Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Take a Chill Pill, Mr. Gates!

Have any of you been following the story from Boston about Professor Gates from Harvard? Here's a link to the latest brief article I just read. If you haven't been reading, you might want to do a little Google search and inform yourself. I mean to say!

From reading about 5 news articles online from various sources, here's the story as I understand it:

Gates and his driver arrived at his house in broad daylight, early afternoon. He was just returning from a trip to China, just getting back from the airport.

The front door of his house was jammed, and the two men had difficulty opening the door. Someone observed what he thought was 2 men breaking into a house, and called the police.

So, the police respond to a call. The officer approached Gates and asked to see his ID. At first, Gates refuses. Gates accuses the officer of being a racist, I'm supposing because they made a call to a house about a break-in, when at least one of the men is black (Gates). Gates feels he is being "racially profiled."

Now, perhaps the person who made the call to the police was profiling. Perhaps he just saw a black man wrestling with a door and he assumed a break-in. If that's true, it's unfortunate. Perhaps the person couldn't even see the race of the person forcing the door. But the police cannot determine that. It looked like a forced entry. The policemen were simply responding to a call, and were doing their job.

What else should they have done? Ignored the call? What if it had been a real break-in?
Was the policeman not supposed to ask for Gates's ID? That's silly too. He needs to establish that this man is really the homeowner.

Anyway, evidently Gates lost his temper. From an earlier article, he yelled at and berated the officer inside the house, and, when the officers exited the house, he followed them outside and continued to rail at them.

Now, I'm sorry folks. I know this guy is famous. I know he studies African-American stuff, and is an expert. I know he's a Harvard prof and expects (and has experienced) better treatment than this. And yes, I know he was probably tired and jet-lagged from his trip. I've flown overseas (single-handedly with 10 teenagers in tow, no less), so I know the feeling.

But that's no excuse for stupidity and arrogance. Anyone should know that you should NOT yell and scream at a police officer, and you particularly should not accuse him of things. If you have a complaint, save it for his superior.

Gates is smart enough (I hope, since he's at Harvard) to know these things.

And you cannot simultaneously argue that he is a scared black man, intimidated by racial profiling, and a belligerent aggressive candidate for arrest. He can't be both, IMO.

Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. Later this charge was dropped.

However, that's not enough for Gates. He demands that the police officer apologize to him.

For what?

For doing his job? For responding to a call? For asking for his ID? For not allowing him to behave in a disorderly manner? Should the officer say, "I'm sorry you're a black man. If you'd been a white man, or a Hispanic man, then of course, my actions were legitimate. But I should have realized that I should have acted differently to a black man." Surely Gates can't want that. That would be racist.

What does the man want?

Perhaps he thinks he has a particular right to scream at police officers and get by with it, when other people don't. If so, he seems to have an attitude of privilege and entitlement. Hm.

I find this all to be very frustrating. I know that REAL racial profiling exists out there, and plenty of it. There are horrible events every day. But not to the Dr. Gates of the world. And his arrogant, over-privileged response only hurts the cases of the men out there who do suffer real discrimination and injustice. Do they get their charges dropped so quickly?

I think the real issue here is Gates's embarrassment. He was humiliated to find himself arrested, and he wants somebody else to be culpable. He's looking for someone to blame, but he has no one to blame but himself. It began as an unfortunate mistake. He's the one who blew it up into a humiliation that he could not handle.

And he owes the policeman the apology, not the other way around.

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