Category: ‘discrimination’

Vooroordelen en AI

14 April 2017 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Ik wist al van de Microsoft chatbot die al lerend het vuilbekken op Twitter had overgenomen. Maar dat was een ‘foutje’ in het systeem. In de Volkskrant van vandaag, 14 april, wordt verwezen naar een wetenschappelijke publicatie die veel interessantere conclusies toelaat.


Uit de studie blijkt dat AI systemen de vooroordelen overnemen die uit de menselijke taal te destilleren zijn. AI is op die manier te zien als een spiegel van de sociale moraal van onze samenlevingen. Dat is best een knauw voor ons zelfbeeld.

Indigenous Australians may soon lose ancestral land

1 October 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Every year in my Antrhopology of Law course at Erasmus Law School, a large part of my teaching is devoted to Australian Aboriginals and their concept of law. 

This post, on Al Jazeera, shows again how the Australian government is blind to alternatives to their types of interventions, and crushes indigenous communities. The idea of ‘one law for all’ leads to devastating consequences for some.

Part of the article:

“Since its closure, most of the children who lived there have not returned to school, and youth suicides – cited by the government as a reason to close the town – have increased.

A 2011 Amnesty report found that the mortality rate for Aboriginal people living in urban areas was far higher than those living on ancestral lands. Some of Oombulgurri’s former residents are now homeless.

While the future of Western Australia’s indigenous communities remains uncertain, Aboriginal community organisers say the closure of these communities will bring social chaos and looking back on past policies, this plan could augur yet another lost generation of indigenous Australians.”

For the whole article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/09/indigenous-australians-lose-ancestral-land-150904105812729.html

Interesting research experiment: “I don’t see color; I love diversity”: College students’ conflicting race frames

25 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The idea of ‘frames’ and ‘framing’ is that a loose set of general, mostly subconscious preconceptions about what the world looks like and ‘how people are’, together form a rather strong set or framework on how people conceive socio-legal issues. In the US one of those frames is called ‘race’, while in the Netherlands this would probably be called ‘culture’. On this website you will find a short report of a research done in the US. It starts like this:

“Despite popular notions that the U.S. is now “post-racial,” numerous recent events (such as the Rachel Dolezal kerfuffle and the Emmanuel AME Church shooting) have clearly showcased how race and racism continue to play a central role in the functioning of contemporary American society. But why is it that public rhetoric is at such odds with social reality?

A qualitative study by sociologists Natasha Warikoo and Janine de Novais provides insights. By conducting interviews with 47 white students at two elite universities, they explore the “lenses through which individuals understand the role of race in society.” Described as race frames, Warikoo and de Novais articulate two ways in which their respondents rely on particular cultural frames in making sense of race and race relations.” Read further.

Racism in the Netherlands – debate

19 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

It is almost like the Dutch government these days (18 & 19 August) is sitting ‘in the dock’ in court, as one newspaper put it (NRC). The Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists with many other NGO’s and the UN Commission for human rights/Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the Netherlands does not do enough to combat racism. The government apparently is of the opinion that it does enough. ‘Discrimination namely is illegal. The law says so. There is no political party with a racist programme. And no politician was ever criminally convicted for racism.’ Some say the discussion ‘will only feed the anti-racism activists and the ‘asylum-industry’ with new arguments’. Others are of the opinion that ethnic profiling by the police, the high levels of unemployment among ethnic minorities, and the negative atmosphere surrounding the discussion on Black Pete, are real problems that should be tackled.

I think it is always interesting how the law can be used to ward of accusations. ‘According to the law it is illegal, so what are you talking about?’ Everybody knows however that daily routine and practice is not a mirror of the law: in actual practice people do have stereotypes, do prefer to hire employees from one group over the other, do discriminate. If the law apparently is not able to combat that, the question is if the government is doing enough by just referring to the law.

The Ferguson Cop

11 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Interesting and very good ‘background story’ of the cop Wilson who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014.

See the New Yorker.

Revealing quote: “McCarthy wasn’t surprised that Wilson had difficulty interacting with residents. Police officers are rigorously trained in firing weapons and apprehending suspects but not in establishing common ground with people who have had different experiences. “If you go to an academy, how much is on that?” he asked me. “Basically, nothing.” A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum revealed that cadets usually receive fifty-eight hours of training in firearms, forty-nine in defensive tactics, ten in communication skills, and eight in de-escalation tactics.”

Dutch worries on gay asylum seekers

11 December 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Do gays in legal terminology form a ‘group’ that need to fear ‘being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’? The Netherlands has several gay asylum seekers that say they do and three of them (from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal) convinced the Dutch Council of State to ask the European Court of Justice (of the EU) in a preliminary judgment what to think of this. In November the Court ruled that a. “the existence of criminal laws (…) which specifically target homosexuals, supports the finding that those persons must be regarded as forming a particular social group”, b. “that the criminalisation of homosexual acts per se does not constitute an act of persecution. However, a term of imprisonment which sanctions homosexual acts and which is actually applied in the country of origin which adopted such legislation must be regarded as being a punishment which is disproportionate or discriminatory and thus constitutes an act of persecution”, and c. “When assessing an application for refugee status, the competent authorities cannot reasonably expect, in order to avoid the risk of persecution, the applicant for asylum to conceal his homosexuality in his country of origin or to exercise reserve in the expression of his sexual orientation.” (See the Court judgment here.)

In other words, when it comes to asylum there is no fundamental distinction between homosexuality, religious conviction, and political conviction. Since one should not ask a political activist to ‘back down a bit’ or a believer in God to just do his prayers at night and behind closed doors, one should also not ask a homosexual to behave in public as if s/he is straight.

The decision of the Court did stir up some discussion on how many gay Muslims we may expect in the future …. and whether it is ethical to ask an asylum seeker to convince the Dutch judge that he really is gay …

His name was Nadir …

10 January 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

This is how far the Netherlands have drifted from what was once a relatively easy going, relaxed, tolerant society: a son of a Dutch-Turkish father and a Dutch mother was given a beautiful name at birth. I guess his name is Nadir, meaning ‘rare’. Born in 1995. At primary school however, he is reproached for his name by his peers. Called a foreigner and a Muslim. Same in high school. The guy in the mean time learned that having a name like ‘Nadir’ in Holland won’t get you into a job easily. So he wants to have his name changed.

His parents (because he is a minor) ask the court for a name change. They understand their son. They are realistic, and have to agree with him, regretfully. The court stresses the principle of equality of all citizens in the Netherlands and says that ‘names should not matter’ in a multicultural society. However, the court is realistic too, and is convinced by the stories of the parents and of Nadir himself. The judge allows for the change of name.

So now the guy is called … ? Jan? Koen? … What a pity.

See the court decision in Dutch.

‘Netherlands not a suitable country for orthodox Jews anymore’

18 October 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The Netherlands will cease to be a suitable country for orthodox Jews when current plans to check and control the process of ritual slaughter, says chief rabbi Aryeh Ralbag. Ralbag reacts to the new covenant between religious groups and the ministry. When this covenant is accepted is it is formulated right now, the civil servant who will check the process will be ‘above’ the rabbi, and this is unacceptable.

The ministry says it takes the complaints seriously. The rabbi will be invited for a talk.

See in Dutch the NRC.

Finally: Research on stereotypes in police practice

16 October 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Independent researcher Sinan Çankaya did participant observation among street worker policemen in Amsterdam and had interviews and talks with them while smoking and drinking coffee. He wanted to find out if the Dutch police is the same as police elsewhere, picking out the black guys walking hooded on the streets to ask for their ID’s, stopping the Surinam men who drive in fancy cars etcetera. And yes, Çankaya found they are exactly the same. Reassuring on the one hand (Dutch policemen act like police in other countries), painful on the other (Dutch policemen act like police in other countries!).

Police so far reacted okay. “This is painful, but we need the discussion. We have to learn to select criminals based on what they do, on their deviant behaviour, not on what they look like.”

Hmm. Gee.

The research will be published later this year. Unfortunately only in Dutch. But just check the foreign books on the topic and you will know how Dutch policemen act .. 😉

Victory for the equality principle!

20 July 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The application at the European Court of Human RIghts of the SGP, the orthodox protestant political party that bans women form formal positions in the party on biblical grounds, was declared inadmissible. In 2010 the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the equality principle was more important than the freedom of religion, and that the ban  on women was thus contrary to law. The deal with the Dutch state was to ‘do nothing’ until the European Court had given a final verdict. And now we have it! In the last paragraphs the Court says:

“76. The issue in the present case is the applicant party’s position, restated in the present proceedings before the Court, that women should not be allowed to stand for elected office in general representative bodies of the State on its own lists of candidates. It makes little difference whether or not the denial of a fundamental political right based solely on gender is stated explicitly in the applicant party’s bye-laws or in any other of the applicant party’s internal documents, given that it is publicly espoused and followed in practice.

77. The Supreme Court, in paragraphs 4.5.1 to 4.5.5 of its judgment, concluded from Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and from Articles 2 and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights taken together that the SGP’s position is unacceptable regardless of the deeply-held religious conviction on which it is based (see paragraph 49 above). For its part, and having regard to the Preamble to the Convention and the case-law cited in paragraphs 70, 71 and 72 above, the Court takes the view that in terms of the Convention the same conclusion flows naturally from Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 taken together with Article 14.
78. That said, the Court must refrain from stating any view as to what, if anything, the respondent Government should do to put a stop to the present situation. The Court cannot dictate action in a decision on admissibility; it is, in any case, an issue well outside the scope of the present application.
79. It follows that the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.”

So hurray for the equality principle! But ‘not so hurray’ for the freedom of religion of a really tiny minority group. And not so hurray either for the tolerance of diversity.

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