Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ask a Korean! News: the Korean's Thoughts on Prof. Gates Saga

Enough has been said about the Henry Louis Gates Jr. debacle, so the Korean does not have much to add, except one personal impression --

The Korean realizes that this is unreasonable, but he cannot believe that the officer did not recognize Prof. Gates. Gates is America's foremost scholar when it comes to race relations, and his books are as much of a classic in race relations as Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking is in physics. For the Korean, this was like arresting Elvis in Graceland. It made no sense.

Everyone has been approaching this as a race relations problem. But perhaps this is more of education problem. This whole thing could have been avoided if the officer knew who Prof. Gates was -- as all Americans should have.

(Ugh, who is the Korean kidding? Americans don't even know enough to be American citizens.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. This is my first comment in your blog, i have been reading your past articles with interest, would you say with this incident that "America after all is not the least racist country in the world " but it is still a work in progress.


  2. "America's first president, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and what do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution"

    Phew...I just tested myself on these 3 questions and got them right. I ain't a dumbass no sireee!

  3. Really? You can't believe that a cop didn't know this? You give them too much credit.

  4. What??? Americans don't know scholars, they know football players. Damn, that reminds me, I need to get my fantasy players set soon. The NFL season is just around the corner.

  5. A renown academic on race relations is quite a few steps down the celebrity ladder than Elvis.

    Just going out on a limb here, but perhaps his presupposed knowledge of race relations prompted his seemingly outrageous reaction to the police officer. After all, he was indicted on disorderly conduct - not on breaking and entering.

    An alarm went off so a cop came by. Standard procedure. Gates probably saw the cop and went prematurely apeshit by assuming they'd discriminate against him. And now, if you're the cop, you're stuck in a pickle, cause you have someone yelling at you about discriminating against him when you just came to answer a call.

    To be sure, though, it is definitely true that blacks get the short end of the stick when it comes to false charges by the cops, but that's usually for young black men, who police officers assume "look like a criminal." I doubt that widely applies to fifty year old academics with a touch of grey on the sides probably wearing a cheesy blazer and sweater vest.

  6. This from the guy that couldn't tell the difference between Danny Glover and Morgan Freeman? Haha...

  7. Sunil,

    Yes, America is definitely a work in progress. But to say America is not the least racist country in the world? Not a chance. This is actually proof that America is the least racist country in the world -- this would not even make the news if it were any other country.

    John, good point.

  8. You can't expect people to know the leading scholars in every field. Who is the leading scholar in American political economy?? See.

    It might be giving cops too much credit to expect them to know, but most of us didn't know him either. It doesn't mean we're dumb. I'm sure you can find a lot of brain surgeons who didn't know who gates was.

  9. I'd think that Gates and the cop don't run in the same crowd, but the President's suggestion for both of them to have a beer with him....I must say, only in America.

  10. The better question might be, "Why didn't the person who called the police recognize his neighbor?" I don't know many celebrities, but I do know my neighbors.

  11. Professor Gates wasn't that well known before the incident.
    Here are some thoughts I had about it.

  12. foshizzle,

    Who is the leading scholar in American political economy?

    The answer is Paul Krugman.


    Professor Gates wasn't that well known before the incident.

    That's the Korean's point! WHY NOT?? He is America's foremost scholar in race relations, a topic that inspires a lot of discussion and debate (as the discourse following the Prof. Gates' arrest clearly demonstrates!) Few things in America provokes a more animated debate from all corners of the society than race relations. Then shouldn't Americans generally know the names of the most dominant thinkers in that area?

  13. I think theKorean has a point here. Paul Krugman has been getting pretty annoyed lately over how often he gets mistaken for a fellow jewish columnist who also, like him, happens to be short in stature -- Tom Friedman.

    I cannot for the life of me understand how people cannot distinguish Krugman from Friedman. They are like, superstars in the world of politics and economics.

  14. know what, I think the fact that someone like Krugman would be recognized at a minimum as someone who's famous whereas Gates wouldn't, basically means that race relations quite simply isn't as important to most people as one may think it is or should be.

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  17. 1) Gates is a true scholar focusing more on history. A few years ago he discovered what is believed to be the first book written by a black woman. Not exactly the kind of stuff MSNBC is looking for in a hurry.

    2) Krugman has said things over the years to actually attract attention and ire. Gates has now put himself in a similar position. I'm sure his speaking fees will double or triple after this.

    3) I believe Gates deserved the relative obscurity he had before this incident. A thoughtful guy at times, but not exactly cutting edge in his analysis.

    4) He now has street cred as a result of the arrest but he is actually hated by many blacks (married to a white woman, his analysis has been denounced as middle class black, not hard enough on whites). On black talk radio he used to be denounced routinely for things he has said about Africa.

  18. Seriously, its really difficult to differentiate Krugman with Friedman. Not that i cannot distinguish one from the other, but it will take me at least a few seconds.


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