Asian or Brazilian: London Tube shooting

There is an interesting aspect to the tragic shooting of the Brazilian electrician on the London tube. All initial reports (including direct ones from bystanders) mention an Asian man. When you look at the picture of the man shot dead, he does not look Asian (at least to me) (I think the British conception of Asian is Pakistani/Indian, in contrast to the American conception of the word Asian which is more Chinese/Thai/Taiwanese…).

This nonrecognition highlights how difficult it is to identify someone’s ethnic origins, especially in an atmosphere of stress and suspicion. Another explanation – the expectancy was that someone acting suspicious on the Tube is likely to be an Asian man; the logic is reversed – anyone acting suspicious starts looking like an Asian man. There are many Social cognitive phenomenon you could use to understand this mistake.

Reminded me of the PBS test of sorting people.

2 thoughts on “Asian or Brazilian: London Tube shooting

  1. Just came across this interview with Malcom Gladwell – where he describes his motivation for writing Blink – when he was questioned by police on the lookout for a rapist – because of his mop of hair. This is what motivated him to write about “Blink” decisions and instant categorizations.

  2. As an American, when I hear the word ‘Asian’ I think of an East Asian…Chinese, Japanese, Korean…person, etc. However, you are correct about the British…they usually use the term Asian to mean an Indian or Pakistani. (I’m not ure how the would refer to a group of, for example, Chinese people– I imagine they would refer to them simply as ..’Chinese’ ),

    The media in Britain go out of their way to avoid insulting Muslims…so if a Muslim does someting negative, such as commit a crime, the media in Britain use the euphemism ‘Asian’, so as not to identify the person as a Muslim.

    Of course this effort to avoid insulting Muslims exists elsewhere–during the riots in Paris, at one point some of the rioters torched a car and some were heard to yell ‘Allahu Akhbar’…the politically correct media mentioned that the car was torched by . . . a group of ‘youths’.– no mention of te fact tat tey yelled ;Allau Akbar’…

    When Lebanese Muslims in Australia rioted, the media called them ‘Men of mid-eastern appearance’. At one point there was a clash between these men of middle eastern appearance and some ‘white’ youths…but the latter were not referred to as ‘men of european appearance’ but rather as ‘white racists’.

    Interestingly, the ‘men of middle eastern appearance’–AKA Muslim Lebanese immigrants– were never referred to as ‘racists’…

    Wic bring up anoter point…even if individuals were bigoted bot te Lebanese and te ‘wite’ are Caucasian so is race really a factor…?

    While these politically correct euphemisms may make some people feel better, they can be misleading…

    Sometimes the British refer to Indians and Pakistanis as ‘South Asian’…which is a bit more descriptive.

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