26 October 2005

Assume

It occured to me today that one can never always assume and be correct. I again did that mistake of assuming. I assumed a fellow blogger to be a certain persona, since I previously read her entries about her life, and thus, I made inferences. But then, my inferences turned out to be incorrect.

Assuming, is in essence, abduction. Inference to the best explanation. It can be a useful heuristic, but it doesn't hold in all cases. In other words, it is falsifiable.

The bad thing is that, sometimes, assumptions are taken by some people to be the truth, and then extends that notion up to the point when they categorize a person due to the assumptions that they have made. This is also called stereotyping.

In legalese, this is sometimes seen as racial profiling.

I have noticed incidences of racial profiling here in Buffalo.

It's not that I was the one profiled, but I noticed the police do that with African-Americans.

The town where I live is called Amherst. It is a suburb of Buffalo. This town is where the north campus of UB is located. The south campus is in the city limits of Buffalo. Amherst is said to be the safest place in America (Remember my former blog entries about the friendliness of the people?). But even if Amherst is known for that, the police sometimes treat African-Americans differently compared to Caucasians. This I have heard and personally witnessed.

I came to have African-American friends here. Once when we were in the car, we were in the road, waiting for the light to turn red at an intersection. We wanted to turn left and were at the beginning of the line of cars waiting for the left light to turn green. Then comes this police car from the right, turning left. He is turning towards the street that we are currently in. I noticed the two police officers inside the car, and they stared at us for the longest time, all the while executing that turn.

I knew it was just a stare. But then, it also has this feel that you are guilty unless proven innocent in their eyes. I know that statistics show that there are more African-American people that are accused of crime than other ethnicities. But does that mean that one should take ethnicity as a measurement of prevention? It is hard when one is judged by one's color, and not by one's actions.

Filipinos are no exempt from the problem. Although it might be surprising that most Asians in the Western world are highly educated and are often stereotyped that way, that is not the case in other places. Filipinos are known for importing laborers, such as domestic workers and entertainers to places like Japan, Taiwan, West Asia (I don't want to call it Middle East, which is Eurocentric.), etc. So in airports, one could almost correctly guess where a certain traveler is headed, based on his or her clothes and looks.

If the traveler is a male, with a not-so-thick moustache or beard (Filipinos aren't known for having thick facial hair.), wearing casual clothes, having a regional accent when speaking the national language, thenmost likely, that traveler is a contract worker headed to West Asia. If the traveler is female, a bit sassy, wearing too much make-up, then she might be an entertainer bound for Japan.

Keeping these stereotypes in mind, I usually dress differently whenever I am travelling so as not to be categorized as such and thus avoid the sometimes harsh treatment given by authorities. I dress one notch formal than casual, so as to have less hassle in customs and immigration. When I arrived in Taipei for my week-long conference, some fellow passengers' bags were opened and checked, while I was smoothly let thru.

Well, I guess assuming is just one task that humans are so good at. Too bad it hurts other people at times.

5 comments:

  1. one of my fears when travelling abroad. well, i've mostly gone to asian countries only. but in december i'll be going to west asia (bahrain) & spend the holidays with my hubby. i've no problems when i go to HK afterwards. but i do hope i'd be treated nicely in my hubby's current place of work.

    tc! :)

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  2. And where is Hyubi's work? Bahrain or HK?

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  3. bahrain. bago ko umuwi ng manila mag-stay ako sandali sa HK para mag-shopping.

    baka meron ka mga ipapamana na books jan, bigay mo na lang sa kin. :)

    p.s.
    ang kuliti ay yaong tumutubo kadalasan sa mga mata ng mahihilig mamboso. una ko dapat isusulat kulani pero mas ok ang kuliti.

    cheers! ;)

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  4. Okay, please note that this approach springs forth more from an evolutionary biologists point of view than from a psychologists, but here goes:

    I believe this is a natural-defence instinct engraved in human neurological pathways. It's an instinct present in most other animals too - the fear and distrust of the unknown, and you must not forget that the higher you get up the food-chain, the tougher the competition gets.

    This doesn't mean that these reactions are standard - people willing enough can teach themselves to ignore this and eventually get it out of their system, but in a classic case of reversion, it tends to crop back up, never totally disappearing from the gene-pool, since it's not something we must get rid of for the survival of the species.

    Then again, like I said, psychology is not my field of interest, so my opinion may be biased toward the nature side rather than nurture.

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  5. filipinos are known for importing laborers, such as domestic workers and entertainers

    theyre decent jobs. they pay tax to the state. they bring back money .. whats wrong with being a laborer, a domestic worker or an entertainer?

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