Spot the racist

No doubt, race was an issue in Harvard Professor Henry Gates' arrest by Cambridge police at his home.  But it seems as if Gates, not the police, chose to make it an issue.

Let's review.   Gates is a much-acclaimed Harvard professor of African American studies.  And he is black. 

Last Thursday, a concerned neighbor calls police and reports a potential break-in at Gates' home when she sees two men trying to wedge themselves into the front door.  Though it was broad daylight, what are the police to do?  Obviously investigate, which is what they quickly did.  Had they ignored the call and there been a real break-in, presumably Gates would be protesting their inaction.

So the police show up and see a man -- Gates -- in the home.  The officer knocks and as is standard procedure, asks for his ID, since again there was a call of a potential break-in.

Before continuing, consider what would have happened had Gates simply said, "Oh officer, thank you for quickly coming out.  I just returned from a business trip and my front door was jammed, so my driver and I tried to unjam it.  I just got in before you arrived.  My name is Dr. Henry Gates, and I am professor here at Harvard.  Here's my ID.  Again, thank you for coming so quickly."

Presumably the incident would have been over and a non-event.

But that is not how Gates responded.  Instead, per the police report, Gates initially refused to produce ID and instead demanded the officer's name and badge number.  Next, Gates calls the officer racist, challenges his motives, and exclaims from the porch to onlookers that this is "what happens to a black man in America."

All said, the officer apparently played it by the book, just as one would hope in such an instance.  The only person who injected race was Gates.

From a 10,000 foot level, the incident highlights the awkward dynamic of Gates rightfully fighting to eliminate the scourge of racism yet still clinging to it -- and in this instance trying to manufacture it -- whether or not it objectively exists.

Does racism -- and sexism, and anti-Semitism, and ageism -- still exist in America?  Unfortunately "yes" they do, though we -- as a country -- have made much progress.  What was once a national cancer is now, thankfully, more akin to a low grade fever.  Though still not perfect, that's much better and called progress.

Frankly I fear that Gates' sensationalized attempt to manufacture racism may in the future work to minimize examination of real racism when it does occur.
No doubt, race was an issue in Harvard Professor Henry Gates' arrest by Cambridge police at his home.  But it seems as if Gates, not the police, chose to make it an issue.

Let's review.   Gates is a much-acclaimed Harvard professor of African American studies.  And he is black. 

Last Thursday, a concerned neighbor calls police and reports a potential break-in at Gates' home when she sees two men trying to wedge themselves into the front door.  Though it was broad daylight, what are the police to do?  Obviously investigate, which is what they quickly did.  Had they ignored the call and there been a real break-in, presumably Gates would be protesting their inaction.

So the police show up and see a man -- Gates -- in the home.  The officer knocks and as is standard procedure, asks for his ID, since again there was a call of a potential break-in.

Before continuing, consider what would have happened had Gates simply said, "Oh officer, thank you for quickly coming out.  I just returned from a business trip and my front door was jammed, so my driver and I tried to unjam it.  I just got in before you arrived.  My name is Dr. Henry Gates, and I am professor here at Harvard.  Here's my ID.  Again, thank you for coming so quickly."

Presumably the incident would have been over and a non-event.

But that is not how Gates responded.  Instead, per the police report, Gates initially refused to produce ID and instead demanded the officer's name and badge number.  Next, Gates calls the officer racist, challenges his motives, and exclaims from the porch to onlookers that this is "what happens to a black man in America."

All said, the officer apparently played it by the book, just as one would hope in such an instance.  The only person who injected race was Gates.

From a 10,000 foot level, the incident highlights the awkward dynamic of Gates rightfully fighting to eliminate the scourge of racism yet still clinging to it -- and in this instance trying to manufacture it -- whether or not it objectively exists.

Does racism -- and sexism, and anti-Semitism, and ageism -- still exist in America?  Unfortunately "yes" they do, though we -- as a country -- have made much progress.  What was once a national cancer is now, thankfully, more akin to a low grade fever.  Though still not perfect, that's much better and called progress.

Frankly I fear that Gates' sensationalized attempt to manufacture racism may in the future work to minimize examination of real racism when it does occur.