Monday, July 27, 2009

Prof. Gates and "Post-Racial" America

The recent arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates has done one good thing, at least: Michael Jackson's death has been relegated to page 2.

Otherwise, it's been a true tempest in a teapot. Let's be serious: Gates and the president are friends; who wouldn't support their friend in the case of an unjust (and if it was justified, they why were the charges dropped) arrest? And as an African-American man, I have had my share of being pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black). The president's reaction is understandable, and frankly, I don't think he was out of line in saying what he did.

But to be arrested inside one's own home for telling some arrogant, warrantless cop that he was going to pay for this insult, and to get the fuck outta his house--that deserves arrest? Holy shit! If some cop ever tries that stunt with me in my house, they're gonna need to call in SWAT! No, Prof. Gates was well within his rights to tell that cop to go to hell.

So now we've got some Repug imbeciles sponsoring a resolution proclaiming that Pres. Obama abused his power" when he said that Sgt. Crowley "acted stupidly," instead of working on opposing health care...hey waitaminute, maybe this is a good thing! Keep the idiots occupied, yeah.....

I think this episode should put to rest any more blather about America entering the "post-racial" era. I don't think we'll see that happen until we all look Polynesian, and then there'll still be religion to fight over. Racist fools will always be with us, and find some reason to either abuse power, or be offended by its legitimate usage. Apparently, though, throwing one's weight around is reserved only for white celebrities; otherwise, Crowley would have said "good night to you, sir" and slunk out the house. Confronted with a black man with clout, Crowley resorted to the traditional method of taming "uppity Negroes": he arrested Prof. Gates. Nothing to see here folks, move along--no abuse of power whatsoever!

Eugene Robinson:

Apparently, there was something about the power relationship involved -- uppity, jet-setting black professor vs. regular-guy, working-class white cop -- that Crowley couldn't abide. Judging by the overheated commentary that followed, that same something, whatever it might be, also makes conservatives forget that they believe in individual rights and oppose intrusive state power.

[...]Is a man of Gates's station entitled to puff himself up and remind a police officer that he's dealing with someone who has juice? Is a woman of Sotomayor's accomplishment entitled to humiliate a lawyer who came to court unprepared? No more and no less entitled, surely, than all the Big Cheeses who came before them.

Yet Gates's fit of pique somehow became cause for arrest. I can't prove that if the Big Cheese in question had been a famous, brilliant Harvard professor who happened to be white -- say, presidential adviser Larry Summers, who's on leave from the university -- the outcome would have been different. I'd put money on it, though. Anybody wanna bet?

No takers here.

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