Tuesday, November 29, 2011

W.D.S.: The Category Problem

Haley Scholar Reading Groups

By Cindy Lyles

“Troublemakers: What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Crime” opens with a horrifying scene of a father fighting vicious pit bulls off of his toddler son. Such an emotionally-charging introduction sets the stage for Gladwell’s journey through the process of how pit bulls became portrayed as one of the most dangerous dogs and consequently became banned in certain states and even countries, although all pit
bulls are actually not the most vicious breed. It is merely a generalization.

Gladwell uses the pit bull generalization to parallel the issue of racial profiling, which is rooted in applying broad generalizations based on sole traits. He asserts that these traits are tricky: “Behind each generalization is a choice of what factors to leave in and what factors to leave out, and those choices can prove surprisingly complicated” (396-397).

In this process of “what factors to leave in and what factors to leave out,” we inevitably encounter the “category problem,” which is “matching a category of people to a behavior or trait” (398). In other words, Gladwell is describing the stereotyping of groups of people.

What are some ways the “category problem” manifests at SIUE?>


Jonathan W. said...

The "category problem" or stereotyping of people manifests itself at SIUE just as it does all around the world. Stereotyping relies on averages, and misconceptions and outright lies about averages.

Without even getting to the misconceptions and lies, averages are always a terrible thing to try to make any kind of useful opinion on. The world is huge, and filled with more people than we can even wrap our minds around. An average about people is never representative, however the categories are defined.

And an average is useful when you're looking at an overview. When you're dealing with an individual, an average is absolutely useless. A blonde who is dumb, or a racial minority who is a drug dealer, or a lesbian who is fat, is not a stereotype. Saying a blonde must be dumb *because she is blonde* is a completely false statement, based off a useless misconception about an average. It is sad that these "category problems" manifest themselves at SIUE just as they do around the world.

Katrina S said...

There are many stereotypes about groups of people, most of them are negative. SIUE is not exempt from people's belief in stereotypes. For example, there is the stereotype that most African Americans come from a poor broken home. While that may be true for some, that is not true for all. Some African Americans have parents who have been married for over 20 years and are prosperous. Some have single parents who are great providers and did not have to go without. I think more often than not people make stereotypes about every group of people that may not be true for each individual.

Wesley S said...

I think category problems will always exist as long as people have different cultures and beliefs. These problems exist not only at SIUE but all over the world. Unfortunately, it only takes a few members of a group to create the generalizations for that group.

There's good people and bad people in every group but society only focuses on the actions that stand out the most. In WDS, the actions of only a few pit bulls led to their banning in Ontario. This is just like how the actions of a few people in a group can create the generalization of that group. This creates a false reality because that generalization does not truly represent everyone in that group.

The best way to remedy category problems would be for everyone to judge a person individually rather than profiling them or lumping them in with some group.

Gabe T said...

This category problem is prevalant at SIUE- but I think that both positive and negative stereotyping takes place. Often times it manifests itself in a negative way and the racial profiling does take over. Whether it is a stereotype of African American students (loud, rude, etc), international students (smell bad, geniuses), or even one as simple as urban vs rural (city people are snobby and stuck up, country people are hicks). All these stereotypes are prevalent, but being aware of them can bring you closer to being able to educate others about the truth behind those generalities.

This can also be positive- a Haley Scholar, for instance, can be generalized as a high performing, ambitious student who cares about their academics. People in certain organizations like Greek Life and volunteer organizations have positive stereotypes about their groups- it is often dependent on the group itself to change a negative stereotype into a positive one through unified representation and making the true majority shine.

Jaron W. said...

Stereotypes are all over the SIUE campus. Students are judge by the color of their skin, the way they dress or what culture they represent. Not all stereotypical assumptions are negative but most of the time these assumptions are in fact degrading or derogatory. We should open our minds past one's appearance and allow ourselves to get to know each person as an individual. Never judge a book by its cover. You might pass up a good story.

Jaron W. said...

Stereotypes are all over the SIUE campus. Students are judge by the color of their skin, the way they dress or what culture they represent. Not all stereotypical assumptions are negative but most of the time these assumptions are in fact degrading or derogatory. We should open our minds past one's appearance and allow ourselves to get to know each person as an individual. Never judge a book by its cover. You might pass up a good story.

Janssen Shaw said...

There are a few ways the "category problem" manifests itself at SIUE. The main reason this occurs is because of perceptions of people based on their behavior. Individuals that are always social whether it be partying, drinking, etcetera, are looked at in a negative light. One may assume that those people are not on top of their academics and will not be around for long. Then there are those groups of people that are never seen other than in the library or the classroom. One may assume that these people are boring and have no social life but often times this assumption is incorrect. We live in a generation of assumption and perception, and unfortunately those two things are often times not the right approach to take.

Chico Weber said...

The "category problem", here at SIUE, manifests itself through social interactions. We form groups around campus based on what we "think" we know what is most comfortable for us. These stereotypes have been rooted in us from before college and we just continue to apply them to SIUE.

We build our stereotypes by absorbing daily events and reconfirming them with what we already believe. Every time we read about a crime on campus we all look to see the description of the perpetrator. Its not just because we want to be able to identify the perpetrator, but because deep down we want to reconfirm a stereotype we have already created regarding criminal.

We create categories to protect ourselves. This worked best in the past, where civilization was weaker and communication was lacking, but now we are in a different age. We are past the point of needing stereotypes to protect ourselves. To live free is to live without a category.

Daniel SHields said...

stereotypes are extremely prevalent at siue. People look as certain groups of people and expect them to be a certain way. for instance take black Greek organizations...Many unfamiliar individuals would assume that these students are only about stepping, strolling and partying, but in reality these are groups of people that have extremely high graduation rates. There should be less ignorance about certain people and groups. We need to reach out and communicate with people outside of our circles. what we find might surprise us

Monique Williams said...

There will always be stereotyping across the globe. So it is no surprise that SIUE deals with "category problems."

When I first came to SIUE, I remember people talking about the sororities and fraternities. Mainly I heard so many negative feedback about them. People complained that all Greek members were stuck up, rich, and very into the parting scene. But like a majority of stereotypes, this was not necessarily the case. I had the pleasure of becoming a close friend with a sorority member and she did not fit those stereotypical criteria s at all.

Another "category" problem that I often see at SIUE is that all African Americans come from the same back ground. So often people think that all blacks are from the hood, less intelligent, and not well disciplined. This is obviously not the case for all blacks. We have to remember that it is not accurate or fair to generalize a whole race, or any type of group.

The "category problem" could be eliminated if people would open up their minds to different situations and people. Spending time with people from different cultures and backgrounds is a big key in defeating stereotyping.

Tia S. said...

The category problem is manifested in many ways here and in our society in general. People are judged by their skin, clothes, the way they talk, where they're from and many other things. I remember my friend telling me about an incident in her class where a student was just completely berating the TA. The student was asking the TA if she knew what she was talking about and if she was qualified and just demeaning her infront of the whole class. From my friends perspective, she thought the TA was a good one and did her job well. My friend felt that the reason the student was berating the TA was because she was a foreign student.

There are many other instances of stereotyping around campus and people who give in to the category problem. Luckily there are also people who don't give in and look past the generalizations. They know that these "categories" don't apply to individuals and hopefully more people can see it that way.

Anonymous said...

Nia W.
I think it is unfortunate that the "category problem" exists but it's true; we all do it; we all place people into categories or associate people with certain traits or behaviors.
A category problem I have observed while attending SIUE would be assuming that all "predominate black organization" events are unorganized or that "black people" are unorganized.
I do not find that to be true. There are predominately black groups that do things in an orderly manner and will continue to and there are predominately white groups that are unorganized on our campus as well. Just because it's something that you may have experienced once doesn't mean it will continue to occur with other groups of the same race.

Abagail Thompson said...

Sadly, the “Category Problem” manifests itself in many ways at SIUE. One major way that resonates deeply with me is the generalization that all African Americans speak African American Vernacular English, or in other words Ebonics, and do not know how to write or speak adequately using Standard English. As an English major, I pride myself in my ability to speak and write well and efficiently. Due to the fact I am African American though, many people are shocked when they hear me speak using correct grammar. They often call me proper, or “white.” I cannot possibly be black if I speak properly. Because I speak properly, I am labeled as white, because this category problem associates proper speech with Caucasians and Ebonics with African Americans. I do not believe I should be labeled based upon my speech, or have my intelligence level ascribed to me. This category problem at SIUE separates African American students from Caucasian students, and projects an intellectual level upon African Americans in a negative way.

Gabrielle S. said...

Categorizing people is an issue all over the world, and of course this includes SIUE. People who are scared and sheltered growing up are probably the most guilty, but almost everyone at some point in time has put someone into a category. As a hispanic I have been asked countless numbers of times if I had to swim over to the states, if I can do some landscaping work, or if I can fix someone's roof. This is a perfect example of stereotyping, and you can pick any ethnic group and do the exact same thing. The media is partially to blame. TV shows definitely play up these stereotypes. It is important for everyone to be aware of the issue and try to make a conscious effort to be more open minded about people.

Derek T said...

Stereotyping is a problem that occurs everywhere and SIUE is no exception. People have always made assumptions on others based on common generalizations that are usually incorrect. Almost all of these stereotypes are made out of ignorance and a lack of knowledge about the people they are stereotyping against. A way to combat this issue would be to inform others or simply get to know the person you are making assumptions about before you judge them.