Monday, July 27, 2009

"A Teachable Moment"

That's how Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons described the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. Only the Mayor of Cambridge could get away with not having a first name.

But she's right. The arrest of Professor Gates by Sergeant Crowley is an opportunity to learn many lessons. Lessons about people. Lessons about the media. Lessons about our society.

Imagine being pulled over by the police, for apparently no reason. You're driving the speed limit, using your turn signals, all that good stuff. You get pulled over, the officer walks up to your window, and requests "License and registration."

And you say "No." What do you think the officer's reaction would be? Even if you gave him/her your ID after that, do you think this officer would be happy with you? Do you think they'd let you go with that broken tail light you didn't know about?

Now let's say the cop misread your license plate and thought you were someone else. So you start yelling at the officer. Do you think the cop would just apologize and walk away?

Notice how in all of these hypotheticals, I never said what color you or the officer were? Because that doesn't matter.

Cops, as part of their job description, are jerks. Not all the time. But just like they carry a gun but don't always use it, they all have chips on their shoulders that they don't always use. Cops EXPECT to be treated with respect. Especially veteran cops. They expect to see a license when they ask for one. They expect you to pull over when they flash their lights. And even when they make mistakes, they still expect to be treated with deference.

That's just the way of things.

Here's what WE KNOW happened in Cambridge on July 16:

1. Gates got home, his door was stuck due to a previous break-in, he and his driver attempted to pry it open

2. Lucia Whalen, who works at nearby Harvard Magazine, walked by and saw this. She then called the police and reported a possible break-in.

3. Sargeant Crowley arrived at the scene. An argument ensued. Not surprisingly, there are two sides to this part of the story.

4. Once asked to bring the discussion outside, Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct

5. The charges were dropped upon the recommendation of the city of Cambridge and the Cambridge Police Department.

6. Barack began practicing yoga so he could properly jam his foot into his mouth.

Plenty of people have commented on this event. And I think most out there realize that this wasn't racial profiling, or racially motivated. Some still think it was, but these clowns also think that the criticism around Barry Bonds was racially motivated, or that everyone who voted for McCain is a racist, or that a term like "Africanized killer bees" is a racially based way to describe overly aggressive bees that come from Africa.

I'm more interested in the aftermath of this fiasco. I think the media's overreaction was a priceless example of how crappy news coverage truly is. I think watching a hyperactive overly sensitive nut like Al Sharpton jump to conclusions further discredits him, if that were possible. And then there was Barack's conclusion jumping, and his inability to apologize for doing so.

Barack assumed this was a racial profiling case. He saw what a lot of people saw: a man being arrested, apparently for breaking into his own home. Normally this would be a cop gone mad with power, unless the guy arrested was black, and the cop was white. Then it's racism. And this is my favorite assumption of all. There was no room for doubt that this was racially motivated. It couldn't just be a dickhead cop on a power trip, it HAD to be racially motivated.

Then Barack was asked some questions, admitted to not knowing the facts, then opined anyway. Imagine not watching a baseball game, not even looking at the boxscore, then answering a question about how the pitcher did.

Well, I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here... The police are doing what they should ...There’s a call. They go investigate. What happens? My understanding is that Professor Gates then shows his I.D. to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct. I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that...But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and No. 3, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately. That’s just a fact

Two things piss me off the most. #1, calling the police "stupid." That word is completely demeaning. Even if you think the arrest was wrong or a mistake, that doesn't mean that the entire Department is stupid, nor does it mean that Crowley is stupid. Smart people make mistakes too.

#2, that thing at the end about cops. Yes, there are countless incidents of racial profiling, and other racist practices by cops, both in the past and in the present. BUT, it's an unfortunate generalization that Barack is participating in. He's criticizing cops for judging people based on color, and in doing so is a hypocrite because he's discriminating based on a group. Racial profiling is abhorrent, but so is being prejudiced against the color Blue.

Here's Michael Moore criticizing the entire NYPD, which boasts over 37,000 officers, for what 4 dumb, trigger happy, scared shitless morons did. Could you imagine judging 37,000 people (about the size of Norwood, MA or a full Fenway Park) for what 4 people did? Hmmmmm, judging people by the group. What's the word for that? Oh yeah, PREJUDICE!

And Barack did a similar thing. He mentions racial profiling and its unfortunate place in our history. But what does that have to do with anything in this matter? Because racial profiling HAS HAPPENED, it means that when a white officer arrests a black man, it's probably because of racial profiling? Isn't coming to such a conclusion a form of profiling? Because cops have done it in the past, they'll probably do it again. Those cops can't help themselves. It's in their nature to profile.

There are around 700,000 police officers in the US. Not all of them are profilers. I'd venture to say that an overwhelming majority are not.

Then there was Barack's non-apologetic apology:

Because this has been ratcheting up -- and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up -- I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately... gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge police department or Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley. I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well. My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved [...] There are some who say that as President I shouldn’t have stepped into this at all because it’s a local issue. I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society. Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive — as opposed to negative — understandings about the issue, is part of my portfolio

He can't just say that he was wrong? He makes it seem like by calling the Cambridge PD "stupid" he didn't intend to say anything bad about them. He could have "calibrated those words differently?" How the fuck do you calibrate words? What the fuck does that even mean? He can't even say that he used the wrong word, it was just improperly calibrated.

A politician refusing to admit he was wrong, dodging mistakes, not taking responsibility, falling on his face and pretending to have done it on purpose. Does that sound familiar?

And for all you change loving, hope mongering Obamanauts out there, this is your so-called different kind of President. He's a flim-flam man, a con artist, a politician just like every other politician. You may still think he's the best in breed among politicians, but his breed is the same as everyone else in Washington.

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