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


UCLA psychology professor Phillip Atiba Goff


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.


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


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

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

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