A Philosopher's Blog

Trump, Endorsements & Racism

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on June 10, 2016

It has become something of a truism that everyone is a little bit racist. If this is true, then a meaningful accusation of racism requires showing that a person has crossed a threshold in regards to her racism. As might be suspected, there is no precise line—to require one to exist would be to fall into the line drawing fallacy. It suffices that clear cases of racism can be recognized and that less-clear cases can be rationally debated.

While Trump has not donned a white hood or burned crosses, it has been claimed that he has a track record of racism. During his run to be the Republican nominee, he routinely said things that certainly appear racist and that would have been career ending for almost any other American politician. In June, 2016 Trump accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel of being biased against him because of Curiel’s Mexican ancestry. While this sort of attack is a standard Trump maneuver, the Republican establishment believes they need the Hispanic vote and they are aware that attacking Hispanics for being Hispanic is not a winning strategy. As such, it is not surprising that Paul Ryan criticized Trump, saying that his remark was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Other Republican leaders also condemned the remark. Such overt racism is certainly not approved by the Republican establishment.

While Ryan and others have condemned Trump’s remark, they have also endorsed him for President. Other Republicans have refused to do so and some have even embraced a “never Trump” view. While the opposition to Trump seems quite rational, those who condemn him while still endorsing him present a more interesting situation that is worth some consideration.

On the face of it, two sensible explanations for the simultaneous condemnation and endorsement would be pragmatic politics and party loyalty. Trump is the anointed Republican Presidential candidate and backing him would seem to both the practical choice and the choice of a party loyalist. Condemning him would be a way of maintaining some moral distance; thus this would be a case of wanting to praise the cake and condemn it, too. This can be a risky strategy: if Trump wins, he will certainly remember the condemnations. If Trump loses in a spectacular sinking of his political ship, the endorsements could serve as tethers dragging others down along with the wreck.

Those more cynical than I might venture that those who endorse Trump while disavowing his racist remarks are condemning not his racism, but his overt and clumsy racism. This is a rejection of style and not content. But, suppose that the condemnation is actually of the racism. This would seem to raise a moral concern for those that are endorsing Trump.

If Paul Ryan and others have disavowed Trump because they regard racism as wrong, they face the challenge of morally justifying endorsing someone who engages in immoral behavior. One way this could be done is by arguing that Trump’s relentless racist remarks are a minor flaw relative to his other virtues, thus he can be endorsed in good conscience. Given the revelations about Trump University (which have resulted in an upcoming trial with Curiel as the judge) and other facts about Trump, this seems like a problematic answer.

Another way this could be done is to argue that although Trump is to be morally condemned, he is still morally superior to Hillary. That is, Trump is the lesser of two evils and endorsing him increases the odds that the lesser evil will win. I am not sure how Trump would feel about being cast as a lesser evil—presumably he would want to be the greatest evil. This view would require establishing that Hillary Clinton is morally worse than Trump—something that could certainly be argued.

A third way is to argue that the terrible consequences of electing Hillary (whether she is morally better or worse than Trump) justify backing Trump. That is, backing him would result in a lesser evil in regards to consequences. This is different from voting for someone who is lesser in evil, although the two can obviously be connected. The greater a person’s evil, the greater evil they are likely to try to bring about. But, a person who is less evil might bring about worse consequences than someone who is a worse person.

A final way is to contend that the moral obligation of party loyalty requires a Republican leader to endorse the nominee, even if the nominee engages in behavior that must be condemned on moral grounds. To use the obvious analogy, this is similar to how the obligations of family can require standing up for a morally problematic relative.


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Understanding & “An Open Letter to my White Colleagues”

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on May 20, 2016

The May 2016 issue of the NEA Higher Education Advocate features “An Open Letter to my White Colleagues” by Professor Dana Stachowiak. Since I have a genetic background that is a blend of Mohawk, French and English, I am not entirely sure if I am, in fact, white. However, I look white and I am routinely identified by others as white. As such, my social identity would seem to be white. Thus, the intended audience for the letter probably includes me. The letter provides a five-point guide to “sustainable anti-racist work.” While the entire letter is certainly worthy of assessment, I will focus this essay on the third point.

Professor Stachowiak asserts that whites should “Stop trying to understand how it [racism]feels or relate to it with a personal anecdote.  You are white; you will never ever know what it feels like to experience racism.”

This assertion about what whites can never ever know is a matter of what philosophers call epistemology, which is the study of knowledge. More specifically, it falls under the subject of the limits of knowledge. In this case, the assertion is that a person’s epistemic capabilities are limited and defined (at least in part) by their race. Interestingly, this sort of view is routinely accepted by racists—a stock racist view is that other races have limits on what they are capable of knowing and this is typically connected to alleged defects in their cognitive capabilities. I am not claiming that Stachowiak is a racist, just that she has presented a race-based epistemic principle that whites cannot, in virtue of their whiteness, know the experience of racism.

There are epistemic views that do rest on the idea of incommensurable experiences. One extreme version is that no one can know what it is like to be another being. Stachowiak is presenting a less extreme version, one that limits knowledge about a specific sort of experience to a certain set of people. This can be seen as an assertion about the social reality of the United States: American racism is, by its nature, aimed at non-whites. As such, whites can never experience the racism of being targeted for being non-white. To use an analogy, it could be asserted that a man could never know the experience of misogyny because he cannot be hated as a woman (presumably even if he disguised himself as a woman).

This view obviously also requires that there cannot be racism directed against whites (at least in the United States), otherwise whites could experience racism. At this point, most readers are probably thinking that whites can be subject to racism—they can be called racist names, treated poorly simply because they are white, subject to hatred simply because of their skin color and so on for all the apparent manifestations of racism. The usual reply to this sort of claim is that whites can be subject to bias or prejudice, but racism is such that it only applies to non-whites. This requires a definition of “racism” in which the behavior is part of a social system and is based on a power disparity. To illustrate, a black might call a white “cracker” and punch him in the face for being white. This would be prejudice. A white might call a black the n-word and punch him in the face for being black. This would be racism. The difference is that the United States social system provides whites, in general, with systematic power advantages over non-whites.

It might be wondered about specific institutions that are predominantly non-white. In such cases, a white person could be the one at the power disadvantage. The likely reply is that in the broader society the whites still have the power advantage. So, if a philosophy department at a mostly white university does not hire a person because she is black, that is racism. If a philosophy department at a predominantly black university does not hire a person because she is white, that is prejudice but not racism. Thus, with a certain definition of “racism” a white can never experience racism.

It might be asserted that since anyone can experience prejudice and bias in ways that match up with racism (like being attacked, insulted or not hired because of race) it follows that a white person could have an understanding of what it feels like to experience racism. For example, a white person who finds out she was not hired because she is white would seem to be able to understand what it feels like for a black person to not get hired because she is black. There are also white people who belong to groups that are systematically mistreated and subject to oppression—such as women. One might contend that a white woman who experiences sexism her whole life would be able to know what racism feels like, at least by analogy. However, it could be countered that she cannot—there is an insurmountable gulf between the sexism a white woman experiences and the racism a black person experiences that renders her incapable of understanding that experience.

While it is certainly true that a person cannot perfectly know the experience of others, normal human beings are actually quite good at empathy and understanding how others feel. Many moral theorists, such as David Hume, note the importance of sympathy in ethics. It is by trying to understand what others suffer that one develops sympathy and compassion. It is certainly reasonable to accept that perfect understanding is not possible. But, to use an example, a white person who knows what it is like to be beaten up and brutalized because he would rather read books than play football could use that experience to try to grasp what it feels like to be beaten up and brutalized just because one is black. Such a person, it would be expected, would be less likely to act in racist ways if they were able to feel sympathy based on their own experiences.

Another point worth considering is the moral method of reversing the situation, more commonly known as the Golden Rule. Using this method requires being able to have some understanding of what it is like to be in a situation (say being a victim of racism) so as to be able to reason that certain things are wrong. So, for example, a person who can consider what it would be like to be refused a job because of his color would presumably be less likely to engage in that wrongful action. Given the importance of sympathy and the Golden Rule, it seems that whites should not stop trying to understand—rather, they should try to understand more. This, of course, assumes that this would lead to more moral behavior. If not, then I would concede the matter of Professor Stachowiak.

In regards to the anecdotes, I am more inclined to agree with Stachowiak. Having taught at Florida A&M University for almost twenty-five years, I have lost count of the awkward anecdotes I have heard from well-meaning fellow whites trying to show that they understand racism. On the one hand, I do get what they intend when they are sincere—they are making an effort to understand racism within the context of their own experience. This is a natural thing for humans to do and can show that the person is really trying and does have laudable intentions. As such, to condemn such attempts seems unfair.

On the other hand, when a white person busts out an anecdote trying to compare a personal experience to racism I immediately think “oh no, do not do this.” This is usually because the anecdotes so often involve comparing some minor incident (like being called a name as a child) to racism. This is analogous to a person speaking to combat veterans and talking about how he was punched once on the playground. There is also the fact that such anecdotes are often used to say “I understand” and are then followed by clear evidence the person does not understand.  From a purely practical standpoint, I would certainly agree that whites should avoid the awkward anecdote.



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Is Everyone a Little Bit Racist?

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on January 19, 2015
One in a series of posters attacking Radical R...

One in a series of posters attacking Radical Republicans on the issue of black suffrage, issued during the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election of 1866. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been argued that everyone is a little bit racist. Various studies have shown that black America are treated rather differently than white Americans. Examples of this include black students being more likely to be suspended than white students, blacks being arrested at a higher rate than whites, and job applications with “black sounding” names being less likely to get callbacks than those with “white sounding” names. Interestingly, studies have shown that the alleged racism is not confined to white Americans: black Americans also seem to share this racism. One study involves a simulator in which the participant takes on the role of a police officer and must decide to shoot or holster her weapon when confronted by simulated person. The study indicates that participants, regardless of race, shoot more quickly at blacks than whites and are more likely to shoot an unarmed black person than an unarmed white person. There are, of course, many other studies and examples that support the claim that everyone is a little bit racist.

Given the evidence, it would seem reasonable to accept the claim that everyone is a little bit racist. It is, of course, also an accepted view in certain political circles. However, there seems to be something problematic with claiming that everyone is racist, even if it is the claim that the racism is of the small sort.

One point of logical concern is that inferring that all people are at least a little racist on the basis of such studies would be problematic. Rather, what should be claimed is that the studies indicate the presence of racism and that these findings can be generalized to the entire population. But, this could be dismissed as a quibble about induction.

Some people, as might be suspected, would take issue with this claim because to be accused of racism is rather offensive. Some, as also might be suspected, would take issue with this claim because they claim that racism has ended in America, hence people are not racist. Not even a little bit. Other might complain that the accusation is a political weapon that is wielded unjustly. I will not argue about these matters, but will instead focus on another concern, that of the concept of racism in this context.

In informal terms, racism is prejudice, antagonism or discrimination based on race. Since various studies show that people have prejudices linked to race and engage in discrimination along racial lines, it seems reasonable to accept that everyone is at least a bit racist.

To use an analogy, consider the matter of lying. A liar, put informally, is someone who makes a claim that she does not believe with the intention of getting others to accept it as true. Since there is considerable evidence that people engage in this behavior, it can be claimed that everyone is a little bit of a liar. That is, everyone has told a lie.

Another analogy would be to being an abuser. Presumably each person has been at least a bit mean or cruel to another person she has been in a relationship with (be it a family relationship, a friendship or a romantic relationship). This would thus entail that everyone is at least a little bit abusive.

The analogies could continue almost indefinitely, but it will suffice to end them here, with the result that we are all racist, abusive liars.

On the one hand, the claim is true. I have been prejudiced. I have lied. I have been mean to people I love. I have engaged in addictive behavior. The same is likely to be true of even the very best of us. Since we have lied, we are liars. Since we have abused, we are abusers. Since we have prejudice and have discriminated based on race, we are racists.

On the other hand, the claim is problematic. After all, to judge someone to be a racist, an abuser, or a liar is to make a strong moral judgment of the person. For example, imagine the following conversation:

Sam: “I’m interested in your friend Sally. You know her pretty well…what is she like?”

Me: “She is a liar and a racist.”

Sam: “But…she seems so nice.”

Me: “She is. In fact, she’s one of the best people I know.”

Sam: “But you said she is a liar and a racist.”

Me: “Oh, she is. But just a little bit.”

Sam: “What?”

Me: “Well, she told me that when she was in college, she lied to a guy to avoid going on a date. She also said that when she was a kid, she thought white people were all racists and would not be friends with them. So, she is a liar and a racist.”

Sam: “I don’t think you know what those words mean.”

The point is, of course, that terms like “racist”, “abuser” and “liar” have what can be regarded as proper moral usage. To be more specific, because these are such strong terms, they should be applied in cases in which they actually fit. For example, while anyone who lies is technically a liar, the designation of being a liar should only apply to someone who routinely engages in that behavior. That is, a person who has a moral defect in regards to honesty. Likewise, anyone who has a prejudice based on race or discriminates based on race is technically a racist. However, the designation of racist should be reserved for those who have the relevant moral defect—that is, racism is their way of being, as opposed to failing to be perfectly unbiased. As such, using the term “racist” (or “liar”) in claiming that “everyone is a little bit racist” (or “everyone is little bit of a liar”) either waters down the moral term or imposes too harsh a judgment on the person. Either way would be problematic.

So, if the expression “we are all a little bit racist” should not be used, what should replace it? My suggestion is to speak instead of people being subject to race linked biases. While saying “we are all subject to race linked biases” is less attention grabbing than “we are all a little bit racist”, it seems more honest as a description.


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The Once Great White Male

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on April 28, 2011
John Quincy Adams Ward

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Newsweek recently ran an article about the plight of the formerly great white male. The article reveals that as of early 2011 600,000 college educated white males in the 35-64 age group were without jobs. This is a 5% unemployment rate. The gist of the article seems to be that the white male is in dire straits. However, this claim does not seem to be supported by the available evidence. This is not, however, to say that it would be incorrect to be concerned about the plight of people in that demographic.

While the 5% unemployment rate is twice what it was prior to the economic meltdown, it is still far better than other demographics. This is not to say that the men who are unemployed are not suffering-they surely are. However, this hardly seems to be a clear sign that educated white males do not have a “freaking prayer.” Rather, it shows that the economic mess hit very hard-hard enough to impact even those in the upper tiers.

That said, it would also be a mistake to simply dismiss concerns about this demographic as being groundless. After all, to dismiss the plight of the unemployed white men because they are white and male would be comparable to dismissing the plight of any group based on the gender or ethnicity of its members. As such, it seems right to be concerned about these people because they are, after all, people.

It might be argued that even if these white males are worse off than before, this should not be  matter of concern. After all, white males have been doing very well at the expense of others for quite some time. As such, they certainly deserve to pay for these past injustices.

While this does have a certain appeal, there is the obvious concern about what is actually just. If those individuals who oppressed minorities and women are now paying for their misdeeds, then that could be seen as just. However, it would hardly be just if all white men were treated as interchangeable, so that the men losing their jobs now are somehow justly paying for the actions of their predecessors based on an inheritable white guilt.

It might also be argued that the plight of the unemployed white men should not be a matter of concern because the wealthiest people are still white males. As such, the white male hardly deserves any sympathy.

While it is true that most of the very wealthy in America are white males, it is not true that most white males are very wealthy. If it was reasonable to claim that because some people of type X are wealthy, then we need not be concerned about people of type X being unemployed, then it would follow that we would not need to be concerned about anyone. For example, Oprah is very rich, yet it should not be inferred that we should not be concerned about black women. Likewise, the mere fact that Trump is white, male and rich (maybe) does not entail that we should not be concerned about the white men who are unemployed.

I, of course, am well aware that white, educated men are still very well off relative to everyone else. However, this does not entail that all white men  are well off or that it is foolish to be concerned about those people who are unemployed, but also happen to be white men. After all, the fact that most wealthy people in the US are white males is hardly a big help to the white guy who cannot find a job.

My point is, of course, not that special attention should be paid to the white male. Rather, my point is that the white males who are not doing well should not be ignored simply because some white males are still doing very well indeed.

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Race & The Doll Study: Experience

Posted in Race by Michael LaBossiere on May 20, 2010
cropped from :Image:Races2.jpg 1820 drawing of...
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In my previous blog, I discussed a bias in a new version of the classic doll study regarding race. In this blog, I will consider another concern about the study.

In the study, the children were asked questions such as “which child is bad?” and essentially directed to select a specific color. In addition to the bias inherent in not allowing “all” or “none” as clear options, there is also the matter of the basis on which the children made their selections.

One possibility is, of course, that racism is a factor in how the children made their choices. This is not to say that the children are consciously racists or were raised by people who are racists. Rather, the children could be influenced by various racist factors-such as how people are portrayed in the media or due to long standing stereotypes. Given that racism is still a factor in our society, it seems quite reasonable to accept this possibility. However, it is not the only possible factor.

Another possibility is that children are influenced by their experiences. So, when they pick a specific color it might not be a matter of racial bias but rather the result of positive or negative experiences. For example, if a child were bullied by a black child, he would tend to pick the black child on the card when asked “which child is mean?” As such, the choices made by some of the children might reflect specific experiences rather than a racial bias. However, there is the obvious question of how much these specific experiences are influencing the results and how much is the result of other factors (such as those that would be considered race based).

Suppose that people were asked “which person is in prison?” and were given a card showing people of various colors. Most people, I suspect, would pick the darker colors. Would this be evidence of racism? On one hand, it could be argued that is is racism-the people made the choice based on a racial bias against darker people. On the other hand, the choice could be based on the fact that black people are more likely to end up in prison than white people. Naturally, the fact that black people are more likely to be imprisoned than white people might be the result of racism, but being aware of this fact and making a choice based on it would not be racism.

To use another example, if people were asked “which person is employed?” they would tend to pick the lighter skinned people. This could be racism or merely knowledge that there is a disparity in employment along racial lines in the United States.

In the case of the study, some of the apparent positive bias towards whites and negative bias towards black might be the result of this factor. Take, for example, the question about who is smarter. Whites generally do better in school and on standardized tests. It is not unlikely that the children are aware of the performance of their classmates. As such, when asked something like “which child is smart?” they would tend to think of specific students they know who do well in school and these would generally tend to be white students. in this case, the choice would not be the result of racial bias on part of the child.

As such, it might be the case that some of the children who seem to be racially biased are actually not biased and are merely making their selection based on what they have experienced. These experiences might, of course, be caused by racism. For example, the lower performance of black students relative to white students can plausible be connected to racism. As such, it must be considered that some of the children might simply be aware of racism rather than being racist.

This is, of course, were the interviews with the children become especially important. They serve to provide some insight into why the children picked as they did. Of course, the fact that the media folks tend to sensationalize things must be taken into account as well. For example, the girl who said that she picked the black child as bad because the child is black is being used to advertise the story-as opposed to the children who presented rather enlightened views.

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Obama & Cinderalla

Posted in Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on November 25, 2009
Pantomime at the Adelphi
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While Obama enjoyed high approval ratings at the start, they have begun to fall. This is hardly surprising and seems to follow the usual historical pattern.

In terms of general reasons, there is the seemingly natural tendency of approval to decay over time. For whatever reason people seem to think less well of other people or things as time goes by. This is, of course, most evident in fads. Also, there is the fact that people often have high (even unrealistic) expectations of  a new president (just as people do for a new boyfriend or girlfriend) and when the person proves to be a fallible mortal, the magic begins to fade.

In terms of more specific reasons, Obama has been dealing with a rather awful economy and as unemployment continues to increase, his approval will drop. Throw in two wars and concentrated attacks from the right, and it is somewhat surprising that his numbers are as good as they are.

While his approval ratings have dropped in general, he has been suffering significant loses among white women. He still remains hugely popular with black women (around 90%), however.

Folks on the left tend to attribute this to the fact that he has not strongly opposed the attempts to ensure that public money will not be used for abortion, he has not done anything about “don’t ask, don’t tell” or same sex marriage, and that he has not seen to it that enough women are in his government.  While these facts no doubt have led to some dissent among the left leaning folks, they do not explain the general drop in approval among white women in general (especially older women, low income women, and women in the southern parts of the US).

One way to explain this is to refer back to the general reasons why his approval ratings are dropping: while Wall Street folks and big companies are starting to make huge profits again, the economic recovery has yet to trickle down. Unemployment is still increasing and this matters to people. Of course, this does not explain why he would have such a significant drop among white women.

Not surprisingly, some folks on the left might attribute this to a resurgence of racism, perhaps inspired by the harsh attacks from folks on the right. Of course, the obvious reply is that these women knew he was black before he was elected president-hence race should not be the main factor. Unless, of course, something has triggered a racist revival-which is a possibility that is worth considering (if only to refute).

Another factor that some might see as worthy of consideration is the stereotypical view of women and men. Stereotypically, women are seen as somewhat fickle-they will see a man as great and wonderful at first. But, when that man does not prove able to meet up to the impossible expectations and that “new man” glow wears off, then women become discontent and unhappy. So, perhaps Obama is experiencing what so many men have experienced: the discontented woman.

This does have some plausibility. After all, Obama was presented as an amazing man and hyped like a Hollywood hunk. His media generated image was clearly such that no mortal man, however amazing, could ever live up to. But, during the election and the start of his presidency, Cinderella was still at the ball and he was still Prince Charming.

But, the ball is over now. The coach has returned to being a pumpkin and the coachmen (and women) are now out of work. Prince Charming has been revealed to be a man who does not have the fairy Godmother’s magic to fix everything instantly. And so Cinderella is not happy. Not happy at all.

I’m expecting some kick-ass refutations of the Cinderella hypothesis.




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Mixing the Perfect Post

Posted in Humor by Michael LaBossiere on October 10, 2009

While this blog gets a reasonable amount of traffic, I have been researching what sort of blogs get the most attention. After exhaustive research, the critical components seem to include pictures of cats, misspelled words, things white people like, fails, and prostitutes. As an experiment in creating the perfect blog content, I offer you Overdone Catz #1.

I see a book deal in my future.

Overdone Catz 1

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Everything isn’t About Race. Really.

Posted in Race by Michael LaBossiere on July 29, 2009

As the Gates incident starts to drift away from center stage, it is still quite reasonable to discuss the incident and the issues it raises.

Race, of course, was a major factor in the incident. Gates seems to have over-reacted because the cop was white. The incident got the coverage it did, in part, because of concerns about race. However, it is important to keep in mind that everything isn’t about race.

As a friend of mine often points out, white people can treat each other badly. The same for people of all the other colors. After all, it is not like whites are universally saints with other whites or that blacks are eternally sweet angels with each other. People can do mean or hateful things for reasons that have nothing to do at all with race. For example, I’ve had white folks throw things at me from moving cars when I was running. I’ve also had white folks try to start fights with me, for no apparent reason. Some people, as my friend says, are just assholes.

On a more moderate level, people get upset and angry with each other for reasons that have nothing at all to do with race. After all, we can do all sorts of things to annoy each other.

Going back to the Gates incident, it has been suggested that Crowley arrested Gates because Gates is black. Now, even if it is assumed that Crowley did not have adequate legal grounds to arrest Gates, to assume that Crowley arrested him because of racism would be quite a leap. The way Gates acted was no doubt very annoying to Crowley and this probably contributed to the officer choosing to make the arrest. However, this would hardly be racism.  After all, white cops sometimes arrest (and sometimes taser) white people that sufficiently annoy them. Of course, cops should only arrest people when it is warranted, but sometimes what annoys the cop also warrants arrest. In the case of Gates, he seems to have acted in a way that would rather annoy Crowley and also in a way that warranted his arrest. If Gates had stayed calm and discussed the matter with Crowley, there would have been no incident. While there are racist cops, Crowley certainly does not seem to be one. In fact, he seems quite the opposite.

Like most folks, I have had a few encounters with the police. In some cases, I was stopped for what seemed to be no good reason. For example, while on a training run for the Columbus, Ohio Marathon, a friend and I were stopped by an officer. We were doing nothing illegal nor acting in any way that was suspicious. Well, other than running. Of course, my friend was black, and he later suggested that he was stopped for RWB (running while black). However, I have also been stopped while running alone by white cops, so perhaps race was not the main factor-maybe it was a bias against runners.

While I could have gone off the handle and accused the cop of harassing us and even of being a racist, I instead stayed calm (running helps with that) and answered his questions politely. I talked a bit more with him, made a few jokes about running, and we parted with smiles. In fact, he wished us luck in the marathon. Perhaps he did have  a legitimate reason to stop us, perhaps not. However, I knew that being confrontational would only lead to needless escalation, so I avoided that.

Of course, people should not be expected to simply back down and let it slide if the police act improperly. However, it should be remembered that a cop is also a person and interacting with him or her in a calm and polite way has the same effect it has on anyone else-it lowers the chance that things will go down badly. Likewise, starting a conflict and being needlessly confrontational will elicit the opposite response.

Yes, race can play a factor in how people react to each other. But it isn’t everything. How we act is also a major factor in how people respond to us.

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