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The Gates Case

Henry Louis Gates is now the second most famous man with that name in America. And, I suspect that's just the way he wanted it.

Gates said, "It never would have happened - imagine a white professor, a distinguished white professor at Harvard, walking around with a cane, going into his own house, being harassed or stopped by the police. It would never happen."

When I read that quote, I knew I had to weigh in, even though it's a pain to type on this handheld.

For a Yale-educated Harvard professor, Gates seems glaringly unaware of certain realities that are totally separate from any questions of race.

First of all, not a word is being said about the fact that the police responded to a potential burglary, and were thus there to protect his property. The neighbor who called for assistance could not have been expected to know who was forcing their way into the dwelling, and was in fact putting his or her butt on the line instead of saying, "Hey, not my problem."

Second, when police respond to any situation, they have no idea what to expect. Bernie Madoff is educated, powerful and white, yet his honus now rots in jail for being a cataclysmic jerk; I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many well-dressed white folk have gone postal on the police.

Third, Gates forgot or never learned Chris Rock's first rule of how to avoid getting your ass kicked by the police: "Shut the hqiz up." White, black, puce or écru, if you're being interviewed by the police, for Mogg's sake, stay polite. If you've got a legitimate complaint about how you were treated, take it to the national stage later if you really want to, and you stand a much better chance of coming off conqueror.

Every moment is a choice, and every choice has prices and benefits. If you ask me, Gates chose ... poorly. There would have been much better ways of getting the very valid issue of racial profiling into the national consciousness ... the way he opted for, be it premeditated or a simple case of ivory-toweritis, made him look more like an immature whiner than the brilliant man that he is.

We live in perilous times. The police we hire to guard us walk a fine line between protecting us and protecting their own safety. But ever since I was a small child, it's been axiomatic that bringing attitude to a confrontation with the law is always going to make things worse instead of better. Gates would have done well, for himself and his causes, to remember that.


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Comments

dhlawrence
Jul. 22nd, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Isn't it interesting how people who shout about oppression the loudest are almost always the ones who are ready to pick a fight? It seems the more opinionated they are, they more they like to fight back--which explains a lot about what's wrong with the world.

If it's any consolation, I haven't seen him mentioned on the Canadian news once. We've got better things to complain about.
r_caton
Jul. 23rd, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
The UK seems to have other things on the menu, too.
deckardcanine
Jul. 23rd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
It's a testament to how I've changed in the last few years that as soon as I saw the story, I suspected that the race issue was being played up. The first article I saw tried to be neutral, and neutral doesn't serve his case well. It did note that the arresting officer continued to distrust him for a bit after seeing his ID, which is a shame, but let's not assume he wouldn't have done the same for a white guy.

BTW, that's not Chris Rock's first rule exactly. The first and most obvious is "Obey the law."
tarinfirepelt
Jul. 24th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think you saw my comment on this in my LJ. =) ;)

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