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#3687: DeGraff on "voodoo [sic] science" (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

I wholeheartedly command Kathy Grey on her recent criticism of Robert
Parks, author of "Voodoo [sic] Science".  Grey eloquently wrote to Parks:

> So as you walk through the Haitian community of Baltimore or New York
> look at the people whose lives you are making more difficult by
> identifying them with evil and fraud.  


> We too are impacted by the stereotype you promote.

Now I'd like to collegially invite Grey and others to take further steps in
combating ALL kinds of unfortunate stereotypes that still prevail about
Haiti and Haitians, not only the most blatant ones (a la Parks).

Take the following statement, for example, by Grey herself:

> ... the relative rate of lying and deception among, say, white Americans [is
> lower than among] black Haitians

In an ironic twist of rhetoric, this is the kind of statements that Robert
Parks would classify as a "pseudoscientific belief" aka "Voodoo [sic]
Science".  Indeed, to the question "What do you mean by voodoo science?",
Parks answers:

> All bad science.


> There are scientists who deliberately try to fool others. We see
> this mostly in the courts, where expert witnesses concoct justifications 
> for all kinds of points of view WITHOUT SOLID EVIDENCE. And there is
> non-science dressed up to look like science. 

[Emphasis added]

In a previous message, I've asked for the "solid evidence" that would
support Grey's (and others', e.g. Durban's) "point of view" that "Black
Haitians" lie and deceive more often than their "white American"
counterparts.  But no such "solid evidence" has been presented thus far.
All I've heard are reports of PERSONAL experience, but these do not count
as "solid evidence": one's personal anecdotes cannot reflect the
psychological and moral reality of 8 million Haitians.

Here, too, like in the previous orthography debate, we should perhaps try
and make sure that our standards for `truth' apply to all cases, including
those in which we are directly implicated.  No double standards should be
allowed in demystifying "stereotypes".  All stereotypes about human groups
have the potential to hurt the INDIVIDUALS they purport to `describe' ---
and please note that groups don't exist outside of the individuals that
create these groups.

I voice this concern in the spirit of constructive criticism.  Like Grey
(apparently), I am concerned with the lives of Haitians (and others) who
may be negatively impacted by stereotypes, ALL kinds of negative
stereotypes, including those being promoted in this forum.

Thank you,

MIT Linguistics & Philosophy, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139-4307
degraff@MIT.EDU        http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/degraff.home.html