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Recently, a Black Ivy league scholar was arrested in broad daylight for disorderly conduct in his own home. The headline on CNN was titled "An 'Unfathomable' Arrest". Was it unfathomable? Really? Not to me. I hate to have to take the dissenting view from what seems to be the majority opinion being expressed by black folks on this one. But, I'm going to. I kind of feel like maybe I should just keep my mouth shut on this one. There is real racism in America. It goes on every single day. I have been and continue to be a victim of it. It's important that when it happens that people are made aware of how far we still have to go. But, when we cry wolf, we hurt our own credibility, we actually hurt the cause of racial progress. In the name of being politically correct, I fear the majority of reporters are scared to point out what is obvious to most of us.
Some of the details of the case are still disputed. We do have the police report. Maybe Gates will say something later that will change my mind. But, I don't think he's disputed any of this. The gentleman who was arrested was seen by a (white) woman entering a home. There were two men on the porch. She saw one man putting a shoulder to the door (which was stuck according the report I saw last night). She called the police and an officer was dispatched. He arrived at the home to find the professor inside. The officer asked for the professor's identification to confirm he resided at the residence. Rather than hand the office his identification, the professor proceeded to demand the officer's name and badge number and his identification. The professor refused to step on the porch and speak with the officer. To the officer's request for identification, he replied "Why because I'm a black man in America?' According to Gates' own report, he is the one who brought up race, not once but more than once. If there was racial profiling going on here, as some claim, the professor was guilty of it (too). He assumed that the office asked for his identification because he was black and the officer was white. He not only assumed it, he verbalized it. The officer asked Gates to "step out onto the porch and speak with me," the report says. "[Gates] replied, 'No, I will not.' He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police' and that I was 'investigating a report of a break in progress' at the residence. It's been reported that, at some point during the escalation of the confrontation, the professor made reference to the police officer's "mama".
Jelani Cobb, an author and professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, says it's troubling on many levels when "one of the most recognizable African-Americans in the country can be arrested in his own home and have to justify being in his own home." Really? Troubling? He may be recognizable to Jelani Cobb. But, I didn't know his face or name before yesterday. And, recognizable or not, if a man (black or white) is seen putting his shoulder against a door, it's reasonable for a citizen to call the police. It's reasonable for the police to respond. And, it's reasonable for the police to ask the man to prove that he should be there. I would expect the same whether the man was black or white. When I lived in Lexington, KY in a middle class neighborhood, I locked myself out of my house one day. I called a locksmith to let me in. The company dispatched a white guy. He came, let me in and then asked me to go into the house and to show him my driver's license and a piece of mail with my name on it to prove I lived there. It seemed like a very reasonable thing to me. Did he do it because I was black and it was a predominantly white neighborhood? Was he racially profiling me? I don't think it was either. It was just standard operating procedure and nothing more sinister than that.
Kim Coleman, a Washington radio host, cultural commentator and blogger, said she grew numb when she saw the mugshot."I was not prepared for that," she said. "To see one of my heroes in a mugshot was not something that I was expecting. ... It just tells me we're not in a post-racial society." She said there's a reason why you don't hear about prominent white people arrested in their homes: "because it doesn't happen." Kim, I don't know that it doesn't happen that prominent white people aren't arrested in their homes. I wonder how many of them get belligerent with the police, making accusations about their motives and talking about their "mamas". You're right. This is an indication we're not in a post-racial society. We don't know what part race played in the policeman's actions. But, from the professors own words during the confrontation, we know that race played a major part in his actions.
Black or white, right or wrong, whether engaged in legal activity or not, when a police officer asks you for your identification it's best for you to produce it. I've been pulled over for DWB (driving while black). As a prudent person, when the police pull me over, I cooperate. It's not because I'm black and they're white. It's because they are the police and have the force of the law behind them. If I have a dispute, I'll take it up with the appropriate authorities later. But, to get into a shouting match with the police is just stupid, IMO. I would hope a man who has lived as long as the professor is would have learned this lesson.
Sorry, professor, unless more facts come out in your favor, I just can't get behind you on this one.
BTW- tonight is the second in a series by Soledad O'Brien- Black in America. It's on CNN. The first one was excellent. If you get a chance to watch it, I suggest you tune in. I'll be watching. We still have a long way to go.