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Posts tagged with narratives

[S]tereotypes aren’t so much about people totally projecting things that completely aren’t there but about people having a framework with which they interpret things that actually are there.

It’s not that racism causes people to see (for example) belligerent teenage boys where there are none, but that a white belligerent teenage boy is just seen as himself while a black belligerent teenage boy is part of a pattern, a script, and when people blindly follow the scripts in their head that leads to discrimination and prejudice.

So yeah, it is a fact, I think, that I was a bit off-putting in my Jeopardy! appearance—hyper-focused on the game, had an intense stare, clicked madly on the buzzer, spat out answers super-fast, wasn’t too charming in the interviews, etc. But this may have taken root in people’s heads because I’m an Asian and the “Asian mastermind” is a meme in people’s heads that it wouldn’t have otherwise.

Look, we all know that there’s a trope in the movies where someone of a minority race is flattened out into just being “good at X” and that the white protagonist is the one we root for because unlike the guy who’s just “good at X” the protagonist has human depth, human relationships, a human point of view—and this somehow makes him more worthy of success than the antagonist who seems to exist just to be good at X. So we root for Rocky against black guys who, by all appearances, really are better boxers than he is, because unlike them Rocky isn’t JUST a boxer, he has a girlfriend, he has hopes, he has dreams, etc.

This comes up over and over again in movies where the athletic black competitor is set up as the “heel”—look at the black chick in Million Dollar Baby and how much we’re pushed to hate her. Look at all this “Great White Hope” stuff, historically, with Joe Louis. So is it any surprise that this trope comes into play with Asians? That the Asian character in the movie is the robotic, heartless, genius mastermind who is only pure intellect and whom we’re crying out to be defeated by some white guy who may not be as brainy but has more pluck, more heart, more humanity?

It’s not just Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless, it’s stuff like how in the pilot episode of Girls Hannah gets fired in favor of an overachieving Asian girl who’s genuinely better at her job than she is (the Asian girl knows Photoshop and she doesn’t) and we’re supposed to sympathize with Hannah. Okay, here’s one more comment from the Internet that kind of encapsulates it. The kind of un-self-awareness of what someone is saying when they say they’d prefer I not win because I try too hard at the game, work too hard at it, care too much about it, and that they’d prefer that a “likable average Joe” win.

This is disturbing because it amounts to basically an attack on competence, a desire to bust people who work very hard and have very strong natural gifts down in favor of “likable average Joes”—and it’s disturbing because the subtext is frequently that to be “likable” and “average” you have to have other traits that are comforting and appealing to an “average Joe” audience, like white skin and an American accent.

Arthur Chu to Ken Jennings (via pushinghoopswithsticks), highlights mine

Filing this lucid account as more evidence that, mathematically, I want to think about racism / sexism / stereotypes of various sorts as being about lack of variationnot about location of mean/median/mode.

Related: scaly llamas




A billion chronically hungry people in the world via The Economist
As you can see from the right-hand scale, during the 1990’s and 2000’s the “bottom billion” poorest people have been starving or close to it.
Even though the right-hand scale is more important, the lines get graphical emphasis.
Therefore the two pictures, though nearly equivalent in absolute terms, tell very different stories:about a spiking crisis and increasing failure to deal with poverty during rich-world recession
about marginal improvements that continue despite a rich-world financial debacle.

Both stories were told by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, of the United Nations.
Of course statistical bodies revise estimates all the time.
But still this juxtaposition warns us to question the facticity of numbers appearing in charts.
All data come from somewhere. Just because the numbers appear on a chart doesn’t make them correct.

A billion chronically hungry people in the world via The Economist

  • As you can see from the right-hand scale, during the 1990’s and 2000’s the “bottom billion” poorest people have been starving or close to it.
  • Even though the right-hand scale is more important, the lines get graphical emphasis.
  • Therefore the two pictures, though nearly equivalent in absolute terms, tell very different stories:
    1. about a spiking crisis and increasing failure to deal with poverty during rich-world recession
    2. about marginal improvements that continue despite a rich-world financial debacle.
  • Both stories were told by the Food and Agriculture Organisationof the United Nations.
  • Of course statistical bodies revise estimates all the time.
  • But still this juxtaposition warns us to question the facticity of numbers appearing in charts.
  • All data come from somewhere. Just because the numbers appear on a chart doesn’t make them correct.

hi-res




  • the same possessions
  • made by people doing identical things
  • with identical machines.
  • There’s a price to equality. The way our lives have to become extensions of the production line.
  • We work together
  • we holiday together
  • we sit in the same traffic jams
  • we wear the same clothes
  • we live in the same house
  • we drive the same car
  • we have the same ambitions.
  • Nothing that I own is unique.
  • That’s the price of watching the clock.

"America is a democracy of common possession"

Boy, you wouldn’t hear this narrative nowadays. Now all I hear talk about is economic inequality.

Nor would there be such an emphasis on mass culture. I guess the internet really has changed things.