"E-Waste" Recycling: Reseach Papers on Psychology

Look at an African holding a laptop.

Now close your eyes...

What did you see?
What did you see?
What did you see?

In the 1960s, university psychology research documented how prejudice and preconceptions affected testimony.   A photo was shown for X seconds of one person handing a purse (for example) to another person.  Then the photo was hidden, and then the surveyor asked the witness what they had observed.

The studies measured instances where a minority was one of the participants in the photo, and how often that correlated positively with witness recollection of a crime  (one person was snatching the other person's purse).  This research resulted in a consensus that "profiling" is tricky business.

What does an African repairing a computer look like to you?

A more recent study at Ohio State University Political Science department, "Racial Profiling or Racist Profiling:  Perception and Opinion on the Profiling of Arabs and Blacks" by Thomas E. Nelson, Javonne A. Paul, Ray Block, Jr. and Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is another study that I have not read... Cut me some slack... I think that study may apply to how "recycling export" policy is forming.
"The psychological literature on social judgment makes a strong case that opinions and other subjective impressions are powerfully influenced by social context (Manis, Nelson, and Shedler 1988). In particular, the presence of a strong comparative standard may influence perceptions, judgments, and evaluations of objects..."

Adam Minter's blog, Shanghaiscrap.com  recently compared hard drive scrap recycling practices in Malaysia vs. the USA, and the impact on hard rock mining and sustainability and how to preserve rare earth metals.

Hand separation is proven to be a better method of "e-waste" recycling than shredding equipment;  the problem in the USA are that wages make hand demanufacturing more expensive.   Those who respond by investing in shredding equipment then spread distrust of hand separation overseas, with equal parts white guilt, poor science ("80%"), racial profiling, and anti gray market marketing.

The people potentially injured by any racial profiling scheme are the people who are assumed to be something they are not... an African American perceived to be a gangster, a woman perceived to be an emotional executive, an Arab muslim perceived to be hostile.   It's important that BAN.org and others who raise money on pitiful portrayals of poor people either use that money to help the people, or protect people like me who promote best practices and fair trade.

No Intact Unit vs. "Primitive" Recycling:  Having created a stereotype by Al Jolson, watchdogs require African Americans to become Dr. Huxtable as proof that they are not Al Jolson.  The export market is savvy, smart, talented, and good enough if given fair trade incentives.  Requiring that only "fully functional" units to go to warranty repair factories is condescending and counterproductive.

Treat the export market fairly.   Respond to complaints, react to quality control problems, offer incentives for proper recycling of parts, and follow up to obtain documentation that the parts were in fact properly recycled.  This is not a perfect solution, it's flawed and clumsy and subject to bottlenecks and corruption and bad intent.  It's just better than a boycott or prohibition or donating money to people who break stuff and applaud themselves.

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