Monday, July 20, 2009

Racism or False Alarm

I read this story today about a man who was arrested for breaking in to his own house. Now as I understand the story, this man's door was stuck and he had to force it open. He was jamming his shoulder into the door after dark, to try to get it open. A neighbor saw this activity and called the police. When the police arrived, Professor Gates was already in his house and refused to talk to the responding officer, accusing the officer of racism. The officer said that gates only produced a Harvard ID, and accused him of racial bias. The Prof said that he also produced a drivers license and targeted, "[B]ecause I am a black man in America." Professor Gates was arrested on a, "disorderly conduct charge after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior." Professor Gates' lawyer, Ogletree[,] also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer. "He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said. The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment. Completely unrelated to this story, yet included for some reason, "Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification."

As I have stated previously, I have a very multicultural/racial family. Racism totally sends me 'round the bend, but false accusations of racism put me in a whole new dimension of pissed-off. Having examined these feelings, and knowing my responses to them, I will try to maintain impartiality.

My dad gave me some advice when I got to the age where interaction with the police became a possibility (read likelihood). Some of that advice is totally irrelevant, but the part that was not amounted to, be respectful to the police. I.E. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir. Another part was to always follow the directions that a police officer gave me. Now I come from Texas where a cop is just as likely to shoot you as arrest you, if you gave him trouble. Cops in Texas don't take a lot of guff. Dad told me that it will all get sorted out in the end, and after the dust-up was the time to deal with any impropriety on the police man's part. Being argumentative and unhelpful is a good way to get your damn-fool head blown off or stove in, so keep it together and worry about the nonsense later. Good advice that has always stood me well.

First I will start with Professor Gates' stupidity. The cop was there to protect this man's house. Being rude to cop was definitely uncalled for. If there was any racial profiling at all, it was on the part of the neighbor. She is the one who saw a black man trying to force his way into a house and called the police, but I find it unlikely that she worried about the color of the man forcing the door, she was trying to help a neighbor. I think that the chances are good that Professor Gates refused to show the officer his drivers license, which would have probably cleared up everything in short order. I feel it is a good bet that Professor Gates yelled at the policeman. Professor gates probably felt that the officer was singling him out for being black. Granted there is much conjecture there but I think I have a good handle on where Gates went wrong.

Now let's look at the cop and where he probably screwed up. Professor Gates said he repeatedly asked the cop for his name and badge number. Policemen hate this routine. It ranks up there with, "I pay my taxes and that pays your salary." The one time I asked for an officers name and badge number he got snotty with me and also refused. Granted cops have name tags and the badge number is there for all to see, but they don't tend to be forthcoming with this information in tense situations. This officer should have ascertained if Professor Gates was who he claimed to be and if the house was indeed rented to him and then gone on about his business, especially after Professor Gates pulled the race card. But I bet short odds that the racism accusation, badge and name routine probably got his goat and so he arrested Prof Gates out of pique. Again a lot of conjecture.

Now I obviously wasn't there, but this routine is played out all the time, but here is how I see it. The cop was just doing his job making sure that the man he was confronted with had legal right to be in the house. Professor Gates was likely to quick to call the cop a racist just cause he is a black man in what is probably perceived to be a "white" neighborhood. Professor Gates' accusations and uncooperative attitude annoyed Johnny Law so he cuffed him.

By and large real racism is a thing of the past, but many black people, especially men for some reason, feel that anytime an officer of the law talk to them it is because they are black. It obviously had nothing to do with looking like he was breaking into a house. Professor Gates should have cooperated, calmly with the officer so they could both be about their respective business, and then, if he felt the officer was being inappropriate, filed a complaint. Standing on pride over something as foolish as this, well Gates is just lucky the cop didn't didn't take a quick movement, such as one is likely to make when agitated, amiss and tase him.

Now as for Sharpton, it is well known that he lives for situations like this. He is not in it to help his black brothers and sisters, he is in it for his own benefit. Why are Sharpton and Jackson always part of the problem and never part of the solution? I feel, based on my upbringing in the South, that if this had been a case of true racism, then the cop would have roughed Gates up a bit, or more, not just busted him for disorderly conduct. If that had been the case, I would be howling for blood myself. I will watch this case with interest and provide updates as they become available, until then the jury is out.

On a related note, I send out this: Racism is such a juvenile thing. How kindergarten do you have to be to hate someone just cause the have a different skin color than you do? I have nothing but disgust and contempt for racists and their ilk. How petty are you that you can not just see a person who should be judged on their merits, something they can control, rather than how they were born. Worse however, are those who take advantage of people by screaming racism when a cop is doing his job, or someone is criticised for something having nothing to do with race. Calling someone a racist just because they are going about their business is racist in itself. Worse, it makes real incidences of racism fade into the background, and prevents the healing from a more barbaric time when racism was prevalent. The most egregious result of false accusation is it perpetuates stereotypes on both sides of the color line, breeds hate that leads to real racism, leads to the victim mentality and makes the world just that much worse. I plead with all, "a man should not be judged by his skin color but by the content of his character." Do not be so small and petty as to sink to these depths. Do not treat your fellow man different because of his color, do not falsely accuse each other of this vile sin. We have come too far to let small people drag us down to their sub-human level. These people are the scum of the earth, and I despise you all.

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