Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Final Thoughts on the Gates Fiasco

All Three Men Were At Fault - Gates, Crowley and Obama

The more that I have learned about the Gates case over the past week, the more I’m happy that I didn’t jump on the Gates bandwagon…at least not completely. I did have one foot on the bandwagon though. But my inner voice usually tells me to avoid the knee jerk reaction that often comes from Black folks, especially on issues that have anything to do with race. I listened this time… but I probably didn’t listen enough.

I am making no excuses for Sgt. Crowley. I still believe that he could have walked away from the situation that day. The arrest was most certainly a discretionary decision that Crowley could have and probably should have avoided. And I am not convinced that Crowley would have made the same decision had Gates been White. However, based on what I have seen and the statements made by those involved, I don’t see this as a blatantly racist incident. Believe me… I looked…and looked, and looked again, but I haven’t found any evidence that this was primarily a racial event. I’m sorry…. I have to be The Angry Independent today and not the Angry Black Man. The Angry Black Man is on vacation for a few days anyway. He’ll be back next week. But nope... I did not see racism as the primary issue here. Now that ass_____ from the Boston Police Department is an entirely different story. But i'll leave that case alone.

I have also heard “racial profiling” thrown around. And this case doesn’t fit that definition very well either. It’s a term thrown around by those who don’t understand what it means. On the periphery there may have been profiling here…. On both sides, but this case is not primarily a profiling issue in my opinion. Profiling has to do with Police proactively and arbitrarily stopping people of a certain demographic on the streets. I know exactly what it is…. Living in a neighborhood that is 90-95% White, I have been the target of profiling. But in this case officers did not stop Gates on the street. These officers were responding to a 911 call of a possible burglary in progress. And yes…. This is the kind of call where multiple officers are routinely dispatched. I have been baffled by the comments of those who are wondering why more than 1 or 2 officers showed up. It's routine! On a burglary in progress, especially in a nice upper middle class - wealthy community, expect a minimum of 3 units. Often in a small entire shift will respond (until cancelled)...and entire sectors in big cities. Not unusual at all. The call wasn’t for a Black man standing in his own Kitchen. The call was for a burglary in progress.

Crowley was wrong to allow Gates to push his buttons and provoke him. He should have used better judgment and left the scene once it was clear that there was no burglary. This may have been difficult to do with a belligerent man asking for names and wanting to complain. I have dealt with the Dr. Gates'… elites (of all races) who believe that you are beneath them. I deal with them all the time. They give you grief even when you are just doing your job…. Whether its getting their information for an accident report, or asking them about what happened regarding a dispute with someone else. Just getting them to calm down and speak logically is like pulling teeth. But Crowley should have given Gates all the information that he requested. Although the Police report states that the information was given, I’m not convinced.

Gates is also at fault for what I suspect was belligerence. Clearly he doesn’t understand Police procedure and didn’t appear to understand the situation that day. For the average level-headed person, there would be no need to fly off the handle in any sort of knee jerk fashion. I understand how officers can be cocky and disrespectful…. Walking into a home, not giving a citizen a certain level of respect, not responding when asked questions, etc. And there has been evidence of a disparity in Police service to the public based on the race of those being served. But Gates was wrong to assume that this officer should have known who he was. Gates may have been hanging out with Oprah too long. He thinks he’s a household name outside of academia….and he’s not. While Gates did provide identification, I have a feeling that the officer was subjected to a lot of verbal nonsense in the process. I’m not saying that a citizen can’t or shouldn’t question an officer….but there is a proper way and a proper time to do it.

It seems to me that Gates did much of the racial profiling himself…making assumptions about why the officer was there. When an officer arrives to such a call…. they have to confirm that you are who you say you are…. unless they know you. Gates believes that the officer should have taken his word that he was the rightful occupant of the House. But that’s not how it works. Perhaps the officer didn’t explain very well…why he was there. The saying… “it’s not what you say…but how you say it“…is really true. Maybe the officer had the wrong tone. We don’t know…none of us were actually there, so there is no way to know exactly what led up to the arrest… I can only base my comments on the bits and pieces of information that have been made available.

And the observers, especially most of the Black observers, almost got this story completely wrong. They certainly tried to distort the situation. From what I can tell… Gates was not arrested for being in his own home… nor was he arrested for breaking into his own home (he used his key at the back door). He was arrested for his knee jerk belligerence…causing a disturbance and I suspect for not being very cooperative. “Disorderly Conduct”… for good or bad (mostly for bad) gives officers a lot of latitude. It’s a broad law allowing officers to apply just about any behavior to it. The officer is more guilty of not using good judgment in terms of exercising his arrest powers. But folks immediately wanted to make this a Black/White issue. As I stated, Gates was just as guilty of racial profiling (if we are going to use the term…lets apply it evenly)…because he made assumptions about the officer based on what he saw through his lens.

What we had in this situation was a clash of ego’s. Gates saw the presence of this officer as a challenge to his position in life…almost an affront to his status. The fact that the officer apparently didn’t know who he was probably offended Gates. And the fact that the officer didn’t respond to his comments and requests only made Gates more irritated. Gates was probably tired from his long trip and was clearly already irritated with the property management people because his door was jammed. The officer was probably the last person that Gates wanted or needed to see at that moment. And now Gates is playing up race as a way to repair his damaged ego.

The last person at fault would be the President. What the Hell was he doing commenting on this case?
I was at work when I heard the Press Conference. At the end, when he was asked about the case… I assumed he would be smart and take a pass….especially when he didn’t have all the information. But when Obama proceeded to give one of his long answers… I couldn’t believe it. I knew that he was stepping in it…big time. I knew that nothing good could come out of his answer. And of course I was right. The Right wing media jumped on it immediately…and made Obama sound as if he was attacking Police. Obama has a habit of handing these kinds of gifts to his opponents. His response at the news conference was definitely an "Un-Obama-esque" moment, because he's usually much more careful than that.

The only person that I feel sorry for in this case (well…not really sorry…because all of these folks are well off….and none give a damn about me struggling to survive)…is the woman who called 911. She was doing what I hope my neighbors would do if they saw someone messing around with my car or they saw someone who they didn’t recognize entering my place.

Hopefully after this White House meeting, the hardcore Black & hardcore White nationalists will take a break. Hopefully. I'll keep my fingers crossed....but I won't hold my breath. I know that they will continue to find ways to create controversy. That's why both extremes are so annoying.


Anonymous said...

I think this is the officer's fault because he wrote a false report and he arrested the professor because he was yelling. That's not a reason to arrest someone, they talked about it on MSNBC. Judge Joe Brown even said that Prof. Gates shouldn't have been arrested. The cop got off the hook.

Andre said...

Of all the analyses and commentaries I've read on this sordid affair, this post is probably the best and most lucid.

I've been making the equal complicity argument since day one, but have taken some grief for it in the process. But I'm glad that SOMEBODY else has the sense to see the role of all the parties involved.