Monday, July 26, 2004

Something to Think About

Via Hit & Run comes this WaPo story.

Think you can spot an Arab American? If so, guess again. Most Americans are notoriously bad at identifying people by their race or ethnicity, asserts Jeremy M. Weinstein, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University.

"In a climate where discrimination against Arab Americans is on the rise, people are often getting it wrong," said Weinstein, who conducted the research with colleagues James Habyarimana of Georgetown University, Macartan Humphreys of Columbia University and Daniel N. Posner of UCLA.

That's an understatement. In tests conducted on the campuses of USC and UCLA in Los Angeles, nearly 100 study participants were shown a series of photos of young people and asked to guess their race or national origin. The images were selected to be a representative sampling of facial types of Asians, blacks, Caucasians, Latinos and people of Middle Eastern descent.

These students were able to correctly identify the ethnicity of Arab Americans only about 27 percent of the time.
And these were college students, mind you, and not students at fifth-rate institutions, for that matter. How well do you think most security personnel would fare at such a task, even if racial profiling were to be employed as many are demanding? And just how "Middle Eastern looking" are Ralph Nader and John H. Sununu anyway?

POSTSCRIPT: It's since been brought to my attention that there's yet one more well-known member of the "suspicious-looking Middle Eastern" races who's been lurking amongst us while Real Americans were going about their business unawares - Steve Jobs! PC-lovers always suspected there was something downright subversive and unAmerican about the Macintosh, and now we have the unequivocal proof.