Ever play that game? You know... you see a snatch of a crime story on cable news – or a newspaper headline, or an Internet teaser – and without thinking you go: “I bet that was a black guy.” Or, “I bet it was a white guy.” Or, “Bet it was a Latino.”
Bullshit, Dave. That is such bullshit!
Oh yeah? How so?
That’s, like, racial profiling, dude. It’s morally wrong, and it’s factually invalid.
So how come I’m usually right? Take this morning, for instance.
Here’s a headline I saw on the Huffington Post main page:
“LA ‘Discount Don’ Accused of Murdering, Beating Those Who Threatened His Bargain Grocery Chain.”
Instantly, my mind went bing... “Bet that’s a Latino.”
Click to the full story and, sure enough, the entrepreneur in question is one George Torres, “owner of 11 Numero Uno markets in poor Los Angeles neighborhoods.”
(You were expecting what, a Korean? Please...)
Now, was there anything wrong with me jumping to that conclusion?
I say no, not a damn thing wrong with it. Let’s be honest and acknowledge that we process information about our world constantly. This informs our instincts. That’s the way our brains are built.
So let’s play the game, shall we? It’s fun for the whole family! I put myself to the test, finding five crime-related headlines on the Net and trying to guess the race of the criminal.
Mark down your guesses – black, white or Latino (or... cough... Asian) – and I’ll post the correct answers when I find out for sure. (In most of these instances, photos weren’t published. I’m hoping that follow-up stories will include pictures.)
Don’t think about it too hard... this is about instinct. What do your instincts tell you, based on the information provided?
1. “Alleged kidnapper charged with sexual assault.” (From these six words alone, I guessed correctly.)
2. “Man arrested for shooting in botched robbery” – headline from New York’s Newsday.
3. “Pantless driver arrested after pulling into oncoming traffic.”
4. “LAPD officer arrested for investigation of DUI.” (I guessed wrong on this one.)
5. “Woman arrested for attacking husband with knife” – dateline Fayetteville, Georgia.
UPDATE (07/04/07): What a fascinating experiment this turned out to be! Thanks to the 12 of you who played.
First, let me share my own guesses:
In the first case (“Alleged kidnapper charged with sexual assault”), there’s a photo of the suspect, Adam Gault. White guy. Interestingly, among the 13 of us who posted a guess, 11 guessed white, two said black.
How did we know, based on those six words alone? And yet... we did!
The other four cases drew similarly lopsided votes. The second case (“Man arrested for shooting in botched robbery”), 11 of us guessed black, one said white, one said Latino.
The suspect is 18-year-old Joseph Bolling of Hempstead. I haven’t found a photo, but I sent an inquiring email to the Newsday reporter who wrote yesterday’s story. I hope he gets back to me.
In any event, you have to admit, something about the combination of “shooting” and “botched robbery” just makes you think black dude.
Just like the words “pantless driver” make you think white dude. At least that’s what 11 of us reckoned in the matter of “Pantless driver arrested after pulling into oncoming traffic.” (One guessed black; one guessed, uhh... cough, cough... Asian.)
That arrestee is 19-year-old Mark A. Gillis of Arlington, Mass. Again, no photo, but I’ve sent an email to the local journalist who broke the story. And based on a reading of the full article... hey, gotta be. Gots to be white!
The fourth case is where our collective “race-dar” went kerflooey. For “LAPD officer arrested for investigation of DUI,” eight of us guessed Latino. Four guessed white, one guessed black.
The cop’s name is Brian Lawrence Gossh. White.
The last one (“Woman arrested for attacking husband with knife”)... again, hoping to hear back from the reporter. But nine of us are guessing the woman’s black, while four say white. Her name is Lori Jeanne Grant.
Watch this space for more updates.
UPDATE (07/11/07): I just found out that Lori Jeanne Grant is black, according to the booking information from the Fayetteville police department. Most of us guessed correctly!