Saturday, July 25, 2009

the case of Henry Louis Gates: race in America, rampant & ironic prejudice, and the connection of Obama's unfortunate remarks to federal health caree

This image of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his Cambridge home has earned more than $4,000 for the photographer and the agency he hired.

The police report and the story of "the photo" is provided here (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

A lot has been said about this, but let me provide some value-added from the viewpoint of a Labor economist:

-The base of prejudice is a lack of information. The term itself means to "pre-judge", implying that someone is making a decision with too little information. At times, such decisions are necessary-- and hopefully, people do the best they can with the info they have. At other times, there is an unnecessary rush to judgment.

-In a moment of crisis-- in this case, both Gates dealing with the police and the police dealing with him-- agents make important decisions. But in judging the events from the outside, looking into the past and with less-than-ideal info, people have been unnecessarily quick to rush to prejudicial judgments. The irony here is greatest among those who pre-judge by accusing the police of discrimination, basing their inferences on limited info and a lack of humility in forming and publicly sharing those inferences.

-The funniest and most revealing example is President Obama's now-famous over-reach in his "word choice" at his presser. Funny-- again, given its irony. Surprising in that he is usually so careful (often painfully so) with his words. Revealing-- in what he thinks about race and what he thinks about his powers of assessment. Odd-- in that he is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer whose default should be to support the police. Sad-- in that he will not apologize for creating and then stepping in a steaming pile of dung, harming rather than advancing race relations in the U.S.

-The connection to health care? Obama believes that a federal solution is the best way to handle local problems. He has faith in government and his own powers of discernment-- and correspondingly, far less faith in markets, local decision making, and the intellect of others. Instead of deferring to the local experts who knew more about the situation, Obama presumed to be able to speak with expertise to a situation in which he had far too much ignorance. In health care, he presumes the same thing.


At July 25, 2009 at 10:24 PM , Blogger Wayne Kirk said...

The way I see it is that Obama suffers from a condition of his ego. He made comments back in February when he pushed the Stimulus/Bailout bill and expressed that he won the Presidency while thumbing his nose at others who have disagreements. He then attempted to bite off much more than he can chew with the National Health Care and Clean Energy Acts and recently he expressed that people are "trying to ruin his Presidency." If he doesn't get a grip on reality, he's going to continue to trip up until he marginalizes himself even amongst his peers in the House.

At July 25, 2009 at 11:44 PM , Blogger kristi said...

Our president will make all things right again, he invited Henry Gates and that police officer who acted stupidly to the white house for a beer.

At July 26, 2009 at 3:13 PM , Blogger Lissie-Beth said...

The police did not act "stupidly". They were investigating a break-in and following standard police procedures.

He will make "all things right again" - I thought only God could do that?!

At July 26, 2009 at 5:04 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

LB, Kristi is using sarcasm... ;-)

At July 26, 2009 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Lissie-Beth said...

That makes much more sense! :-)

At July 30, 2009 at 7:34 AM , Blogger Tim Kerns said...

I've read the police report, and in my opinion, race had little to do with anything here. The Policwe officer got his ego bruised, when Dr. Gates didn't immediately fall down, and lick Sgt. Jim Crow-ly's jackboots. Professor Gates is a lucky man, as in most of this country, an officer with a bruised ego, equals a citizen with a bruised head!


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