Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

To exhibit prejudice one must "pre-judge" situations or people. Prejudice is not the forming of some generalizations after observing "n" people or situations. One can and does naturally form stereotypes in ones mind through our life experiences. This is often characterized by the unthinking as prejudice. But what is true prejudice is when one applies such a stereotype in the n+1st case. This is what is unfair and biased.
Now suppose that you have seen many rowdy English soccer fans on TV and conclude that English soccer fans tend to be hooligans, even dangerous. Then suppose next you meet an English soccer fan on a London bus. Can you assume that this individual should be avoided at all cost? Unless there is other damming evidence, I would clearly say "no" as this is exhibiting prejudice.

Now, last night President Obama made two unfortunate observations about the Cambridge police officer (Sgt. Crowley) who arrested Professor Henry Louis Gates in the contra temps at the Professor's home last week. Obama first said, "without knowing all the facts," that this police officer "acted stupidly". This may or may not have been the case. Certainly, he could have been a tad more diplomatic. But then Obama went on to say that there is a long history of blacks and Latinos being profiled by the police in this country ... implying that Sgt. Crowley was also profiling Professor Gates because he is black. I do believe that profiling probably does exist in this country to whatever degree (probably diminishing).

But President Obama's comment was clearly prejudicial because he applied what may have been his valid generalization to this n+1st case "without knowing all the facts." This is not the kind of nuanced behavior one expects to see in our President.


Anonymous said...

Professor Gates acted like an asshole when he cussed out the cop who came to the rescue of his home, which was allegedly being burglarized. The call from a neighbor went out for "two black men burglarizing a home in the neighborhood." Since the Harvard professor was black he should have thanked the cop for going after the suspect(s) who fitted the description of his alert neighbor; but instead the race-irritability of the schwartze professor ignited. He was lucky the cop didn't crack his dumb-ass skull with a billy club. And if he had, I know just the lawyer who would have defended that good Boston cop – successfully.

John B.

DEN said...

Isn't use of the term 'schwartze professor' a bit uber?

Capt Hargreaves (Ret) said...

Can't we all just get a beer?