If the Gates arrest is a “teachable moment,” we must remember that not everything needs to be said and discussed in front of everyone; like the Congressional Black Caucus’s real talks about real problems and real solutions behind closed doors. What we studied in high school about Jim Crow, de facto and de jure still needs unfortunate consideration when talking with youth (Black, White and Brown) about dealing with the authorities and preparing those youth to be law enforcement.
My friend M has created a sociological concept she calls the 80/20 Rule (created or forgot where she read it.) Under M’s rule, the 20% of a group or demographic does things that dramatically impacts the 80%. For example, this blog constantly covers with a certain about of distain the worst 20% of “us” whose actions burden the community and nation as a whole. The law-abiding 80% seems feted up and is ready for change.
Another 20% could be the best among “us” like Dr. Gates—or would that be W.E.B. Dubois’s Talented Tenth. Because they achieved so much in the face of adversity, they should be rewarded with decent treatment before they leave God’s green earth—like Mrs. Jane Pittman drinking from that “Whites only” water fountain in a pubic park. Are we making slow progress forward as a culture or will the questionable actions of the worst 20% justify an actually reversal of gains. Are the top 20% of “us” putting our children in private schools to avoid the worst 20% of “us” and an undetermined percentage of the nation that functions under preconceived notions about “us.”
I have still another 80/20 rule case: the worst 20% of any cultural or racial group in the country will scary the daylights out of the other 80%. The people on the T.V. show Cops who are more interested in having a pre-jail cigarette than what they just did to their battered spouse trips me out. The A&E’s Invention shows that no groups has a monopoly on self-inflicted hard times. I can’t call it but generally the 80% can’t give up on the 20%. Colin Powell wrote in his first book we needs to reinstate shame in this nation—notice he said we.
On healthcare, the 80/20 rule drives an ethical debate about living choices and coverage. While many medical concerns are natural, what do we say to those who think that 20% of sick people made decisions (smoking, eating, drink, not exercising) that created their conditions? I don’t know the stats but those people account for much of healthcare claims. Will healthcare reform reward the 20% that makes a deliberate effort to live healthfully? Worst-case scenario: obese guy drives up to an E.R. center in an insured new SUV but he has no health insurance. Do no harm works both ways.