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Hitler’s Baby Pictures

• July 15, 2013 • 8:52 PM

Adolf Hitler as an infant (c. 1889–1890). (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Evil needs a face and it doesn’t look like your neighbor—or your child. Evil must be inhuman, other. The familiar is innocent. We let our guard down. This is part of the diversity paradox.

Too much social capital will kill you. We fear strangers and unfamiliar places. Yet danger is usually a spouse, sibling, or significant other. Police crime – do not cross surrounds your neighborhood:

There’s no such thing as “black-on-black” crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime—86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.

What Shapiro and others miss about crime, in general, is that it’s driven by opportunism and proximity; If African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it’s because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other. Residential statistics bear this out (PDF); blacks are still more likely to live near each other or other minority groups than they are to whites. And of course, the reverse holds as well—whites are much more likely to live near other whites than they are to minorities and African-Americans in particular.

Residential proximity, not race, is a strong predictor of homicide. You kill who you know. It’s the curse of Hitler’s baby pictures:

On the cover of my book I put Hitler’s baby picture, and I put it there because there’s a big controversy over Hitler’s baby picture. (Garbled)

But what I also found was that is raises a question of Hitler’s normality- I mean, this is a very normal looking baby picture. (Garbled)

… this normal looking baby was really kind of threatening. My book was translated into ten languages by five publishers, and none of the foreign publishers wanted to put Hitler’s baby picture on the cover. They put a picture of Hitler shaking his fist or Hitler in a military uniform, Hitler scowling as an adult, but certainly this child, this baby was more threatening because it somehow implicated us more, it implicated normality.

Evil needs a face and it doesn’t look like your neighbor. Evil must be inhuman, other. It was never a child. The familiar is innocent. We let our guard down. Just keep out the outsiders and everything will be OK:

So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles — the great melting-pot cities that drive the world’s creative and financial economies?

The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest. It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

“Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that’s challenging,” says Page, author of “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies.” “But by hanging out with people different than you, you’re likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive.”

In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

Page calls it the “diversity paradox.” He thinks the contrasting positive and negative effects of diversity can coexist in communities, but “there’s got to be a limit.” If civic engagement falls off too far, he says, it’s easy to imagine the positive effects of diversity beginning to wane as well. “That’s what’s unsettling about his findings,” Page says of Putnam’s new work.

Emphasis added. Don’t bowl with strangers. He might be the next Hitler. Segregation is a choice, a survival strategy. Only go where you know. Where you know depends on who you know, a surefire strategy to keep you and your progeny poor.

Globalization, life, rewards those who resist the urge to turtle. You go where you don’t know anyone, bowling alone. Robert Putnam laments the eroding social capital and the resulting decline of the United States. Doom. Doom is the creepy guy next door that everyone has known for ages.

Jim Russell
Jim Russell is a geographer studying the relationship between migration and economic development.

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