Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gates, Boxer, and Race

I have never found Chris Rock funny, but this video certainly is:

It's actually not new, but it seems appropriate at this time. Professor Gates might have saved himself some trouble if he had watched it. I should add that I am not the adoring fan of police that I once was. Police are generally out to do their job, which is to enforce the law, but they are also in a position of power that it is easy to abuse. I don't think, however, that they systematically discriminate against blacks; as in the video, they discriminate against people who challenge them. And, although I don't always like it, I can't really blame them: the world is a dangerous place, and they do not want you to show any signs of putting them in danger.

Since we're on the subject of racial profiling, it was heartening to see Harry Alford stand up to Barbara Boxer last week when she attempted to make an argument on the basis of race. In defending the Waxman-Markey bill, she put forward statements by the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Atlanta in favour of it (her other exhibit was against the bill). Alford, chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, complained that she was being "racial" and "condescending" to him. On The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly defended Barbara Boxer to the extent that he said her opposition to Alford came from her liberal views, not any racial motive. O'Reilly is correct, but he misunderstands Alford's point: why did Boxer cite specifically black groups in support of the bill when Alford appeared before the committee? Would she have done so with a white witness?

Pretty clearly not. Before being interrupted by Alford, she began to say, "So clearly, there is a diversity of...", probably with the intention of finishing her sentence "...opinion in the black community." She was trying to show that other blacks favoured the bill. After Alford confronted her, she said in her defense that "If this gentleman were here, he would be proud that he was being quoted." Apparently Alford should give the citation of a black man more credence because it would make him proud? I didn't follow her logic on that point, but I followed Alford's: that Boxer was not arguing against him so much as setting him up as a dissident in the black community. He was right to call her out on it.

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