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Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Act of Mind Reading Presentation of pages 189-194 of Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell Theresa M. Senft, Public Speaking.

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Presentation on theme: "Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Act of Mind Reading Presentation of pages 189-194 of Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell Theresa M. Senft, Public Speaking."— Presentation transcript:

1 Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Act of Mind Reading Presentation of pages of Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell Theresa M. Senft, Public Speaking University of the Virgin Islands Summer 1, 2005

2 The Scene: South Bronx, NY The Address: 1100 Wheeler Avenue located between commercial strip of Westchester Ave and brisk drug trade of Elder Ave.

3 The Players Amadou Diallo (Peddler, 22 years old) Amadou Diallo (Peddler, 22 years old) –Race: Black (Immigrant from Guinea) –Height: 5’6”, Weight: 150 lbs Four plainclothes NYC Police officers riding in an unmarked patrol car: Four plainclothes NYC Police officers riding in an unmarked patrol car: –Sean Caroll (35 years old) –Edward McMellon (27 yrs. old) –Ken Boss (27 yrs. Old) –Sean Caroll (25 yrs. Old)

4 The Events of Feb. 3, 1999: Part I Midnight: Diallo goes downstairs to the stoop for night air Midnight: Diallo goes downstairs to the stoop for night air Police spot Diallo. Two thoughts: Police spot Diallo. Two thoughts: –lookout for a “push-in” robber –serial rapist active in neighborhood a year earlier. Officer Boss backs the car up until it is right in front of 1157 Wheeler Avenue. Officer Boss backs the car up until it is right in front of 1157 Wheeler Avenue.

5 Events, Part II “He was just standing on the stoop, looking up and down the block, peeking his head out and the putting his head back against the wall. Within seconds, he does the same thing, looks down, looks right. And it appeared that he stepped backwards into the vestibule as we were approaching, like he didn’t want to e seen…” Police Office Sean Carroll (Blink, page 191)

6 Events, Part III McMellon calls out, “Police. May we have a word?” He heads toward Diallo. McMellon calls out, “Police. May we have a word?” He heads toward Diallo. (Diallo has a stutter and had recently been robbed. Remember police are in plain clothes in an unmarked car.) (Diallo has a stutter and had recently been robbed. Remember police are in plain clothes in an unmarked car.) Diallo runs into building vestibule; police give chase Diallo runs into building vestibule; police give chase

7 Events, Part IV Diallo reaches one hand to doorknob; other hand into pocket, turning his body sideways. Diallo reaches one hand to doorknob; other hand into pocket, turning his body sideways. Police yell “Show me your hands” and “Don’t make me fucking kill you.” Police yell “Show me your hands” and “Don’t make me fucking kill you.” Diallo appears to be removing a black object from his right side. Diallo appears to be removing a black object from his right side. Officer Carroll yells, “He’s got a gun!” Officer Carroll yells, “He’s got a gun!”

8 Events, Part V “He starts removing a black object from his right side. And as he pulled the object, all I could see was a top—it looked like the slide of a black gun. My prior experience and training, my prior arrests, dictated to me that this person was pulling a gun.” Police Office Sean Carroll (page 192)

9 Events, Part VI Officer Carroll opens fire Officer Carroll opens fire Officer McMellon jumps backward off the steps, firing as he flies through the air Officer McMellon jumps backward off the steps, firing as he flies through the air Officer Carroll assumes McMellon’s bullets came from Diallo’s “gun” and that McMellon is flying through the air because he was hit by Diallo Officer Carroll assumes McMellon’s bullets came from Diallo’s “gun” and that McMellon is flying through the air because he was hit by Diallo Officer Carroll continues to fire in “center mass” as police are taught to do Officer Carroll continues to fire in “center mass” as police are taught to do

10 Events, Part VII

11 Events, Part VIII Boss and Murphy leave patrol car Boss and Murphy leave patrol car Carol and Mellon = sixteen shots fired each Carol and Mellon = sixteen shots fired each Boss= five shots Boss= five shots Murphy = four shots Murphy = four shots

12 Events, Part IX All climb the stairs, gun drawn. All climb the stairs, gun drawn. Diallo lies dead. Diallo lies dead. Diallo’s hand holds not a gun, but a wallet. Diallo’s hand holds not a gun, but a wallet. Officer Boss runs disoriented toward Westchester Avenue. Officer Boss runs disoriented toward Westchester Avenue. Officer Carroll sits on steps next to body and begins to cry. Officer Carroll sits on steps next to body and begins to cry.

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14 What Went Wrong? The most common and important forms of rapid cognition are the judgments we make about other people. The most common and important forms of rapid cognition are the judgments we make about other people. We call these judgments “thin slicing.” We call these judgments “thin slicing.” Why couldn’t the officers on Wheeler Avenue thin slice Amadou Diallo on the night of February 3, 1999? Why couldn’t the officers on Wheeler Avenue thin slice Amadou Diallo on the night of February 3, 1999?

15 What Diallo was doing What the police officers saw Getting night air Acting as a lookout for a robbery or rape Standing because he was curious about what was going on A brazen man who wouldn’t move when they pulled car up to him Going for his wallet Making a suspicious move toward his pocket in order to get a gun out

16 Which do you believe? Diallo shooting was an accident (trial verdict: officers were acquitted) Diallo shooting was an accident (trial verdict: officers were acquitted) Diallo shooting was a open-and-shut case of racism. Diallo shooting was a open-and-shut case of racism.

17 NYC Protests Diallo Verdict

18 Is it a gun, is it a knife Is it a wallet, this is your life It ain't no secret It ain't no secret No secret my friend You can get killed just for living In your American skin Is it a gun, is it a knife Is it a wallet, this is your life It ain't no secret It ain't no secret No secret my friend You can get killed just for living In your American skin Bruce Springsteen American Skin (41 Shots)

19 Problems the either/or logic of accident v. racism On one hand, no evidence that four officers were racists, bad people, or even out to get Diallo. On one hand, no evidence that four officers were racists, bad people, or even out to get Diallo. On other hand, this was no mere “accident,” as critical misjudgments were made. On other hand, this was no mere “accident,” as critical misjudgments were made.

20 Gladwell’s Verdict “The Diallo shooting…falls into a kind of grey area, the middle ground between deliberate and accidental…what happened on Wheeler Avenue is a powerful example of how mind reading words—and how it sometimes goes terribly awry.” Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, page 197


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