Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama doesn't flinch

I'm not going to re-cap much of the issue surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week. Not after they covered it so absolutely perfectly on Shapely Prose yesterday.

What I will say is bravo to Obama for not flinching when it came up in a news conference. He's quoted by ABC news as stating:

"I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."

No Kidding! The string of "if he had not gotten angry it wouldn't have happened" or "if he had just cooperated it wouldn't have happened" on news coverage of the incident tweak me, because:

1. If he had been rich and white it wouldn't have happened, it would have been "sir is this your home? So sorry to bother you" instead of the presumption that a black man in a nice home is automatically a criminal.

2. As Kate already put it as succinctly as possible at SP: Being rude is not a crime. One resident of Cambridge said in a comment yesterday that "Disorderly Conduct" was better known there as "Contempt of Cop". I'm sorry, but this man was on his own property, being treated like crap, after a many-hour flight from China. In his position, yeah, I'd feel violated and invaded! I'd be getting pissy at a cop with an attitude that said I had to justify my presence in my own home. Once the ID came out that proved he lived there, the response should have been an apology and the police getting the hell out of the man's house! It's THEIR JOB to put up with rude people without getting personal. I have a similar job duty, and while sometimes I have to quietly curse someone out who's being a complete asshat and calling me "honey" and telling me I don't know my job, I do it AFTER I hang up the phone. Because MY JOB is to be calm and polite to everyone who calls, even if they're belligerent. I get PAID to back down when I want to stand up for myself and my dignity to some petty asshole. So do they. This is a clear abuse of power by the police, which could have been solved by them simply driving away and bitching about that "crazy old professor" later over coffee. Instead, the response was clearly unprofessional, out of bounds, and to anyone who's aware of sociology, racially motivated.

But BRAVO to Obama for not flinching at calling it what it is. I know that this will just cause more grumbling by privileged white people that Obama is somehow backing Gates because he's black. I know that it'll tweak me and make me want to jump through the screen to rub the Invisible Knapsack in their faces. If Obama stands behind Gates, it may be that he GETS it, and isn't afraid to point it out because it might make his over-privileged colleagues uncomfortable.

Marianne from Cali commented on the SP post with this fantastic quote by Sharpton:

"Before we can even talk about the Race Card, we need to make sure everyone is playing with the same deck"

By the way, I love Prof. Gates's interview in the Boston Globe where he offered, in exchange for an apology from the cop, free lessons:

“I believe the police officer should apologize to me for what he knows he did that was wrong,’’ Gates said Tuesday. “If he apologizes sincerely, I am willing to forgive him. And if he admits his error, I am willing to educate him about the history of racism in America and the issue of racial profiling. “That’s what I do for a living,’’ he added."

Personally, I'd jump at the chance. Free lecture from Henry Louis Gates!? Without paying Harvard tuition!? What kind of idiot would pass that up?


Anonymous said...

"Personally, I'd jump at the chance. Free lecture from Henry Louis Gates!? Without paying Harvard tuition!? What kind of idiot would pass that up?"

The kind of idiot who'd arrest a man, in his own home, after proof had been given that the man was in his own home. That's the kind of idiot who'd pass that up.

Tante Terri - The Belly of the Ball said...

I must say I do admire how Obama does not dance around the race issue. How lovely to have a President who not only can speak well, but is willing to speak the truth. Ahhhhhh.

Since I lived in LA for almost 20 years, the whole Gates thing did not surprise me - merely saddened and angered me.

Anonymous said...

How about reading the actual police report before you believe more internet rumors?

JoGeek said...

@Anonymous: I did read the police report. But if you believe that just because its in writing its true, you're sadly mistaken. Police are people. People lie. Especially to cover their asses in what they suddenly realize will become a national incident centered around their mistaken choices. But if you read Kate Harding's blog on it, you'll also have realized that if every single word of that police report is the "may Ogun strike me down" truth, you can't get away from the fact that Gates did not commit a crime, outside of being "angry while black". Shouting at cops on your own property after they've accused you of breaking into your own home is not a crime. Once they realized it WAS his home, they should have APOLOGIZED, gotten into their cruiser and driven away. Period.