Haley Scholars Spring 2013 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?