Saturday, July 30, 2011

Process Equality - an idea worth re-repeating

I was writing over at Abbie's place in her new thread on the Twatson Nontroversy.  I made a perfectly fine point in the comment section, but it deserves to stand in its own right - at least to my addled mind's way of thinking.  So, with some re-wording to make it a standalone point, here we go! This is a structure I'm going to call Process Equality.

Dear Member of any race/gender/sexualorientation/whatever:

Haven't you learned that if people decide to take offense on your behalf, you should thank them? Their vicarious offense taken at a naughty word on your behalf means that you're wrong for not being personally wounded at least as much as they are. After all, if they were to take offense at the word on your behalf and you yourself didn't feel in the slightest degree aggrieved that would mean they're being unreasonable, and we can go around having that - now can we?

During the nonversation, an individual posting under the handle Chidi Baptiste [comment number 103] over there wrote, in part:

The main reason why we're not there is because racial minorities and women in the western world statistically tend to be more religious then [sic] white men

I'm dubious that this distinction is true. I'm aware there's a perception that this is true, but almost every black person I know (including the women) is irreligious. Hell, my father attends a UU Church whose priest is a reformed Jewish atheist black lady.

One of the reasons that we see certain demographic samplings is because people fail to treat women, blacks, gays, whatevers as equals in that they're treated as people who are so weak and fragile that they need to be categorized as being unable to walk through a door without requiring some special recognition. Take Obama being the "first black president". The problem with his being president isn't that he's black. Or that he's the first black one. The problem is that most people are so happy to show how progressive and "tolerant" they are they need to rush to the observation that he's black so that we'll all know how progressive we are. You'll know you've reached a good state of affairs when Obama starts being referred to as simply as "the president" without any mention of his skin color.

The same will be true when we stop marking milestones as "the first woman" to do x. How about when a person who is incidentally black, or a woman, or gay does something that the something done is noted exclusively for having been done by that person without the need to draw these distinctions which add nothing whatever to the thing that's been done? Why not just let it stand on its own merits with the cordial, obligatory attribution to the person who did it?

One of my complaints with, say, the military's promotion process is burdened by this insidiousness. And I have a problem with how scientific articles are refereed. And all similar organizations - why does it matter what race or gender the writer/applicant is? All that jazz bears not one jot on the merits of the issue.

Process Equality, a rough sketch:

To be promoted beyond certain ranks in the military, one has to submit to the department of the [insert branch name here] a promotion packet containing the  applicant's full name and picture. Then their works. How about if the applicant's paperwork is sent to one group, which uses a unique, exclusive coding system to track what it's sent. Then tie that to another coding system (though through a different section of the same organization that is wholly independent of the other) that tracks what's sent out. Then send that out to the deciding agency which only sees the code from the "shipping out" department who will have beforehand scrubbed the packet of all personal, gender, race, age information on which grounds the final determining authority then may decide the promotion according to the merits of the works done, constrained by the number of available billets. Seems reasonable to me.

Thereafter, the final decision is sent to yet a third agency which is completely divorced from the first two, and thus has no way to access a.) the original application, b.) the reception code, or c.) the shipped out code. This agency being responsible only for reporting (and ultimate reconciliation of the disparate codes) the end-result of the process, has had no access to any of the information until the final decision is fully complete.  Then, after all decisions have been made, the original applicant, ships his/her application to them. The original independent coding agency sends over the initial coding and the application to which it was originally attached. And the second department in the first independent agency sends over the shipped out code. And then the deciding agency sends over their results corresponding to the shipped out code so that this third agency can then marry all of those data together and release (publicly) all of the coding and sorting so that all of the data are for the first time tied to the original application.

It is at this point that suddenly everyone is simultaneously aware of who has been promoted.

Same with peer-reviewed journals.Devise some system that keeps the submitting party completely opaque to the reviewers. And the reviewers opaque to each other. And the referee is opaque to all of them who are also completely opaque to the referee. Only after all the reviewing and revisions are done and the article is about to be published should the codes be integrated to find out whose paper is being published and by whom it's been reviewed with whatever referee it had. This is a perfectly blind process which removes the ability to even have the appearance of favoritism. All parties are opaque to all other parties; as such, all that can factor in is the information being evaluated.

But we're not interested in these things. How do I know? I'm not the first to suggest it, and no one is implementing a completely blind system that equalizes the field in to terms of merit and merit only.
It's not at all, therefore, surprising to see that it's nigh impossible to have any reference made to certain prominent women, or black people, or gay people without making it known they're gay, black or female as though these labels bear at all on substance.  These attributions bear on form and politics to the detriment of actual progress. We're tribal as people. We know this. Why do we not arrange a system that recognizes we are that and then defeats it so that an actual meritocracy is what we have?  After all of that is said and done, we'll be a lot further along the road towards being able to allocate blame for failure and credit for success on where it should naturally lie:  in the mirror.


fhabets said...

Chidi's point is supported by the stats.

Of course, I have no idea if this wholly explains the low number of black/women turnout at atheist conventions, but at the very least it's a major factor.

Justicar said...

I'm going to respond to this one initially as snarky so as to better setup the highly embarrassing public apology I'll be forced to make if my prediction proves precipitous and unfounded. Bear with me as it's for effect and not substance that the salutation is in the form it is. If you're right, I want my wrongness to have that much greater an impact by a good jumping off point. Ok?

Seriously, did you just stumble off the fucking "find anything you could possibly want to find on google" turnip truck?

Let's see what else is within the remit of this "" place. I'm going to go there in a moment, and look on the homepage only. I will take the first couple of sections/lines/polls/announcements/linked stories/whatever they have by the following methodology:

I will read top to bottom, left to right. I will exclude any partitioned off links to other websites, blogs, panels, agencies, whatever. I will only read the first two items they have on their homepage. Ok? I've never before been there, and I have never to my knowledge heretofore heard of them.

Before I go, here is my wild, speculative question:
what are the odds that there exists a religious organization that has articles (presumably that one is statistically oriented?)/publications/lectures/polls/shit like that which reinforce the thousands of years old idea that there's some fundamental difference between heterosexual white men (always the straight white men in the west for some reason) and blacks and women (as well as other historically disfavored groups I hasten to add)?

Ok. I'm going to post this, and then go read over there. Well, after I finish writing an article I'm doing right now on Ophelia Benson, and perhaps pass out from taking some morphine)

Within the next day, if you haven't come across a post titled "I Was Wrong and I Admit It", you should take that as a clue I have found what I'll get around to reading in short order as being unimpressive.

Rayshul said...

I am waiting patiently for the day when people don't define others by random physical or sexual characteristics unless it's actually relevant to the subject at hand. Hm. I can't remember who made a comment about being an artist rather than a black artist... Basquiat? Anyway I'd sure like to punch every asshole who takes special time to review my books or short fiction with a little race comment in there. Actually today I spent about half an hour mulling over whether I wanted to call one such reviewer a gigantic cuntfeatured fuckknob... I didn't, but only because I don't think the editors would appreciate it.

Also: I've noticed with a lot of statistics and articles (not mentioning any in particular) that they don't take into account how many people from these groups are responding - yes, there are going to be predominantly more white people at atheist conferences in America, and that's because there are more white people who live there. They also don't look at the diversity within the groups. I can see for example that in America, white people as a whole might have overall lower religiosity, white people who are migrants or first generation Americans from Europe may have comparatively higher religiosity, particularly if they come from more religious countries.

Mnnnnyarrr. I liked this post when you put it on ERV, too.

Justicar said...

I'm glad we both like my writing! We should join a fan club I'm going to start about me and then pretend to only notice once in a while by saying "it's the official" one!

I think the process I describe is fairly obvious as a solution. I say that it's been otherwise noted - I don't know that it has, but it's so simple a system that I can't imagine I'm the first one to think of it.

Gee, boss, how can make a fair, merit-based system? Well, how about scrubbing all personal data and only look at people's accomplishments?

Nah, that'll never work - how will we make sure the right people are fairly being promoted?!

It's silly.

fhabets said...

The Google Turnip Truck? I hate turnips. But I like trucks!

Google and Bing to your heart's content, but you will find that African-Americans and women are less likely to be skeptics/atheists than men. It's a sad fact,(though not necessarily an immutable reality). As to why this is so, I've seen many explanations, some more plausible than others. More research is needed.

Anonymous said...

I know it says anonymous, but this is actually Chidi Baptiste.

I agree with what you have to say about merit-based accomplishments, and if you thought my comments on ERV were in some way supporting the opposite, then my bad for the confusion. Although I'm a bit confused how you would have reached that conclusion since it completely negates the rest of the long comment I left there, which said how frustrated I was as a black man with the skeptic/atheist community (at least its self-appointed spokespersons) always going on about needing to bring in more ethnic diversity as if atheism needs to meet some sort of quota. Like you said, we shouldn't be bringing people on stage to make atheism look inclusive, we should bring them there only if they have something worthwhile to say regardless of their background. Heck, anyone and everyone who doesn't believe in god/s is an atheist, so to me atheism is inclusive my definition. And that was the point of my comment.

Having been born in a predominately black town (in Mississippi) and lived in various black communities throughout the American South (Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia), I can't pretend that black communities are not overwhelmingly more religious than most others. Personally, I wish I could say otherwise, but the statistics are sadly not that far off from the truth (if at all). And I'm sorry to say but just because all the blacks you know are irreligious, doesn't mean the stats must be bogus or skewed somehow. I suspect a large reason for this trend is because (at least here in the South) the Black Church isn't shy about flexing its muscle in our neighborhoods, to the point that religion becomes more of an identity than a private belief. Again, this comes from a lifetime of observation (I'm 48). So in short, I stand by my previous comments, and I do agree with a large part of what you had to say.

On a side note, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I do like how I was cross referenced on my first (and probably last) contribution on the atheist blogosphere. Maybe we can keep talking over a nice latte or something ;).

Justicar said...

I certainly didn't mean to negate anything you said. I just find that narrow claim dubious.

I'm aware many people think it's true that black people more prone to be religious than no. To the extent that this is true is the extent that it's true across all strata; most people tend to be religious. Black people are people.

But I do not think that bears out that they're more likely to be religious in a perversely greater proportion than other demographics.

White men have a disproportionate representation in almost all fields; it doesn't mean we're better or more likely to believe or not believe a thing. It's just the way it works out, and is rapidly changing, which is good.

I'd like to take any old random sample at any old random meeting and see a roughly approximate cross section of society.

Given that it's statistical, this means that occasionally the distribution we get will be other than representative. This is supposed to happen in statistics as any representation is roughly as equally likely as any other.

Certainly when N > 30, the central limit theorem says that sample starts to approximate the parameter. But not necessarily so because it's random. Though the large trend is true, any particular sample is just as likely as any other.

Anonymous said...

Chidi again,

Well then, you and me agree on a lot. And I hope that changing trend gets here to the South soon enough.

Best regards,

Chidi Baptiste

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