Friday, February 3, 2012

90% Of All Statistics Are Made Up

"I know an African-American mother who was afraid to send her daughter to St. Louis schools because she acted too white. Speaking proper English and doing well in school, and I old and don't understand when I am saying racist things."

At least that is how I think the sentence would have ended if I hadn't jumped across my plate of bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin to strangle some sense into him. My wife works as a teacher in St. Louis Public Schools and I work at an alternative program in a neighboring district, and we are both in a position to see plenty of black people "acting" white in our classrooms.

My wife and I were like the polar bears on Lost, out of our habitat and confounding everyone we encountered. We were actually attending our first progressive dinner, a bizarre ritual in which participants pay a sum of money in order to eat with relative and complete strangers. Ostensibly it is to raise money for our son Catholic school. Yes, that is right. We are defenders of public schools, but are unwilling to send our son to his home school. We could test him and get him into a magnet school, but my wife has fond memories of her Catholic education and the school is only half a block from our house. Judge us if you must.

I love you internet.

The point is we were in a stranger's house eating dinner and liberal racist bull shit was the desert.

On a regular basis I have to point out to my students that their blanket statements about black people are racist. They are kids and need to be taught. I have them imagine what their words would sound like coming from a white person. I do the same thing with Lil Wayne lyrics. Thanks to the gentleman across the table I no longer had to imagine. However, we quickly realized that he also needed to be educated, and I am pretty sure my wife did so.

 I can't say for certain because our host, in an attempt to clarify the murky waters of racism we were swimming in said, "70% percent of the black kids in the city live in single-parent homes. Most of them are being raised by grandparents." In all fairness he probably said African-American so in his mind he wasn't racist.

Since he was sitting at the head of the table and my wife was between us, my butter knife had no clear path to his eye. With this being the case I decided that I would try reasoned arguments delivered at a slightly elevated volume.

Weapon of Choice for all dinner party murders.

"Where did you get that statistic?" I politely inquired.

He looked a little stunned that I had not immediately accepted his data but then said shrugging his shoulders, "I made it up." His facial expression and body language implied that his conversations required an ample spicing of fictitious fractions and the assumption that anyone that did not tended towards foolishness.

Of course when you reside in a world in which nearly everyone's mind operates on the same frequency, the expectation of a challenge is greatly diminished.

Debaters will often resort to more ambiguous terms such as most or a majority. Since both of these words only require slightly more than 50% to be factual, but imply much more. So why 70%? Using logic gain from many ours of Battleship I imagine the thought process like this.

"Okay, I know it's not 100% because I met that one couple that one time, but I have feeling that it is most so it has to be higher than 50%. I mean I know it has to be because I have seen black people before with just one parent. 90% and 80% sound too high, and 75% sounds like a made it up. So 70. Yeah 70% should be good enough for most reasonable people to accept. I'm going to say it out loud now. BOOM! I sunk your battleship."
"Darn it little Jimmy, you sank the C.S.S. Jefferson Davis."

If this was his line of reasoning then that also explains his facial expression. When I questioned him on his statistics. It was like a kid denying that his battleship had been sunk. It was a big "nuh-uh" in the face of what was clearly a sound bit of naval strategy.

He probably never noticed how ticked I was because to him it was just another game in which racists statistic was a playing piece.