Our First Fight...

UPDATE: Apparently, the President and the two principals in this incident will be having some brewskis in the near future...

I knew this day would come. Even in the heady days of our whirlwind romance during the campaign, I knew the spark would grow cold, and someday Obama and I would have out first spat. I mean, it’s only natural, given my uber-left worldview, fickle nature, and tenuous grip on my temper – but I had hoped it would happen later, and I hoped it would be for something roguish and cute, like diddling an intern with a cigar. But earlier this week when the President said the Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer who arrested prominent Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. acted stupidly, I wanted to make him sleep on the couch.

As you have probably figured out by now, I’m about as liberal as a guy can get. I’m all for exposing discrimination and racism in all its forms, and I think that agencies and officials should work to even the disparities between the races in terms of policing. I’m well aware that Blacks and Latinos are arrested in disproportionate numbers in this country, and I’m also not opposed to sanctioning police officers who overstep their powers, despite my own previous career as a law enforcement officer. That said, I am opposed to the President, or any official for that matter, making off-hand remarks about a case, the facts of which, he admittedly didn’t know.

Because Professor Gates is an African American and the arresting officer is white, the immediate assumption is that he was the victim of racial profiling, and I confess that upon hearing of the incident, that was the conclusion I jumped to as well. Upon hearing just a few of the details of the case, however, I began to have my doubts.
According to all the published accounts I’ve seen, at the point that the arrest was made, Professor Gates had already shown the officer his Harvard ID card, and the officer was trying to get some confirmation that the house was, in fact, his. With that fact confirmed, the officer would have no reason to make an arrest – it is perfectly legal to break into your own house. The fact that the arrest was made for disorderly conduct while he was trying to ascertain that fact indicates that the words which were exchanged between the officer and Gates were probably quite heated.

This leads us to the question of why? Why would the officer and Gates begin yelling at each other to the point that the officer felt it was necessary to jail the professor? And believe me, it takes a lot to get the average cop to do that - taking someone to jail requires an affidavit and a bunch of other paperwork hassles, so it's generally not done on a whim. I came up with several possible answers.

It could be that the cop in question is a racist pig bastard, following the dictates of “the Man” and he was just taking the opportunity to jail a black man for no reason. While I admit that’s possible, I think it unlikely, given that the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is the guy who teaches the racial sensitivity classes at their local law enforcement academy. If anything, he would be hyper-aware of the ramifications of such an action. Plus, he has no prior history of such behavior in his career.

Could it be that this was just a case of a guy losing it on a cop because he was embarrassed? Possibly – an incident like that would certainly generate a police report, which would be published in the police blotter, which could cause a prominent man like Gates to feel a bit foolish. In that situation, some of us will yell before we think of the consequences. Especially if we feel that our position should carry some prestige with it which makes us believe that we should be treated with greater respect or deference – sound like any prominent professors you know?

Or worst of all, could it be that the victim of racial profiling here is the cop? Could it be that because he is a white man arresting a prominent black man on charges which were ultimately dropped, that the assumption is that his behavior was racially motivated? In fact, could he take any action in this situation without the shadow of race falling over it?

Any of these scenarios could be the case, and only Crowley and Gates really know what happened that evening. It does seem likely to me, however, that this is not a case of blatant racial bias on the part of the officer, and even if the arrest was not wise, this is not Rodney King or Abner Louima we’re talking about here – no one got severely beaten or had a broomstick broken off in his ass. In short, it’s not an incident that requires national media attention. Had this taken place between two men of the same race, would this even be an issue? It wouldn’t have gotten national coverage, and it certainly doesn’t require the comment of the President.

Although I’m not ready to break up with the President yet, the honeymoon is definitely over. He needs to do something really romantic to win me back… like, attaching dental coverage to the health care plan, or, making gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Actually, I’m easier than that. I’d probably settle for lower gas prices and some flowers...

7 comments:

Mayren said...

i agree with your whole post.
Your possibilities of what actually could have happened are extremely well reasoned with a hint of insight that no doubt came from your life experience. This type of blog posting is the common sense with twist of "hey you- stop it" that should be made more visible to other Americans. If it's not there already i think i need to DIGG you.

Mayren said...

Digg link:
http://digg.com/d3yk5E

Sci Fi Heroine said...

I'm really glad you wrote this. I also initially jumped to the "racial profiling" conclusion, and now I'd agree that the matter deserves more consideration and a HELLA LOT less media attention. It's on international news! Why do other countries have this on their news?!

His Sinfulness said...

Thanks for the Digg Mayren - I was afraid I had put everyone off. I'm glad it's not just me that sees the need for more careful consideration of events like this.

Heroine, thanks for the international perspective. I think it's news over there because everyone loves to see the U.S. stumble. It's that perverse enjoyment that we all feel when we catch a righteous asshole in some hypocrisy...

Mayren said...

I know common sense views in the media are a novelty these days but i think that people would really rather see this post because of the resounding "ring of truth" to it. I can appreciate this type of level-headedness much more than the ranting.

i have to say though - i have enjoyed the "perverse enjoyment that we all feel when we catch a righteous asshole in some hypocrisy" too... ugh.

This morning on the radio - they said that the people involved including Obama were going to "go have a beer together". i have no facts or support on this but - WTH? (fires up her trusty ole' Google)

His Sinfulness said...

Apparently, the beer is to take place on Thursday. I wish I could get called a bigot, so I could get an invite to the Whitehouse...

Mayren said...

The Media uproar regarding our beloved "Black Pope" would resound far and wide off every idiot's forehead throught the world.....
Dude i'd pay admission AND get popcorn for that event.

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