Broken Windows Theory of Discrimination

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4 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    i think this is correct. Certainly when government or powerful civic groups like churches support or encourage discrimination I think it makes is much easier for individuals to feel their racism is empowered.

    I’m surprised nobody has made the silly argument that pushing back against discrimination just leads to resentment. The “pity the poor bigots” argument is just sad.Report

    • grandmute in reply to greginak says:

      I did. But I do not think of it as “pity the poor bigots.” I would argue that the relationship between government tolerance and popular tolerance is closer to a logistic growth curve than it is to a straight line. In this model, we would see much greater “tolerance contagion” after a government’s first overtures of tolerance than after the introduction of a later, usually more technical and less revolutionary, anti-discrimination policy.

      The implications of such a model would be that more government initiatives to promote tolerance will only work to a point; at some stage, popular resentment of policies such as affirmative action will come to feed off of the very policies it opposes, and will have to be defused in ways other than strengthening the original anti-discrimination policy.

      But, I must add, I have yet to see enough evidence to rule either way, so in a sense my argument is based on absolutely nothing.Report

  2. North says:

    Knee jerk though, didn’t we on the left furiously decry “broken windows” as pointless and racist up until it worked? No good point there, my memory may be off.

    Main thought: I’m with grandmute. It sounds right to me that fostering a -general- government attitude against discrimination will encourage there to be less of it. I also suspect that when you get out of the general disapproval and into invasive or genuinely annoying forms of anti-discrimination then you’re: A) casting the victims of discrimination as being petty and shrill and B) making discrimination cool. The young rebel remember.

    So, I think it’s a good thought. Caution is warranted and a keen skeptical eye towards cost/benefit.Report

  3. Sam M says:

    Interesting. But isn’t this the oppostie of the broken window theory? As I understand it, broken window means that you tackle little, tiny issues like j-walking and public urination to illustrate a culture of enforcement. Which in turn leads criminals to refrain from larger crimes like robbery, rape and murder.

    Is homophobia a “little crime” when it comes to bullying? The article mentions a case where a gay student was refused a spot on the bleachers and a ton of aggressive language was used. In terms of bullying, that would seem like a “major crime.”

    Wouldn’t a broken window approach mean punishing people for calling someone a jerk or a clown, in order to prevent people from going as tep further and calling someone a fag, or actually hitting someone?

    This latter point is actually what I kind of fear. The media is replete with the ridiculous outcomes that prevail when schools take a “zero tolerance” approach to discipline and civility. So we expel kids for bringing ibuprofen to school because, we hope, other kids won’t bring crystal meth.

    That is, I think zero-tolerance (broken windows) has been an abject failure in many cases. Which is not to say that anti-discrimination efforts are useless. It’s just that I don’t think that the article mentioned amounts to broken windows.Report