Racism is simply a form of stereotyping. Stereotyping occurs when one says: because of my past experiences with people from your group, as well as things I have heard about people from your group, I am forming a firm opinion about you.
Racism is simply one form of that attitude, in which “people from your group” means “black people.”
Oddly, however, many black people feel perfectly comfortable engaging in a similar form of stereotyping, in which “people from your group” means “police officers” or “white people” — or, best of all, “white police officers.” Apparently, stereotyping those groups is a laudable pursuit.
The Henry Louis Gates arrest is yet another reminder of how quick some black people are to leap to unflattering conclusions about others based on scant evidence. Mickey Kaus reads Gates’s account of his arrest, and makes this observation:
Just reading this passage–Gates’ own words–it seems to me he pops into litigious mode a little quickly. He says he wanted to file a complaint “because of the way he treated me at the front door.” How had he mistreated him at the front door? He asked him ‘Would you step outside onto the porch?’ (where, as Gates notes, the cop would have more rights). When Gates refuses and instead gives the cop an ID, the cop looks at the ID. And at that point Gates has already determined he’s been treated unfairly. He’s already refusing to answer questions and planning to file a complaint. Again, from his own words it looks like he rushes a bit to the conclusion that a white man in a similar situation would have been treated differently. Is that really true?
Is it really true? Gates has no basis to say. All he has is a collection of prejudices about the group to which the officer belonged: white police officers. And based on that collection of prejudices, Gates leapt to a conclusion — this police officer is a racist. The evidence is strong that the conclusion was wrong: the officer teaches classes in avoiding racial profiling and was responding to a legitimate report from a citizen. Gates should have realized that his own actions in forcing entry to the house had aroused legitimate suspicions. But Gates didn’t employ common sense, or make an effort to learn something about the man in front of him. He simply stereotyped him.
And in apologizing for Gates, black firebrands and white liberals patronizingly excuse techniques of stereotyping that they would condemn in a racist.
Form an image of a racist in your mind: someone who watches a TV report about a crime committed by a black person, and says: “I’m not surprised. That’s how black people are: they’re all criminals.” Is this racist attitude justified if the racist says:
I’m sorry I have this bad attitude about black people, but I have seen and heard bad things about black people all my life. I know they commit a lot of crimes, and in fact, I have been robbed by three separate black people in my life.
Now, form an image in your mind of a black person who watches a TV report about police brutality, and says: “I’m not surprised. That’s how those white cops are: they’re all racists.” Is this attitude justified if the black person says:
I’m sorry I have this bad attitude about white cops, but I have seen and heard bad things about white cops all my life. I know they hassle black people, and in fact, I have been mistreated by three separate white cops in my life.
For some reason, people who would never accept the racist’s justification of his racist attitudes, will nod their heads in approval as black people expound on why they believe all white cops are racists based upon their own personal experiences.
Henry Louis Gates stereotyped Sgt. Crowley. He formed an opinion about Sgt. Crowley based on evidence that was far too limited to justify the conclusion. He formed that opinion based on prejudices he had collected over the course of his life about the group to which Sgt. Crowley belonged. That opinion — that Sgt. Crowley was a racist who needed to be educated about racial profiling — turned out to be wrong.
Gates’s mental process was the same mental process that a racist uses to decide that someone like Gates is less than human. It’s an ignorant way of looking at the world, hardly befitting a Harvard professor. Liberals ought not applaud such stereotyping. They should fight it.
It’s a shame that they don’t. And I don’t think they ever will.