Blogs > Liberty and Power > The Gates Arrest: More than Just About Race

Jul 23, 2009 11:14 am

The Gates Arrest: More than Just About Race

To view the arrest of Henry Louis Gates solely in terms of race is to miss a larger point. As with the Denver policemen who pulled a gun for faster service at McDonald's, the Gates incident may also reflect a general trend by law enforcement officals (and others in government) to abuse their power. More ominously, and little publicized, has been the sharp rise in the number of citizen deaths by taser at the hands of cops.

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David T. Beito - 7/24/2009


I was making a general point that blacks are more often targeted by cops but I don't think we have any proof that that happened in this case.

I DO know that it is wrong to arrest a person for arguing with a cop. My criticism of Obama is that he immediately concluded that race was involved when no such evidence exists. He would have been on stronger ground, and would have made a more effective point about police abuse per se, if he had said that an American has a right to free speech, even with a cop.

Interestingly, such an approach might also have weakened the discretion of federal police officers (over which Obama exercises control).

Mark Brady - 7/24/2009

It's not clear to me that in this particular case the cop's behavior was racist. Can anyone provide clear evidence that it was racist?

Jonathan Dresner - 7/23/2009

While blacks are more likely to be victims of this kind of treatment,

So, race is a factor.

Yes, there have been people who said flat-out "this wouldn't have happened to a white man (or woman)" almost always followed by other discussants making exactly the same point you did.

We're not really in disagreement here, except for what I see as your mischaracterization of the discussions that are actually going on.

By the way, how come I haven't seen more libertarians applauding the President's public criticism of the police work involved? This does an immense amount for the public visibility of resistance to crappy attitudinal policing.

William J. Stepp - 7/23/2009

These two taser incidents are outrageous. What became of the cops who assaulted the two people?
The second copper had to show that 72-year-old grandmother who's in charge!
Aren't there laws against these sorts of actions?
Oh, I forgot, the State is a court 'n cop monopoloy-crookopoly, and is extremely jealous of its monopolies, privileges, and prerogatives. Not to mention its taser-armed highwaymen-cum-cops.

Which is worse, the Fed or the state highwaymen?

david t. beito - 7/23/2009

It is taken for granted by many that this wouldn't have happened to Gates if he was white. I not sure that this can be taken for granted. While blacks are more likely to be victims of this kind of treatment, police abuse their power all time against whites as well. Youtube is overflowing with examples. Here are two: the case of 72 year old grandmother who was tased and the tasing of a student who refused to sign a ticket. How are these cases materially different from what happened to Gates?;feature=PlayList&p=64CF17B518CE3F53&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=11

Jonathan Dresner - 7/23/2009

I haven't actually seen a lot of discussions of the Gates arrest that didn't problematize police "discretion" as well as race.