Friday, September 17, 2010

Homophobic Hemophiliacs and Racist Mathematicians

I avoided donating blood for years but I've been trying to make up for it lately.  This week I gave my tenth pint of blood.  I actually enjoy giving and will continue giving even though this last was a bad experience (It was a needle problem).

Homophobic Hemophiliacs

One of the questions on the paperwork to donate blood that always surprises me is specifically for men: "Have you ever had sex with a man?".    While homophobia is frowned upon, is it okay for a hemophiliac to be afraid of a homosexual man's blood?

In an attempt at civil discourse, it is important to identify the strengths and weaknesses of any position.  It is true that many people have unfair prejudices related to other people's sexual orientation.  It is also true that even with full acceptance by society, there would still be negative consequences of homosexuality.  When the LGBT community is willing to have this discussion and not intimidate people into silence, then we will be closer to having civil discourse.  (Note: I'm referring to the recent California hearing on Prop. 8 where many witnesses backed out when the plaintiffs fought for a televised hearing).

Racist Mathematicians

Have you ever thought about how mathematicians are racists?  Actually not all mathematicians, just the ones that figure out your credit score.  They claim to be objective by using information such as:
  • How good are you at paying off your debt?
    • Have you been late on payments?
    • Have you defaulted on any loans?
  • How much debt do you have as a percentage of the credit available to you?
The problem is that Blacks and Hispanics have lower credit scores than Whites and Asians.  Is this racism?  Is it a justification to be racist?  If "they" are credit risks, then I do have a right to discriminate against them?  The answer of course is no, no and no.  The reason is that:

"All ________s are not credit risks.  All credit risks are not  ________".  

(Feel free to insert White, Asian, Black, Hispanic or your own race/gender in the blank.)

The credit score formula does not include skin color.  Low credit scores, however, could be a manifestation of systemic racism.  Racial preferences in education and with job opportunities could in the long run result in lower credit scores.  But even here there are counter examples:

"A ________ can be more qualified than a non-________".

(Once again, insert White, Asian, Black, Hispanic or your own race/gender in the blank.)

Once again, civil discourse requires us to look past race.  If there is a group of Whites (or any other color) with low credit scores, shouldn't we desire to provide resources (training, education, job opportunities).  Wouldn't society as a whole benefit from higher credit scores?  Of course not everyone will respond to our efforts, but that doesn't mean we don't try.
"All ________s deserve the opportunity to succeed.  
Some ________s will succeed with help from others.  
Some ________s will reject our best efforts to help them succeed".

(Once again, insert White, Asian, Black, Hispanic or your own race/gender in the blank.)

*Inspired by Thomas Sowell

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Another one of these shibboleths is the absolute ban on discussing why black athletes (I refuse to use the term "African-American" on principle) dominate some positions in some sports (e.g., what's the percentage of NFL starting running backs and wide receivers who are black? It's several times the prevalence of blacks in the male 22-35 year old population). This one is particularly interesting to evolutionary biologists because it is another of many indicators that the concept of "race", which we've been told for quite a while is meaningless at the genetic level, is actually significant. Teasing out these kinds of connections is not at all racist, but is a powerful tool to examine the recent evolution of humanity and several important facets of human nature.

The blood donation question about male homosexual behavior is, of course, still relevant because of the demographics of HIV infection, but may still become too politically incorrect to survive. FYI, as you probably know but I'll say anyway, it's especially relevant to hemophiliacs because the clotting factors on which they depend take thousands of blood donations for each dose, so contaminants such as HIV (and hepatitis B and C) are concentrated.

What a world when basic scientific inquiry is politically incorrect...