Shopping While Black: Past, Present and Future?

The original Sears mail-order catalogue changed how African Americans in the South shopped:

…the catalogue format allowed for anonymity, ensuring that black and white customers would be treated the same way.

“This gives African Americans in the Southeast some degree of autonomy, some degree of secrecy,” unofficial Sears historian Jerry Hancock told the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast in December 2016. “Now they can buy the same thing that anybody else can buy. And all they have to do is order it from this catalogue. They don’t have to deal with racist merchants in town and those types of things.”

More recently, Uber has alleviated many of the traditional difficulties that blacks have had hailing taxis.

In a heartfelt essay Ashlee Clark Thompson explains how the “grab and go” technologies now being tested at Amazon Go made her confront lessons learned from decades of shopping while black:

The idea of walking into a store, taking an item or several off the shelves and strolling right back out again boggled my mind. It ran counter to everything I had learned about being black and shopping.

…I grabbed one of the orange Amazon Go bags and began to make my way around the perimeter of the store. I was studying the various bottled waters and debating whether to get fizzy or still, or a bottle of kombucha, when I realized what I was really doing: I was stalling. The fear I had carried with me for decades reared its head as I stood in front of the refrigerated display. I was afraid to make a choice, remove it from a shelf and put it in my bag. I was afraid someone would pop out from behind a display of Amazon-branded merch and scream, “Get your hands off that!” And I was mad that this fear couldn’t even let me fully enjoy an experience that’s designed for everyone to grab and go, no questions asked.

Eff this, I thought. I’m getting some Vitamin Water.

Once the plastic bottle hit the bottom of my reusable bag, I glanced around to see if anyone noticed. The Amazon employees shuffled around the small store and restocked shelves. Tourists chatted in small groups as they pointed and looked for the sensors that were keeping track of our every move. One guy with his phone on a selfie stick recorded himself as he selected snacks. And then there were the folks for whom the novelty had worn off and just wanted a vegetarian banh mi sandwich.

No one cared what I was doing. Is this what it feels like to shop when you’re not black?

…Amazon Go isn’t going to fix implicit bias or remove the years of conditioning under which I’ve operated. But in the Amazon Go store, everyone is just a shopper, an opportunity for the retail giant to test technology, learn about our habits and make some money. Amazon sees green, and in its own capitalist way, this cashierless concept eased my burden a little bit.

The similarities in these cases are interesting but so are the differences. In the Sears case most of the effect of diminished discrimination was driven by greater competition in one-shop towns. In the one-shop town the owners sometimes took a share of their monopoly profits in invidious racism–this appears to explain why shop owners would prevent blacks from buying more expensive products (or perhaps the one-stop shop had to cater to racist customers who demanded invidious discrimination.)

In the Uber case my bet is that a large share of the reduction in discrimination was due to the fact that Uber drivers don’t carry cash and so are less worried about robbery and the app increases safety because it records in detail rider, driver and trip data. In other words, the Uber system reduced the value of statistical discrimination. It’s difficult to know for sure, however, because there was probably also some decline in invidious discrimination brought about by Uber hiding some rider information from drivers until trips are accepted.

The last case, the Amazon Go case, is in part a decline in the value of statistical discrimination since shoplifting is no longer a problem (in theory, assuming the technology works) but in this case the decline in statistical discrimination is driven by much finer discrimination. The moment a shopper enters the Amazon Go store, Amazon knows their name, address, entire shopping history, credit history and potentially much more. Moreover, a shopper’s every movement within the store is tracked to a level of detail that no store detective could ever hope to match. To the customer, especially the black customer, it may feel like they are no longer being watched but in fact they are watched more than ever before–the costs of technological monitoring, however, are mostly fixed which means that everyone is monitored equally. No need for statistical discrimination in the panopticon.

Addendum: A good dissertation might be to incorporates the cost of information, the value of statistical discrimination and the demand for invidious discrimination in a general theory that explains the various cases mentioned here and the effects of information bans such as ban the box.

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As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, civil rights laws of the 1960s allowed blacks to shop at formerly white-only stores, resulting in many all-black stores going out of business. Indeed, Sowell attributes the economic decline of black neighborhoods to this phenomenon. The Sears catalogue may have contributed to this phenomenon. An aside, I grew up in a segregated Southern town. I mean segregated: blacks did not shop at white-only stores, from the A&P to Belk's. But this phenomenon was asymmetrical: my mother often shopped at the open-air produce store in the black section of town.

So how long will they play this everyone is a racist game? Oh woe is me. Then make up stories to support their BS.

Re: the getting a cab problem in a black neighborhood after dark. Seriously do you read the papers? Even black people are afraid to go into black neighborhoods after dark. It would seem that this is a self inflicted problem.

Not all black people live in crime ridden neighborhoods. But even black people who don't live in crime ridden neighborhoods have trouble getting cabs. That's the problem. Are black people just supposed to accept the fact that people are just going to assume they live in a crime ridden neighborhood because of their skin color?

Well you don't really know that. You know what you read and maybe you believe it. Have you read about the many faked hate crimes committed against blacks and later discovered to be self inflicted or non-existent? Why would they do that? Well to keep the myth going. I have black family and go to family gatherings and they are different, have different experiences and some even hate/dislike whites. Racism, tales of past racism, reverse racism, fake racism, the need to have your own racism stories and biases create quite a toxic stew and the left feels the need to keep stirring this stew. Because of this you get false statistics, outright lies about supposed racism, a hypersensitivity that leads to assuming racism and old baggage that taints everything with a belief about racism.

Oddly in one of those family gatherings a 14 year old black boy criticized a 4 year old black/Hispanic boy in a racist way which caused a shouting match where the participants kept using the N-word. Great! I'm looking for the exit.

The bottom line is that much perceived racism is in the eye of the beholder.

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But even black people who don't live in crime ridden neighborhoods have trouble getting cabs. That's the problem. Are black people just supposed to accept the fact that people are just going to assume they live in a crime ridden neighborhood because of their skin color?

It's not a problem, Hazel.

1. The problem can only be a problem in places where it is common to hail cabs on a street, i.e. New York and other large cities, and only in the core city portions of those metropolitan settlements. Where I grew up, you picked up a cab at the airport or called for one on the phone; you hardly saw them on the street to hail, and I lived only about a mile from downtown.

2. It only affects the subset of the black population which commits robberies. That's men under a certain age.

3. If you didn't live in New York, how much time did you spend in cabs prior to the advent of Uber and Lyft? The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that in 2006 about 740 million passenger-miles were logged in jitney services of all kinds. That's a tad over 6 passenger-miles per household per year. That's one cab trip or maybe two.

You're really not doing blacks any favors by encouraging them to stew over infrequent nuisance problems.

1. A lot of black people live in urban areas, often in locations that have less public transportation.
2. In a situation where ther is a shortage of cabs and cabbie have a lot of options to pick up passengers (i.e. after a game at a stadium say), a bias in favor of white passengers could easily lead to black people waiting as multiple cabs pick up white people that arrived after them. That has to be infuriating.
3. Maybe we should try taking black people at their word that they have experienced this sort of thing instead of assuming they are lying about it.

A lot of black people live in urban areas, often in locations that have less public transportation.

If those locations have 'less public transportation', you're not going to be seeing many cabs out on the street to hail.

2. In a situation where ther is a shortage of cabs and cabbie have a lot of options to pick up passengers (i.e. after a game at a stadium say), a bias in favor of white passengers could easily lead to black people waiting as multiple cabs pick up white people that arrived after them. That has to be infuriating.

Hazel, see my datum above. Taxis are familiar, but people don't spend much time in taxis. Consider how contrived your example is. If someone frequents ball parks, they've made other arrangements and do not confront this problem. If they don't frequent ball parks it's a one off. You have many opportunities in this life to be infuriated. Risk averse cabbies are seldom making your world worse.

3. Maybe we should try taking black people at their word that they have experienced this sort of thing instead of assuming they are lying about it.

(A) the world is filled with yarn-pullers; (B) the world is filled with story; the stories may have some factual basis, which does not mean frequent enough to be troublesome; (C) the capacity of some people to be dissatisfied is just endless; (D) The black population has real problems. Much time and attention are wasted discussing unimportant problems. Discussion of real problems can be embarrassing. Discussion of the unimportant ones can be the occasion of a demand for emotional validation.

The real problems, of course, are slum crime, school disorder, and the bloat and waste in the provision of schooling. I'm sure there are black pols who have practical ideas about how to address these problems. If you gave me a week, I might find one.

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An additional factor is that blacks, especially younger ones, tend to dress in ways that make them, shall we say, intimidating? IIRC Columbia did a study on this, in which they got black students to stand at various intersections and hail cabs. Some tried it while wearing "street wear" and others while wearing other, more conventional clothes, including Columbia sweatshirts and of course, coats and ties.

Guess what? The black students who wore more buttoned-down clothing got a lot more cabs to stop for them than the ones wearing low-ride shorts and "gangsta" sweatshirts.

That would be an interesting study and is probably true. But it's probably unlikely to convince a lot of black people to wear suits and ties when going out to nightclubs or sports games. The sort of activity you might want to take a cab home from.

Ya pays ya money and ya takes ya choice, Hazel. Your complaint amounts to a whine that D'Shawn's non-verbal cues work to his disadvantage in some settings. He wouldn't be offering them if they didn't work to his advantage in other settings. It's called a trade-off.

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The juxtaposition of 'Tourists chatted in small groups as they pointed and looked for the sensors that were keeping track of our every move.' and 'No one cared what I was doing.' is fascinating.

And a fairly clear piece of evidence of just how far the U.S. has gone in becoming the world's first for profit surveillance society.

Much like this comment from Prof. Tabarrok illustration - 'No need for statistical discrimination in the panopticon.' No need, just the opportunity to employ it at a level never even imagined in the greatest flights of fancy of the most visionary central planner. After all, one needs to be part of Amazon's ecosystem (think about that tech concept for a moment) to enjoy an environment 'that's designed for everyone to grab and go, no questions asked.'

It is definitely not designed for everyone, just those willing to allow Amazon to enjoy the sort of total surveillance that will follow the advent of this much better world, where the free market brings the nomenklatura all the benefits of being part of the system, on pain of banishment for non-conformity to a corporation's vision of the panopticon as profit center.

HA ha! The world is changing in ways you don't like!

Of course. The amusing thing is that I live in one of the few places which still finds something wrong with the idea of a surveillance society, regardless of its motive.

But then, considering how the words Gestapo and Stasi are easily recognized by Americans, Germans just might have a bit more experience with what happens to societies that consider total surveillance a normal part of life.

Agreed, Germans have a historical tendency to be authoritarian state worshippers. They've generally been coercive and sometime genocidal against their own people and the people surrounding them.

I think it's fair to say that no one really trusts the German state very much. Both those inside and outside Germany.

I just can't agree. I know many Germans and lived there for four years. I even knew a handful of Germans who fought in WW II including one who was in the SS and my college Physics professor was a scientific aide attached to Field Marshall Rommel. Not all Germans were bad people but the 20's and 30's were exceptionally bad times in Germany and that allowed some bad people to seize power.

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Some Germans aren't happy with surveillance cameras.

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You didn't mention another reason for taxi drivers to refuse black customers: the chance that the fare would end in a part of town that had no paying customers, and much higher crime rates. Uber doesn't solve that problem.

I thought Uber drivers don't know your destination when they pick you up.

And I further thought that Uber doesn't actually care about making a profit at this point, just hoping to score the big IPO cash out for those in a position to enjoy the fruits of that position.

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>I thought Uber drivers don't know your destination when they pick you up.

This is flat-out false. Why would anyone come pick you up if they no idea whether you wanted a 5-minute ride or a 2-hour one?

Taxi drivers don't know that and still pick you up. I believe they're required to by law (as common carriers). Couldn't Uber have a similar policy? All Uber drivers must accept fares to destinations in a certain radius? I'm not saying they do, but they could, right?

There are all kinds of games. Uber drivers get dinged for refusing fares or canceling. so when they don't want to accept a tripe, sometimes they'll just take their sweet, sweet time waiting for the customer to give up and cancel -- that way the customer, not the driver, gets dinged by Uber:

https://thepointsguy.com/news/uber-drivers-cancellation-fee-scam/

"...so when they don't want to accept a tripe"

Or a trip.

Here in the Philippines, Uber sold out to "Grab" based in Singapore, and with Grab you have to tell them your destination. They are actually a bit more expensive than hailing a cab (I just used them today, and on the way back, used a cab, and Grab was 50% more expensive). However, I love Grab since they have added more cabs to Manila, which is under-represented in taxis (it's really hard to find a cab when you need one).

Bonus trivia: "The idea of walking into a store, taking an item or several off the shelves and strolling right back out again boggled my mind. It ran counter to everything I had learned about being black and shopping." - wait, that's called SHOPLIFTING! :) And from what I understand watching Youtube, police in many cities won't even respond to a 'beer keg heist' which is shoplifting of a keg or a crate of beers by a posse of unarmed men who invade a 7-11 style store and then storm back out with the beer...maybe urban legend, but I've seen CCTV on Youtube and reading the comments there.

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Can't speak for all areas that have cruising taxicabs, but in New York, it's far better to have many short trips than a single long one, because there is a substantial bonus to the fare at the moment you get aboard--the so-called "drop," so named because in the old days there was a mechanical device that the driver moved from the "up" to the "down" position to indicate he had a fare on board.

I knew several people who drove cabs in New York to help put themselves through college and they all said the same thing.

Incidentally that is also why the Taxi Commission had to implement flat-fare rules for long trips between Manhattan and the airports, and why even today there is a substantial premium for taking a cab from the airport almost everywhere I've done so.

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Without getting into the "why"

AFAIK it's 100% true that rideshare apps do not inform the driver of the destination before the ride starts, and I have heard many a story of a drivers "last ride for the night" crossing state lines and finishing a few hundred miles away.

> They don't know where you're going. The Uber app lets passengers designate a destination, but drivers aren't privy to this information until they pick someone up.

So.. before you claim something is "flat out false" try.. uh.. being informed first?

The rideshare apps may not inform the driver, but:

In many reader reports, passengers arrive at the airport after a flight and head to the taxi or ride-hail pickup area, and order an Uber. They get matched with a driver, who then calls and asks where the passengers are going. When told the dropoff address, they respond with something along the lines of “That’s too far, can you please cancel the ride?”

See link above.

Yes that happens, but those are one-off violations of the ToS. When Uber/Lyft hear about that there are sanctions against the driver -- and Uber/Lyft will generally hear about it when a customer writes to contest a $5 cancellation fee.

So "as a rule" that sort of discrimination is impossible

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What do you mean "Uber doesn't solve that problem"?

1) Drivers are blinded to both destinations and ethnicity of riders

2) Rideshare apps are pretty good about matching a driver to fares, meaning that even if a driver winds up on the "wrong side of town" they're eligible for fares within a broad 10-15 minute driving distance.

And, unless I'm mistaken, the drivers are punished for cancelling too many rides. That creates a strong, immediate penalty to racism than wouldn't exist in a world without ride sharing apps.

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Some years ago I was in Branson when a shop owner told me that their biggest headache was busloads of senior citizens that shoplifted. For years the biggest headaches in malls where white teenage girls shoplifting. In many inner cities blacks shoplifting is a major headache. I knew an inner-city Sears that went to two security guards at every exit because theft had become so blatant. Crime was not a figment of the merchant's imagination. That does not mean that racism does not exist, but that in many communities crime, in many forms, is a reality. Ignoring the demographics of who is committing the crime is stupid.

Amazon has partially overcome the problem of identifying and reducing potential threats, But many high-end stores, such as Apple, have to deal with thieves entering in mass and quickly exiting. An outlet mall in a semi-rural area had almost no security (the town had no police force). Thieves soon identified the mall as a soft target and carloads of inner-city youths from 40-50 miles away soon were regularly committing crimes. Racial tensions grew and security increased rapidly.

If Amazon is perceived to have weaknesses in their anti-theft efforts, criminals will exploit it. In some cases that will be white, black, or other criminals. In some communities, one group will come to be identified with a majority of the crime. Such is the world we live in.

'criminals will exploit it'

Up to the point they discover that Amazon has much more ability to deter such criminals than a police department. The government has limits on its actions - Amazon much less.

For example, Amazon can simply require fingerprinting be done on at friendly Amazon entry portal before opening the door to allow you to enter. Along with taking a high quality biometric picture, using cameras to record your gait, and of course recording as much data as possible that you are broadcasting from any electronic device.

The for profit surveillance society is already well familiar with all the arguments which sound so convincing to those who have already bought into the much better world that for profit surveillance will be bringing us all.

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Amazon is a natural response to increasingly dysfunctional public spaces.

Which undoubtedly explains why the vast majority of commenters here are such fans of the Washington Post.

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That's what was once said of those big, enclosed shopping malls: they were sort of like Main St. but, because it's all private, able to enforce behavioral standards that government can not.

Malls worked pretty well to deter shoplifting as well, as someone who's been identified as a shoplifter by store security has nowhere to go other than into the enclosed mall and from there into the mall's parking lot. As compared with a downtown shopping district, the path to safety for shoplifters is much longer and riskier.

Now, Amazon's Total Surveillance (tm) is even more effective. And as an added bonus, it creates the illusion that a suspicious shopkeeper isn't constantly following you when in fact the technology never lets you out of its sight!

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Public spaces are safer than they were when Amazon was founded, and are not increasingly dysfunctional.

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Our local Ralphs was trying to get people to use some kind of "scan things into your basket" program. It would allow you to walk right back out.

I love technology but that seems too much like being somebody's beta tester.

I am sure that ultimately this kind of technology could reduce all sorts of frictions, including the ones mentioned, but I'm not sure it has a super smooth path to "stores near you."

What we now think of as conventional self checkout hasn't really taken over the world, it's just an option for the impatient. And its been out there since 1992 (prototype, 1997 NCR adoption).

Harris Teeter has an order online program. The employee who fills the order enters each item as the employee puts the item in the bag that's in the cart, so there's no separate bagging or checkout. When the customer arrives at the store to pick up the order, the customer parks in a reserved spot at the entrance to the store and the store employee delivers the bags to the customer's car. It strikes me as highly efficient. Lots of customers use the program.

It is more expensive though--so Im not sure I'd consider it more "efficient". Just ends up creating more paid work/jobs which of course is a good thing

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I should have mentioned that the employee who fills the order fills several orders (i.e., for different customers) simultaneously. I asked the employee how she keeps them separate. Her hand-held computer has a separate identifier for each customer, and since most customers buy essentially the same items week to week, filling an order becomes almost routine. Harris Teeter knows what people buy anyway, so it's not any more of an invasion of privacy if the customer orders online. Also, the customer has the choice of having the items delivered. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that this program is essentially the Amazon model. I suspect Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) has a similar program, and I suspect that Jeff Bezos contemplates that the Amazon model will soon become the dominant grocery model.

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A good dissertation might be to incorporates the cost of information, the value of statistical discrimination and the demand for invidious discrimination in a general theory that explains the various cases mentioned here and the effects of information bans such as ban the box.

As the cost of information drops, so does the value of statistical discrimination - you can obtain information about individuals much more quickly and so identify which people are likely shoplifters individually instead of based on blanket attributes like race. I would think that "the box" would be rendered irrelevant in such an environment since everyone would have much more detailed information more directly related to criminal activity. Why bother looking at race if you have direct access to individual criminal records?

It doesn't solve all the problems though. Like with a single bad review on Uber, we might wind up with environment where a single arrest on your record gets you banned from the supermarket for years. Which in turn massively enhances the power of police officers.

It can still be profitable to serve customers with criminal records -- you just need to charge more to compensate for a higher theft rate.

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Amazon may need to hire some lawyers. If accusations of shoplifting, without full due process, start to impact a racial group disproportionally lawsuits will probably follow. If these Amazon stores start to avoid some communities, lawsuits and/or protests will follow. Your assumption that information on individuals will not be aggregated into groups to try to prove something nefarious seems contrary to history for the last 60 years.

Amazon right now has the advantage of a young workforce without much physical presence. Time will tell how the regulatory, the social justice, and the legal system will treat them in the long run.

Once upon a time, Sears was sued for discrimination against women and minorities. Sears claimed that during their peak growth years following WW II they followed government request to hire returning Veterans. Those were the people who filled the majority of management positions in the 70's and they weren't growing that much anymore. Sears lost the lawsuit.

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Hazel,

Mostly agreed. Specific information is preferable, and here can be gathered without due cost. Hence no need for crude discrimination.

But....but.... what happens when (as it will) the system detects and starts using Hate Facts? When it starts downgrading Low IQ, Low Education, and Low Future Preference individuals....who just happen to be mostly black?

The progressives aren't going to accept that the computer's discrimination isn't the fault of some evil racist conspiracy. "It was the algorithm, Officer! The algorithm did it!" - "Tell it to the judge, STEM scum; you programmers are all alike....racist and logical..."

Your perception of evil progressives who are just out to prove that racism is everywhere, even though it obviously doesn't exist anymore, might not be very accurate. Plus you know, you're kind of projecting into the minds of others what you assume they would think in a hypothetical future situation.

Personally i think what would more likely happen is that liberals would start to focus on environmental reasons why African Americans might be less educated and have more future discounting, or why they might have more petty arrests, independent of actual criminal activity, and what could be done to address those issues.

And besides, I don't see how just deciding that black people are incorrigible idiots and thieves who should be written off by the rest of society is useful.

Personally i think what would more likely happen is that liberals would start to focus on environmental reasons why African Americans might be less educated and have more future discounting, or why they might have more petty arrests, independent of actual criminal activity, and what could be done to address those issues.

The notion that blacks have more petty arrests 'independent of criminal activity' is a fantasy. Slum neighborhoods are underpoliced just about everywhere outside New York and Washington.

About the only aspect of law enforcement liberals take an interest in is the comparative frequency with which people in different racial categories are convicted (adjudging too many blacks) and the frequency with which malefactors are sent to prison (too often, in their view). Liberals have nothing serious to offer in regard to any effort to improve security in urban spaces. They haven't had anything to offer in my lifetime. Libertarians are no better.

The alternatives to legitimate endeavour are too readily available in slum neighborhoods, parental authority is weak, paternal authority is not typically present, schools are run by dingbats like Susan O'Doherty (https://www.insidehighered.com/users/susan-odoherty) and schools waste the time of their charges on excess leave time, non-academic mush, half-assed liberal education, and classes which jumble students with incompatible aptitudes together (confusing the slow students and boring the adept ones). Higher education apparatchiks compound the problem by admitting students with systematically weaker preparation than the norm among their applicant pool.

You might just get better performance by setting and enforcing fixed standards in the classroom and on the streets, and giving youth and their parents honest assessments of their performance and the optimal use of their time. That is not done by people who fancy themselves the tribunes of the black population. Look in the mirror, Hazel, because people like you are the source of the problem.

The alternatives to legitimate endeavour are too readily available in slum neighborhoods, parental authority is weak, paternal authority is not typically present, schools are run by dingbats like Susan O'Doherty (https://www.insidehighered.com/users/susan-odoherty) and schools waste the time of their charges on excess leave time, non-academic mush, half-assed liberal education, and classes which jumble students with incompatible aptitudes together (confusing the slow students and boring the adept ones). Higher education apparatchiks compound the problem by admitting students with systematically weaker preparation than the norm among their applicant pool.

You might just get better performance by setting and enforcing fixed standards in the classroom and on the streets, and giving youth and their parents honest assessments of their performance and the optimal use of their time.

Some might say that is an example of an "environmental reason" for some of the problems of African Americans. At least you didn't cite their supposed innate genetic lower IQ and propensity for violence. And you even proposed solutions that would remediate the environmental problems you outlined.

Hazel,

Google "algorithm racist news". Dozens of real cases of algorithms disco wrong and using Hate Facts. Already.

Unlike liberals, computers can't be so easily trained to lie to themselves in the face of information bearing data .

Should be "algorithms discovering and using Hate Facts"

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It's a form of discrimination that hasn't been made illegal (yet). By requiring a membership, Costco and Sam's are also able to filter their customer base, keeping out more of the shoplifting riff-raff.

And searching your cart as you leave probably has an effect too.

In large part in getting people used to the idea that displaying your receipt and waiting for permission to go on your way is not at all the same as saying 'papers please.'

That's one of your stupider points yet.

The analogy to saying 'papers please.' is the point when you enter and they require you to have a photo ID. When you are leaving, they check to deter shop lifting. Not for some latent tendency to harass the proles.

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"bottle of kombucha"
"reusable bag"
"vegetarian banh mi"
Very SWPL-presenting black lady.

You should update your racist priors.

Funny you should say this. My initial priors (5-6 years ago) were that all the races were basically the same. But I updated after moving to a majority black city.

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Alex Tabarrok has been posting some really good stuff recently.

Agreed.

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…I grabbed one of the orange Amazon Go bags and began to make my way around the perimeter of the store. I was studying the various bottled waters and debating whether to get fizzy or still, or a bottle of kombucha, when I realized what I was really doing: I was stalling. The fear I had carried with me for decades reared its head as I stood in front of the refrigerated display. I was afraid to make a choice, remove it from a shelf and put it in my bag. I was afraid someone would pop out from behind a display of Amazon-branded merch and scream, “Get your hands off that!” And I was mad that this fear couldn’t even let me fully enjoy an experience that’s designed for everyone to grab and go, no questions asked.

What's interesting to me is that blacks assume that whites don't feel that same angst.
Every time i go into a grocery store an don't buy anything I feel a bit of angst walking out.
When I pay for something that is in front of the store at home depot and pick it up on the way out flashing that receipt around and feel a bit of angst.
Worse of all is when I buy something in one store and have to carry it into another store ANGST!
Funny my Honduran immigrant wife feels less of that kind of angst than I do.

Yes, some minorities attribute very normal everyday things to them being a minority. Mayor DeBlasio said, after a police shooting, now he'd have to tell his (half-black) son that he's need to be careful around police officers, not to do anything to make them feel threatened. Welcome to everybody elses' world, I thought. How the hell did he not know this?

Some minorities? Practically all of them view any adverse action as being discrimination.

The law makes a clear distinction. To be discrimination, an adverse act against someone must be BECAUSE of their race, not merely in spite of it. That is, just because something bad happens to a minority does not mean there is discrimination.

Case in Point: the Philadelphia Starbucks incident. It is not sufficient that the Black patrons were asked to leave. The obvious and proffered nondiscriminatory reason was their refusal to make a purchase. They would have to prove that this reason was false or pretextual. The assertion by one white woman that she didnt buy anything but was not asked to leave is insufficient. The Black men called attention to themselves by asking to use the restroom. The manager simply might not have noticed the white woman. One similarly-situated comparator is probably not enough to prove discrimination. The manager might have been able to show that she is a stickler for rules, and it is clear that the store had this rule prior to the incident. But this manager never had an opportunity to make such a showing. She was fired without an investigation. I wish I could represent her lawsuit.

In another incident, a white woman barred the door to an apartment building to a Black man. The man REFUSED to use his key fob to demonstrate he was a tenant. Again, the mere fact he is Black is not evidence of discrimination. Again, the woman was fired without any opportunity to tell her side of the story by an employer concluding she was a racist. She too should sue for defamation and racial discrimination. The employer had no reasonable basis to believe she had discriminated, and her firing was undoubtedly predicated on her race.

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Yup, I had to tell my sons that and that the Government is crazy. The police can ignore a person using drugs 100 times and then arrest them and put them in jail for years!

Of course I told them not to use recreational drugs because they degrade life also.

I assume that it is worse if you're black but I don't know for sure because I've only been white.

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Yes, this is a good comment. I feel the same way (I'm white).

Reading the article I had the sense that this black lady is looking for confirmation that this is a racist society. If you look for racism everywhere you will surely find it.

'looking for confirmation that this is a racist society'

If only she could be so lucky to need to look for it.

Even if most white people aren't racist, it only take a few negative experiences to color one's perceptions of a whole group. Plus a lot of black people are poor, so they are more likely to interact with poor whites where there's more prevalance of racist attitudes than middle class white liberals. I don't doubt that most black people have at one point or another experienced being called by racial epithets.

Epithets, being disadvantaged in hiring for the best jobs, assumed to be criminals from day one...Hank Aaron in his autobio said when he was on his Indianapolis Negro league team, a Washington DC restaurant that served them smashed all the dishes they used after their meal.

Most black people have a parent or grandparent with a story like that, and today while it's not as blatant, that attitude is still out there. And we wonder why black people might have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. "But slavery ended 150 years ago, get over it!"

It is quite understandable that they believe what they believe, but to think that whites do not feel the same thing in this case is interesting. I'd add that whites are excessively fearful of blacks which is similar.

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Most black people have a parent or grandparent with a story like that,

My grandmother had stories of dodging bill collectors during the Depression. She wasn't voluble about it and it doesn't take up rent free space in the heads of her grandchildren.

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Plus a lot of black people are poor, so they are more likely to interact with poor whites where there's more prevalance of racist attitudes than middle class white liberals.

No, they're not, except in small towns and rural areas in the Deep South. Impecunious white people tend to live in exurban zones where you find trailer parks. They very seldom live in inner city slums.

Blacks are more likely to interact socially with wage-earner whites in workplaces because most blacks are wage-earners.

And what's prevalent among bourgeois whites is a habit of speaking elliptically and particular markers of in-group and out-group status. Doesn't have much to do with actual charity in assessing people.

Impecunious white people tend to live in exurban zones where you find trailer parks. They very seldom live in inner city slums.

You haven't really lived in many cities, have you?

Actually decades worth in different sorts of environments. Enough to know that you haven't a clue.

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As I understand it, it's the opposite. At Amazon Go, the system is watching you like a hawk regardless of the color of your skin. Everyone gets the opportunity to be treated like a potential shoplifter regardless of ancestry, even the AI is more circumspect about it than the more-embodied loss-prevention personnel of yesteryear.

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Nationally, Blacks commit larceny/theft at 2.5 times the expected value based on their share of the population. In some local areas where they are a majority of the population, they commit 90% of shoplifting.

In all white areas, whites do well over 90% of shoplifting.

Of course, in majority non-white areas, blacks might be 90% of those arrested, but unless you have data showing near zero losses from theft, the odds are high those losses were thefts by white people.

"...the odds are high those losses were thefts by white people"

"In all white areas, whites do well over 90% of shoplifting"

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"In the Uber case my bet is that a large share of the reduction in discrimination was due to the fact that Uber drivers don’t carry cash and so are less worried about robbery and the app increases safety because it records in detail rider, driver and trip data"

Only because of civil rights laws that Uber had to add support for in their code and payment policies.

20016: "But the most problematic platform seems to be Uber because the study found statistically significant longer wait times for black people riding UberX, and found zero significantly different wait times on Lyft and Flywheel. Taken as a whole, according to the study, “it would appear” that there’s evidence of racial discrimination among UberX drivers, some evidence of discrimination among Lyft drivers and no evidence of discrimination among Flywheel drivers."

2018:"By contrast, Lyft and Uber nearly eliminate the racial differences in service. On both services, a black rider had about a 4 percent higher likelihood of being cancelled than a white rider. But 99.7 percent of Lyft and Uber riders reached their destination even if one driver cancelled a trip. While unlawful discrimination from taxi drivers prevent many black riders from completing a trip, driver biases on Uber and Lyft result in delayed, but not denied, mobility. And policy changes for ridehail apps — such as tracking driver cancellation behavior, permitting riders to use pseudonyms, and changing at what point in the pickup process drivers learn a rider’s name or race — could help erase the racial gap almost entirely." https://www.its.ucla.edu/2018/06/27/ridehail-revolution-groundbreaking-its-dissertation-examines-discrimination-and-travel-patterns-for-lyft-uber-and-taxis/

What Uber, et al, do is mask information that is used in racial discrimination, ie, photos, name, addresses, and then reveal the minimum after a capitalist contractor accepts, and then if the capitalist contractors cancels for any reason, the capitalist is punished by Uber, which quickly offers the contract again, repeating the punishments until the customer is served.

The punishment ins higher if the capitalist fails to provide service later in the process.

Uber, et al did not add these policy actions out of the goodness of their hearts but to ensure they had a defense when sued for violating civil rights law.

Note, Sears contracted delivery in most cases to the Federal government, which ended up being the biggest employers of black workers. Black delivery "boys" was acceptable to white racist so the Post Office could use blacks as employees to deliver packages pretty much everywhere.

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"or perhaps the one-stop shop had to cater to racist customers who demanded invidious discrimination"

Not in a ONE-SHOP TOWN they don't. If there's only one store in town, the owner can force racial integration on an unwilling populace. Rather it's more likely the owner was taking monopoly profits via acts of invidious racism.

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The one shop down did also allow for a kind of discrimination in which black people simply had to pay more for the same goods.

You could imagine a completely stone-cold profit maximiser who hated neither blacks nor whites but who needed to keep in the good books of the white majority to avoid ostracism. Price gauging black people however would be possible.

Now this case is closer to what you are calling "invidious racism" rather than "statistical racism". But now the opportunity to be racist isn't some intangible good the bigot is purchasing.

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