Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

I have an African-American friend named Sharon. Sharon would die if she ever saw this but she is traffic stopping beautiful. (Or maybe I would die if she saw this. By her hands.) Anyway, Sharon used to model a little bit and she still carries herself with that you-would-never-get-to-see-me-naked-in 2-lifetimes-hauteur that some women have. So you get the picture.

Sharon has told me that she cannot shop in some of the more high end clothing stores without sales personnel following her every step. They aren't necessarily trying to sell her stuff either. They are making sure that she doesn't steal anything. She says they don't treat the white customers that way. And it infuriates her. As well it should. The only reason they dog a well-dressed, attractive woman with a purse full of money is because of the color of her skin.

Now THAT'S racial profiling.

Contrary to the hyperthyroid accusations of Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, it isn't racial profiling when the police answer a burglary call as the Cambridge cops did the other night when a neighbor made a report that 2 men with backpacks seemed to be attempting to break in Professor Gates' house. It was actually Skip Gates himself trying to unstick his jammed front door. And what should have been a trifling matter soon escalated into national news and Presidential politics.

By any reasonable standard, Gates' behavior was unnecessary. According to the police report, Gates was completely uncooperative. He refused to step outside when the officer asked him to. Indeed, the police report says that he told the officer, some poor bastard named Crowley, that he would "talk with your mama outside." Gates also attempted to call the police chief to complain abut the racist police officer that had been sent to his home. And unlike what you read on the Internet, the police report states that Officer Crowley identified himself twice.

Finally, the report states that Gates followed the officer out to the porch telling him that the police officer "had not heard the last of him." By then a group of people and other police units. Gates continued to run his mouth. Officer Crowley warned him to calm down. He did not. So he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

On Wednesday night at the close of President Obama's press conference about his health care legislation, someone asked him about the incident involving Professor Gates. After a disquisition about the problem of racial profiling, Mr. Obama proclaimed that the "police acted stupidly" in the Gates matter. Obviously, the President had not read the police report before he made that particular pronouncement, a particularly egregious error by a man not known for straying far from the script.

The Little Rock police have had the occasion to call upon me at my home on a couple of occasions for reasons that are not germane to the present discussion and need not be recounted in this space. In any event, each time I have been asked to step out to the porch. There is a very good reason for this. That is because being a cop is a dangerous line of work. And their first instinct is to protect themselves. They may not have thought that there were 5 guys with automatic weapons hiding in my kitchen. But they didn't KNOW that. Better to exert control over the subject of the interview than to run the risk of getting jumped.

I know this and I was not offended by the instruction to "step outside, please." I complied with the instruction, answered their questions to the best of my abilities and "yes sirred" and "no sirred" them. When they were through with their business we shook hands and they departed.

Which is how the Gates incident should have gone down. There was absolutely no need for Gates to behave in such an unseemly fashion. By going ballistic over nothing he casted a pall upon the distinguished body of his work in African American studies. His reference to the officer's mother was boorish and needlessly provocative. Indeed, Crowley showed admirable restraint in an unexpectedly tense situation that was being escalated by a belligerent man with a chip on his shoulder. If Gates were a younger man and/or not a professor at Harvard (he did produce that ID eventually) he might have gotten braced inside the house and told to STFU. Cops do that to excessively mouthy people you know.

Skip Gates' equating the investigation of a report of a break-in to a residence in Harvard Yard to "racial profiling" is as ludicrous as O.J. Simpson's attempts to attain class consciousness with victims of gun drops in Compton years ago. And President Obama? He is backpedalling as fast as he can. He has gone so far as to invite both Gates and Officer Crowley over for a beer.

Sounds like a good idea. Because folks HAVE been acting stupidly. And it doesn't much sound like the ones wearing badges either.

For a look at the police report of the incident hit the link: .

Judge for yourself. And as far as I know, Gates hasn't denied any of the stuff in the police report.

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