Friday, July 24, 2009

Louis Gates and Walter Begaye

And what do THESE two cases have in common? Not much (actually) which is a whole other issue, but not really what I wanted to write about this morning.

I sure wish everyone would just accept the last word on this incident, which is that it was unfortunate and regrettable, that apologies are doubtlessly due all around, and that it's time to move on, without necessarily ignoring the underlying issues which this incident has once again raised.

I wish people (Professor Gates in particular) would acknowledge that the ONLY reason the police were at his door that day was to protect his life and his property. I wish Professor Gates could acknowledge that he was tired, that he was perhaps hypersensitive (I know I will be criticized for the use of that word) to the deeper social implications of this encounter, and that he did indeed lose his temper and behave in a disorderly manner, whether or not it was truly worthy of his arrest. I ALSO wish people could acknowledge the underlying Class issues of this incident: that Professor Gates clearly attempted to use his perceived position of privilege within the Harvard community in order to intimidate Sgt. Crowley, and that this tactic didn't really go over very well, and never does.

As for Sgt Crowley, I suppose it would have been easy enough for him to walk away after seeing Gates' ID in the kitchen, with a quick apology for interrupting his day, and wishes for a good night's sleep. The fact that he didn't is in itself a clue that there was more going on there than meets the eye, but I doubt that underlying personal racism had anything to do with it.

Finally, I really like Chalice Chick's analysis of this entire situation, especially her early tongue-in-cheek advice that "Unless you’re Stephen L. Carter, be nice to the cops anytime you interact with them." I mean, let's face it: it doesn't really matter who you are, it is ALWAYS a bad idea to get into an argument with someone wearing a uniform, carrying a badge, and in possession of a loaded firearm.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that my friend Walter Begaye just spent two months of HIS life in jail (without trial) on a bogus weapons charge, and for the "crime" of being a drunken Indian sitting in the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time. Nough said?

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