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Irony and Analogy: Uncovering Implicit Biases – Wanda Sykes on the Opioid Health Crisis

In the following, comic Wanda Sykes wonders why African Americans have suffered a lot much less, if in any respect, from the present opioid well being disaster. Ironically, it’s largely due to implicit racial biases inside the medical career.

Here is only one of the research that helps Sykes’s rivalry in the efficiency. The concept that the medical career, in the present day, nonetheless harbors destructive stereotypes originating throughout the interval of slavery, is difficult to simply accept. Even more durable is the particular bias concerned concerning a human being’s capability to undergo, or lack thereof. While not the focus of discussions right here, it typically can meander into the philosophy of thoughts and the downside of different minds, however you will need to steer the conversations again to the moral realm, the place this most correctly belongs. We introduce the argument by analogy type, and have college students consider the therapy of principally Black folks hooked on crack cocaine in the Nineteen Eighties and how they had been usually handled (as criminals), and the “health” disaster of in the present day’s opioid disaster which predominantly impacts white people who find themselves over-prescribed opioids for his or her ache.

Working from sections of Daniel Kelly and Erica Roedder’s Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias and Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works, we analyze the idea of propaganda in the context of policing vs. well being care and the language implicitly used that demarcates differential therapy of white people and Black people hooked on medication. For one instance, the justice division pushed 100-1 harsher sentences for crack-cocaine use, discovered predominantly in Black neighborhoods, over purer powder cocaine, utilized in proportionately comparable numbers, however in white areas: “The goal of establishing the sentencing disparities is not consistent with law and order, but the ideal used in the service of that goal is law and order” (Stanley, 60).

It is an irony that’s missed by most who haven’t lived by such experiences.

This is just not straightforward to see, as the positive-sounding language employed to struggle the “war on drugs” by way of “law and order,” for instance, can obscure the penalties of differential therapy towards teams of individuals the place there aren’t any precise related logical variations between them.

But maybe using sure argument kinds can render seen the kinds of disparities famous above. First, we cowl numerous argument kinds and the variations between deduction and induction. The focus right here is on the inductive type wherein college students search comparisons between/amongst numerous states of affairs, and purpose towards a conclusion based mostly on related similarities.

Here we introduce the authorized parallel of “similar cases ought to be decided similarly.”

Students are requested to judge two situations, one wherein an moral conclusion is believable sufficient to most individuals to garner normal settlement, and one other which is our goal case wherein there may be huge disagreement concerning what to conclude about it.

They are requested, “What are the morally and logically relevant differences between the two situations?”

If there are none, then purpose and morality would push us to deal with these conditions equally.

Students are provided an instance of an argument by analogy together with some analysis by Susan Stebbing in her Thinking to Some Purpose. Her case research is the story of King David and Bathsheba, the place David is dropped at notice his wrong-doing, indirectly, however by the use of a narrative that he involves study is analogous to his personal state of affairs. Stebbing claims that this allegory avoids the “fallacy of special pleading, since we pass judgment first, and are then shown the application to our own case” (90). She continues, “When the point was brought home to him [David], he was enabled to see that what held in the case of the man he had condemned held also in his own case” (90, my italics). But when the challenge includes extra delicate issues the place critique could possibly be interpreted as an affront to at least one’s cherished beliefs, values, or, in the case of David, one’s sense of self, a direct, specific, accomplished argument may be counter-productive, precluding the chance for the cognitive-emotional area “to elicit from David a disinterested judgment” (90). The class then discusses variations on this story, one the place Nathan omits his final line “You are the man!” and we think about if such a change would possibly make the analogy more practical, even when (or particularly as a result of) it’s way more oblique, requiring extra cognitive work from David; would possibly he not have come to the similar conclusion on his personal, and thus, be extra prone to take possession of his fault? People not often like being advised “you are wrong!”

In Sykes’s efficiency humor is greater than a mere automobile to garner a guffaw, even when the comedians themselves declare that’s all they intend to do (Roland Barthes’s “death of the author” would possibly pop up right here).

Humor will also be a method of elevating consciousness about one thing that needs to be apparent, however has one way or the other eluded our consciousness.

Once her comparability is made in the narration, college students are “enabled to see” how ironic it’s that the present opioid disaster has not dramatically affected the Black inhabitants. Humorous narratives that make use of analogies are sometimes very profitable means to encourage college students to suppose critically about tough ethical dilemmas, and they’ll achieve this partially resulting from bypassing many widespread biases. Good comedians (and good philosophers) with these instruments are sometimes very properly positioned to render what has been unjustly normalized into one thing about which we must say, “that is absurd!”

Further Reading:
Kelly, Daniel, Roedder, Erica. 2008. “Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias.” The Philosophy Compass. Vol. 3 No. 3: 522-540.
Stanley, Jason. How Propaganda Works. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Stebbing, Susan. Thinking to Some Purpose. London: Penguin Books, 1941.


The Teaching and Learning Video Series is designed to share pedagogical approaches to utilizing video clips, and humorous ones specifically, for educating philosophy. Humor, when used appropriately, has empirically been proven to correlate with increased retention charges. If you have an interest in contributing to this sequence, please electronic mail the Series Editor, William A. B. Parkhurst, at

Chris Kramer

Chris Kramer is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Santa Barbara City College. He wrote his dissertation on “Subversive Humor”, half about humor, half about oppression. Readers will giggle and cry, however principally cry, and principally as a result of they are studying a dissertation; what has develop into of their lives?


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