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July 26, 2009

Potent op-ed notes what is missing from the Gates-gate debate

Writing in today's New York Times, Glenn Loury has this potent op-ed putting the brouhaha surrounding the Gates incident in a broader context.  Here are excerpts:

[T]his much-publicized incident is emblematic of precisely nothing at all. Rather, the Gates arrest is a made-for-cable-TV tempest in a teapot. It is the rough equivalent of a black man being thrown out of a restaurant after having berated an indifferent maître d’ for showing him to a table by the kitchen door, all the while declaring what everybody is supposed to know: this is what happens to a black man in America.

Certainly, the contretemps shed no relevant light on the plight of the millions of black men on society’s margins who bear the brunt of police scrutiny and government-sanctioned coercion. I find laughable, and sad, Professor Gates’s declaration that he now plans to make a documentary film about racial profiling. Is that as far as his scholarship on the intersection of race and policing in America extends? Where has this eminent scholar of African-American affairs been these last 30 years, during which a historically unprecedented, politically popular, extraordinarily punitive and hugely racially disparate mobilization of resources for the policing, imprisonment and post-release supervision of those caught up in the criminal justice system has unfolded?

Moreover, it is a shame that it takes an incident like this to induce a (black!) president to address these issues forthrightly. President Obama spoke to the N.A.A.C.P. this month, reaffirming the standard racial narrative while lecturing the black community on the need for better family values. But he barely uttered a word about the ways in which public policies — policies over which he might exert no small influence — have resulted in the hyper-incarceration of poor black men.

UPDATE:  Here's more of Loury's potent observations:

It is depressing in the extreme that the president, when it came time for him to expend political capital on the issue of race and the police, did so on behalf of his “friend” rather than stressing policy reforms that might keep the poorly educated, infrequently employed, troubled but still human young black men in America out of prison. This is to say that, if Mr. Obama were going to lose some working-class white votes to the charge of “elitism,” I’d much rather it have been on countering the proliferation of “three strikes” laws, or ratcheting down the federal penalties for low-level drug trafficking, or inveighing against the racial disproportion in the administration of the death penalty....

I hope that something of lasting value might come from the uproar surrounding the Gates arrest. But my firm conviction is that change will not come about from the moral posturing of politicians or from more intense “sensitivity training” for police officers. Nor will it come from the president having a beer with Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley, as Mr. Obama suggested in his follow-up meeting with the press on Friday.

Rather, along with Senator James Webb, Democrat of Virginia, I believe we should be pursuing far-reaching reforms in our criminal justice system. We should invest more in helping the troubled people — our fellow citizens — caught in the law enforcement web to find a constructive role in society, and less in punishing them for punishment’s sake. We need to change the ways in which we deal with juvenile offenders, so that a foolish act in childhood doesn’t put them on the road to lifetimes in prison. We should seriously consider that many of our sentences are too long — “three strikes” laws may be good politics, but they are an irrational abomination as policy. We should definitely consider decriminalizing most drug use. We need to reinvent parole.

And, most important, we should weigh more heavily the negative and self-defeating effects that our policy of mass incarceration is having on the communities where large numbers of young black and Hispanic men live.

July 26, 2009 at 08:50 AM | Permalink


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Gates' DNA is half Irish, explaining his talent for the Blarney. Obama'a is half white dirty hippie. Both Acted White during their top notch educations.

These are pretend black folks. They are playing a race card they do not possess.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 9:44:45 AM

It should be pointed out, Gates attended Yale Law for a month. I don't know if the indoctrination of the CCE can reach a person the quickly. But he sure talks the talk of entitlement and criminal lover. Never heard a word about the six fold burden of criminal victimization carried by black folks. Not a word. His lawsuit would deter the police from investigating burglaries, and from clamping down on blacks (half blacks) causing a disturbance.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 9:50:25 AM

This is standard criminal lover, left wing orthodoxy. It is garbage.

To the right of this drivel?

An ad.


Funny, offensive, both, for the NY Times to place right there.

It is not hair that needs to change. It the lawyer caused high rate of bastardy that needs to change, after the lawyer can be controlled with lawyer control Amendment and statutes. Bastardy accounts for all social pathology disparities. Skin color has nothing to do with it.

Exclude the lawyer from all benches, all legislative seats, all responsible policy positions in the Executive.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 7:22:41 PM

White House reporter question on Gates, rehearsed, planted, read from a piece of paper.


Disclosure: Credibility of this site is open to question.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 26, 2009 9:24:50 PM

Doug, how much more of SC's incoherent, paranoid ramblings are you going to allow to clog up your comments board?

Posted by: Alpino | Jul 27, 2009 2:00:29 AM

Justice Major here (38 years and the idealism still hasn't worn off)...

Once Gates properly identified himself as the owner of the house, the cop, regardless of any personal insult felt or derision being taken, should have left the premises as quickly as he could manage.

No more ID confirmation, no remonstrations about "attitude", no demanding of apologies for simply doing his job in checking on the neighbor's report.

"The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail -- its roof may shake -- the wind may blow through it -- the storm may enter -- the rain may enter -- but the King of England cannot enter! -- all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!" - Pitt the Elder

Once it is known to be my property, absent other actual probable cause, the police are offsides and need to clear the zone.

Posted by: Matthew Carberry | Jul 27, 2009 2:25:07 AM

Mr. Carberry:

"Once Gates properly identified himself as the owner of the house, the cop, regardless of any personal insult felt or derision being taken, should have left the premises as quickly as he could manage."

If you read the actual after-action report, that's exactly what Sgt. Crowley was trying to do. But Henri-Louis Gates just couldn't let it go. It was Gates who escalated the confrontation.

More importantly -

Half of all murder victims in this country are black men. Black men make up roughly 5% of the population. So they are 10 times more likely to be murdered than members of any other group.

And who is murdering them?

The criminals that Professor Loury describes as "troubled people . . . caught in the law enforcement web." His sympathies are misplaced, to say the least.

Posted by: Punditarian | Jul 27, 2009 7:24:07 AM

123D. The rent-seeking criminal cult attorney perpetuates his control and continued employment with civil rights suits, habeas challenges, and frivolous torts.

Posted by: Redundancy Clause | Jul 27, 2009 8:09:05 AM


Agreed, but the problem is that is not a race thing; that is a "contempt of cop" thing.

I'm not saying there aren't racial inflections here, but unfortunately, in most places, anybody who yells at a cop---even if completely within his or her rights---is getting arrested.

Posted by: anon | Jul 27, 2009 11:10:07 AM

Radley Balko has some helpful comments at http://www.reason.com/news/show/135039.html Balko argues that all this "don't diss the cops" rhetoric reflects an lamentable authoritarian streak in the American psyche.

Alan Bean

Posted by: Alan Bean | Jul 27, 2009 2:35:07 PM

I agree with Carberry above and wish that i had the quote from Pitt the Elder the other day when I chimned in on this. If there was some offense of mouthing off here, it deserved no more than a summons. The city of Boston is the place where some folks dumped some tea in the harbor sometime back. One of the indignities of the British occupation was home invasion. Under our 4th Amendment, the 14th Amendment and 42 USC Section 1983 we have protection from home invasion and violation of the person. Protection and a civil remedy. The city of Cambridge would have a tough time arguing a defense to municipal liability when they have this guy teaching other cops about racial profiling. Handcuffing someone is an assault, taking them off to jail is a seizure. The blithe acceptance of this is the fallout from the Bush authoritarianism. Many people think it was perfectly ok to handcuff this guy in his own home and haul him off to jail.

All that being said, Gates is a jerk, he would not sell well to a jury, even an all black jury, and I wouldnt want him as a Section 1983 civil rights client. Section 8 should not be confused with Section 1983.

Posted by: mbp | Jul 29, 2009 12:00:25 AM

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