Non-stereotyped shoe shining picture?
August 29, 2013 8:32 PM   Subscribe

The professor with whom I co-teach a class used a picture of a man getting his shoes shined in order to make a (weak) analogy in class today. Very unfortunately, he picked a picture depicting a black man shining a rich-looking white man's shoes. Can you help me make the most of this situation?

I found this offensive, and am planning to talk to him about it.

What I'm hoping to suggest is that he either 1) get a better analogy or 2) use a different picture (perhaps of a white person shining the shoes of a person of color, or at the very least a picture of two people of similar ethnicity).

The analogy was supposed to illustrate that enzymes can catalyze reaction by putting the substrate in a good geometry for the reaction (and so be the chair/foot holder).

Can you help me with any of 1) finding a better picture (it will be presented to a private class and a citation can be given) and 2) some easy reading resources on why this is problematic or 3) an actual reasonable analogy from everyday life (I've come up with a ramp on a moving truck).

Thanks in advance.
posted by lab.beetle to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
Lock & key was the analogy that I was taught. Unless you're talking about allosteric regulation...
posted by scalespace at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

In general it's better to avoid anything that contains racial stereotypes because they're degrading and also distracting.

Enzymes are kind of like the robot Bender, who's really good at bending things at right angles when necessary so that other stuff can happen. But it's really the only thing he's good at.
posted by bleep at 8:41 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about an image of Underdog as Shoeshine Boy?
posted by scody at 8:45 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can't help you with a photo, unfortunately, but some other analogies that could apply, assuming I'm understanding the issue:

-Exercise equipment: Weight-lifting machines that force you into a particular geometry in order to work out certain muscles. Cardio machines that serve a similar purpose.

-Medical equipment, e.g. a dentist's chair or operating table
posted by DeadliestQuack at 8:53 PM on August 29, 2013

I would be delighted if my professor illustrated a concept with Andy Dwyer suffering from shoeshine head.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 10:17 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

A screenshot of Johnny the Shoe Shine Guy?
posted by Lucinda at 10:39 PM on August 29, 2013

Try this from the Library of Congress.
posted by fings at 11:20 AM on August 30, 2013

As far as other analogies, what about racking balls in billiards? The rack (enzymes) puts the balls into a good geometry for a clean break.
posted by fings at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great suggestion.
posted by lab.beetle at 11:41 AM on August 30, 2013

In keeping with the sports themed analogy of billiards, consider the analogy of kicking a field goal. In order for a reaction to proceed (i.e. kick a field goal), the reactant(s) must interact with the correct geometry, and overcome the activation energy. One way catalysts increase the rate of reaction is by holding the reactant in a particular geometry. Think about a kicker trying to kick a 35 yard field goal with the ball laying on the field in some random orientation versus using a holder or a tee. The analogy could be extended to the lowering of activation energy (i.e. moving the kicker closer to the goal posts) and to the idea of elevated temperature to increase the rate of reaction (i.e. the kicker kicking with more or less force). I will try to think of other analogies but I think you can certainly do better than the shoe shine one.
posted by Schwartz at 11:47 AM on August 30, 2013

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