walk into dark alleys at night. They can be taught to walk in pairs or small groups. They can be taught about gang attire, gang signs, graffiti, etc. and to avoid any person dressed in that manner or any place with lots of graffiti. If a neighborhood is burned out or abandoned, they should be wary of all the people they see, not just Blacks, or Hispanics, or men. Whites can be dangerous too, so can women. Teaching children only to fear Blacks, or only to fear men can provide a false sense of security making them more vulnerable in certain circumstances.

There is no room in society for fear based on prejudice and stereotype. It is hateful. It is dangerous. It is divisive. It is destructive. It should not be tolerated, justified, or promoted. If we kill off Schrödinger’s racist and Schrödinger’s sexist, Schrödinger’s rapist and Schrödinger’s mugger will cease to exist. Perhaps then, Schrödinger’s cat will be free to live or rest in peace.

-TDOM

Comments


  1. That thought experiment is one of the most misunderstood ‘scientific’ cliches used today.

    One of the most difficult things about QM is that it effectively requires consciousness (an ‘observer’) to collapse probabilistic wave functions. The thought experiment is around what qualities an observer requires in order to collapse the function (in this case, the 50-50 chance of a fatal poison being released). Many scientists would argue that a cat is not a valid observer, but this leads to the paradox that it can be alive and dead at the same time without realising it until the box is opened. A secondary philosophical question is whether someone else’s observation collapses the wave function for all potential observers, or if instead a given observer must be in a position to observe or have communicated the result of an observation before the function has collapsed for him (the “Schrodinger’s Friend” variant).

    On the point of your post, you’ve taken Derbyshire out of context. What he actually states in his article is that, one-on-one (and in a situation where you are not exposed to or expecting to be exposed to danger) it is absolutely correct to treat all individuals you encounter as individuals, i.e. to be dealt with according to their individual characteristics and behaviours.

    Point 10 in his article, which you quote above, is a statistical analysis he puts together based on his observation of black people in aggregate over time. It is written from a perspective of being aware that some situations are more risky than others in a statistical sense.

    You state that acting according to statistical inference is racist or sexist if it leads to behaviours that, to an outside observer, could be construed as prejudice against a particular group. The assumption here is of course that the outside observer is not privy to your statistical reasoning, hence they see only the outcome rather than the thought process behind your behaviour. In other words, the judgement that someone is racist or sexist is based on the observer imputing a particular mindset to the person being observed, rather than necessarily being a quality inherent to that person.

    You also mention that all sorts of dangers exist, making it wrong to identify particular cases, such as e.g. black teenagers in a group on a street late at night in a bad neighbourhood being potentially a high-risk situation. This is extremely disingenuous: of course, danger can arise from virtually anywhere, but rational behaviour is built on risk assessments that priortise various threats. The group exampled above is far more of a threat than say a pregnant woman wheeling a pram on the street, with all other factors being equivalent.

    The reason Derbyshire’s article has been vilified (and in an ad-hom way rather than constructive rebuttal point by point) is that what it says is basically true, and is what the majority of people (including blacks ironically enough) actually do in practice, even if they might not articulate the reasons for their behaviour in public.


    • “Many scientists would argue that a cat is not a valid observer…”

      Schrödinger did not consider the cat to be the observer. The cat was the object that needed to be observed. It was both dead and alive until an outside observer opened the box. Yes, I’ve seen the friend argument but decided it was irrelevent to my example.

      “The reason Derbyshire’s article has been vilified (and in an ad-hom way rather than constructive rebuttal point by point) is that what it says is basically true, and is what the majority of people (including blacks ironically enough) actually do in practice, even if they might not articulate the reasons for their behaviour in public.”

      I stated I wasn’t going to argue whether or not what Derbyshire said was true, because the truth of the statement doesn’t change my objection to it. Further, it doesn’t make it any more right because everyone does it. In your example, I don’t need to know that the group of teensagers is Black to know they pose a larger threat than a pregnant woman. But if I neglect that the pregnant woman might be a threat, I may be exposing myself to attack. She could be using it as a disguise to get close. She could be carrying a gun or knife or hiding a baseball bat in the pram. My point is that if you teach your children to identifiy threats based on stereotypes, they may feel comfortable in situations where they are actually vulnerable.

      TDOM


      • There has been a rash of female suicide bombers in the middle east. They don’t get stopped at checkpoints, don’t get checked, because sexist military and police don’t view them as a threat, thus making them the perfect delivery system for high explosives to crowded marketplace or bus deep within the safest of “safe” neighborhoods.

        Having served in the military police, I used to train to identify people by suspicious behavior. Training to work at a military checkpoint in some place like Iraq is similar to training to work as a customs agent at an airport – you look to identify nervousness, evasiveness, lies, etc., and not just do a racial / sexual profile of the people who are walking past.

        Statistically speaking, in White Suburban America, the biggest threats to anyone’s well-being come from the people who work at the local bank, own a business, drive the nicest cars, etc. How about when they forge a signature on mortgage paperwork which they do not have, on a house that they do not technically own, in order to illegally foreclose it? How about when they illegally dump toxic materials into the local environment in which kids play in? How about when they refuse to do maintenance on the 100 inner-city properties that they own, such as making sure the fire alarms work, and their tenants end up dead?

        Using the Shrodinger’s approach (profiling) is a sure way to miss complex, hidden dangers. It leaves people with the tendency to cherry pick the facts, inflate the “probability” of bad things happening beyond what is reasonable, and creates grating attitudes which actually makes people hate them. Because surely, the best way to be “safe” around a group of black teenagers is to get them to hate you for being a bigot, right? I can never get enough laughs at racists who think that if they just smile and say something pleasant as they hurriedly walk past, then no one will ever figure out that they’re bigots. Criminals actively look for anyone who looks uncomfortable and out of place because they’re distracted and have no friends in the area who would help them. Best way not to get mugged in a black neighborhood? Make some friends. Best way to get tipped off to a potential a terrorist in the middle east? Make some friends.


  2. Totally agree with you. It’s the same thing. Both the racist and sexist are acting deplorably.

    One thing I was thinking about to further press home the unfair nature of Schrodinger’s rapist to feminists is Schrodinger’s stay-at-home mom.

    Basically, many more women than men leave careers early to be stay-at-home parents. Based on Schrodinger’s rapist logic, firms hiring people would be justified to refuse to hire young women because they may leave. Some might not plan to be moms, some might be sterile, some have husbands that plan to raise the kids. But, the prospective employer may have a real and actual fear that the woman will leave suddenly. Therefore, women should just accept this behavior, because it is the employer’s reality.

    Obviously an unfair way to conduct business. And unlike the racism objection, it should hit home with feminists.


  3. Ah, precious. I can hear the John Lennon and “Imagine” playing in the background.

    There’s no need to look into the quantum box to find reasons to be racist. Just go to your local negro neighboorhood, Detroit, Camden, St Louis, Atlanta and every other multicultural jungle.

    There seems to be plenty of room for prejudice and stereotype in Africa, China, Japan, Israel, every nation but white nations. You hold us to a higher standard, which is more racist than even I am. Whites are supposed to be above being racist.


    • “I can hear the John Lennon and “Imagine” playing in the background. ”

      One of my favortie songs and one of my favorite artists.

      “You hold us to a higher standard, which is more racist than even I am. Whites are supposed to be above being racist.”

      I don’t hold Whites to a higher standard. I hold everyone to the same standard. I don’t know where you would get the idea that I would accept racism by any of the people in any of the places that you mention.

      TDOM


  4. “There is no room in society for fear based on prejudice and stereotype. It is hateful. It is dangerous. It is divisive. It is destructive. It should not be tolerated, justified, or promoted.”

    What you said cannot possibly be what you really meant. Since there are so many things that we cannot know, every act we commit is informed in some way by prejudice and stereotype. Arguing against prejudice and stereotype is like arguing against generalizing. Generalizing is just how we humans organize and make sense of the almost infinite supply of sensory information we have to process.

    What you probably meant to say is: “There is no room in society for whites who do not act as if blacks (or Hispanics or whatever) are exactly the same as whites. It is hateful. It is dangerous. It is divisive. It is destructive. MOST OF ALL IT IS DAMNED IMPOLITE! It should not be tolerated, justified, or promoted, NO MATTER HOW MUCH IT INCREASES THE PERSONAL SAFTEY OF WHITES.”

    Good luck with that.

    We all know that Derbyshire was only talking about the way most whites already behave towards blacks they don’t know. We usually just don’t admit it. But Derbyshire told the truth, which is treason against the existing order, so he must be destroyed.


    • “What you said cannot possibly be what you really meant. Since there are so many things that we cannot know, every act we commit is informed in some way by prejudice and stereotype.”

      Certainly you can carry the definitions of “prejudice” and “stereotype” beyond the context of the discussion of racism and sexism presented here and they might not apply. But I am using them in the context of such a discussion.

      I am also not stating that only Whites can be racist which is what your next comment seems to be implying. Anyone of any race can be a racist. Everyone (including me) holds some sort of prejudice and may act according to those prejudices. But I’m not going to justify it or say that it’s right.

      TDOM

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