Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Phillip Atiba Goff on the Gates Arrest

July 23rd, 2009 by Ajuan Mance

phillipatibagoff

UCLA psychology professor Phillip Atiba Goff

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Dr. Gates makes for a good victim. He is a superstar intellectual of erudition, status and influence. Moreover, no one is accusing Dr. Gates of illegal behavior in his recent altercation with a Cambridge police officer. He was, by his account, simply too tired after a long flight to tolerate what he perceived to be racially biased policing. That such a distinguished scholar received such undignified treatment is what makes the incident newsworthy. But what makes it important is something else: good victims make good movements possible.

This nation has often needed good victims to gird our moral resolve.

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The young black and Latino men and women who routinely face the kind of treatment Professor Gates endured are largely not good victims. They are young and poor [...] and are often involved in crime. When these people are targeted for humiliating and unfair treatment, it is difficult for some of us to muster much outrage — even if the outcome is that 1 in 9 black males between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated. That apathy should be our shame and not theirs.

– Phillip Atiba Goff, “The Gates Case and Racial Profiling,” The New York Times

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Biographical Notes: Phillip Atiba Goff is an  assistant professor of psychology at UCLA. He earned his Ph.D. in social psychology at Stanford University and his B.A. in Afro-American studies at Harvard. He has published a number of articles in both scholarly journals and popular magazines and newspapers. His research interests are in race, stereotyping, and law enforcement, and he has served as a consultant for police departments around the country.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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Posted in Academia, African American Professors, Current Events, Harvard University

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