Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trend or Isolated Incident? Depends.

"Some polling suggests that Americans view high-profile shootings as isolated events, not evidence of a broader problem in American society," quotes an article in the Washington Post.

This quote illustrates the point that, in a hierarchy, it makes a difference whether criminals are from a low group or a high group.  If there are some undesirable behaviors, real or perceived, among some in a lower group, most often this problem will get spread to all members of the group. But when there is detrimental behavior from members of a top group, it's not perceived as specific to a group, but as individual, unrelated instances.

Here's an example. If one person who is a lesbian or gay molests a child, all of a sudden there is a widespread cry for all lesbians or gay men to be banned from teaching school. Anita Bryant led a coalition called "Save our Children" that stirred up a nation-wide panic.

We've heard no one suggest that white males should be banned from teaching because they are most likely to bring a gun to school and shoot the students. Hierarchical position does make a difference in how we in this country perceive criminal behavior.


Monday, December 3, 2012


The United States Military Academy at West Point has hosted it's first same-sex marriage held in the Cadet Chapel.

Charlotte visited West Point in the early 1990's for a research project, and was impressed with how committed they appeared to be in providing equal opportunities for women. A faculty member explained that even though individuals at West Point may not have wanted women, once it was decided to admit women, the officers got behind the command to make it work, no questions asked. One story she remembers was that male cadets who heckled female cadets at a football game were immediately disciplined.

It looks like the same commitment has been made about equal opportunity for lesbians and gays. We are well aware that parts of the culture that are sexist and homophobic take generations to change, yet at least the command at West Point appears to be giving the right message.