The follow-up

In case you are interested in the follow up to my last post, I am posting the column that was accepted by my editor…which has spawned a conversation with my editor and a meeting for next week. I will keep you posted on whether or not, I will keep writing professionally since its really just a side thing I do since my real day is non-profit hack! By the way I have not responded to any of the comments on the last post but may do so in a separate post since I think the comments are interesting and actually speak to some of what happens with multiracial discussions take place.

Me, myself and race

I have been told by many different people at many different times that I put too much thought into race. That perhaps I overreact to things and see race as a factor when it might not be.

You should have met me years ago if you think that, because I really don’t obsess on race that much. To be honest, my White husband is far more likely to get into protracted battles of words online with people about race and White privilege than I ever would in any situation.

However, I do have a column called Diverse-City, race is still an important issue in this country, and I’m still Black. And a lot of people just won’t let me forget the color of my skin, because they still treat me differently than every white person around me. It doesn’t matter how many letters I have amassed after my name. It doesn’t matter what my job is. It doesn’t matter how law-abiding I am. What matters is that, like it or not, people assume things about Black people in general. This is not something that happens to White people.

Oh, I know that White people of various kinds can be judged on various things, like weight or gender. But as a race, White people don’t ever have to worry about most of the population looking at them and assuming that the color of their skin means they will behave in certain ways, like certain foods, enjoy certain music, be more prone to commit crimes, be more likely to have children they can’t afford, and so on.

Problem is, when I point out that I’m being treated in a certain way probably because of my race, I am often asked to prove it. My judgment is questioned. My experiences of an entire lifetime are discarded as irrelevant. My instincts are cast into doubt. Studies that show how Blacks are inequitably treated all the time are inadmissible. In other words, short of being able to bring in a team of researchers to study my life for a few years, nothing will prove to a naysayer that my feelings are on the money.

So, if I speak up, I must be prepared to get all sorts of alternate scenarios and reminders of how far our nation has come. All to invalidate my very real concerns and the evidence of my own experience.

If a parent takes a child away from a playground because someone seems a bit creepy, even if they haven’t gone near a single child in an improper fashion, that’s considered good parenting. I agree.

If a woman flees from a man she thinks might be dangerous, that is considered a wise and proactive move. I agree.

So why does no one else agree that I can claim racism when:

My Black son is harassed by police, multiple times, for merely walking down the street.

My White husband is asked during a traffic stop to explain who I am and why I’m in the car.

Five White people in front of me in line don’t get a second glance when they hand over a credit card, yet I am expected to provide one or two forms of ID, and the cashier looks them over intently for 10 seconds or longer.

I am asked to explain how all Black people feel about a certain issue.

I get my food long after several later-arriving White patrons already got theirs, and their food is nice and steamy while mine is room temperature.

I could go on, but the fact is that I let most of these things slide, and don’t want to dwell on them. It’s just that I occasionally get fresh reminders that are so hard to ignore.

Oh, like eminent Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. being arrested this week for breaking into his own home, even though he had ID to prove he lived there. Because we all know that the nice police officer would have done that to a White homeowner. Yeah, right.

12 thoughts on “The follow-up”

  1. The problem with trying to compare Gates to Rosa Parks is that we aren’t having a national debate about the underlying police call. We all want the police to investigate possible crimes in progress. Whether the subjects possibly breaking and entering are Black or White. We can agree on that, can’t we?

    Parks was arrested for violating BAD LAW. The law said she had to give up her seat to White Folk.

    Gates wasn’t arrested simply for being in the house. The Civil Rights Act made sure that Gates had the right to be hired by Harvard and to live in campus housing…just like the white profs.

    Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. Here is the cop’s version of why he arrested Gates: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/23/AR2009072301073_2.html?sid=ST2009072301777 And, I am not saying the cop’s version is the God’s Truth, but just that IF this is true, it would support the arrest.

    Wikipedia states that “[w]hen Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, ‘Why do you push us around?” The officer’s response as she remembered it was, “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.’ ”

    No disorderly conduct there. Rosa Parks isn’t yelling at the cop and impugning his Momma.

    No one is saying that Whites have a right to say nasty things to cops.

    What we have here is much more nuanced than Rosa Parks. Gates is saying the White Cop didn’t treat him with the respect the cop would have given a White Man. I’m just saying that mouthing off to the cops wasn’t the best way for Gates to earn respect for himself and other Blacks. Engaging in possibly disorderly conduct gives the cop grounds to arrest you for…disorderly conduct.

    Read these reports: Black Officer Weighs In on Gates’s Arrest, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/07/24/black-officer-weighs-in-on-gatess-arrest/ where a black police office supported the white cop. Look at the picture that a neighbor took on his cell phone. Looks to me like Gates is yelling.

    The same photo appears with this article: PROF RAGES AT ‘RACIST’ COPShttp://www.nypost.com/seven/07212009/news/nationalnews/prof_rages_atracist_cops_180491.htm This article contains all sorts of unsavory details about Gates’ behavior. IF you believe them, they cast Gates in an unfavorable light.

    I’ve not said that Blacks and Whites are treated equally. Quite the opposite. I saying Gates might have escalated the situation. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Doesn’t help his case that his neighbor snapped the picture of him yelling.

  2. @G.R.I.T.S.: “The problem with trying to compare Gates to Rosa Parks is that we aren’t having a national debate about the underlying police call.”

    Don’t be so sure. A national debate has been raging for sometime. It’s called “racial profiling.” Whether it had a hand in this incident is one of those unknowables, and can only be surmised by the facts on the ground, because I don’t think Crowley is going to be forthcoming about his motivations.

    “Parks was arrested for violating BAD LAW. The law said she had to give up her seat to White Folk.”

    There’s another law, largely unwritten (You don’t mouth off to a cop, especially if you’re black and he’s white.). I think that we can agree on that, can’t we?

    Gates was arrested for challenging a BAD COP. Where the two instances connect is that both involved “white assumptive power.”

    “Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. Here is the cop’s version of why he arrested Gates….”

    That link is useless, unless it’s your aim to present only the side that supports your next statement: “And, I am not saying the cop’s version is the God’s Truth, but just that IF this is true, it would support the arrest.”

    Your provisional “IF” does nothing more than show your bias against Professor Gates, and your bias for Crowley, since you still find Gates deserving of arrest without offering his side. It’s a pretense at neutrality. Of course, Gate’s account would serve the same purpose that Crowley’s did, to exonerate him.

    But, at least, we’d have both sides!

    A man’s house is his castle. In his house he’s king, lord, and master. Texas recognizes that fact and has established a law, right or wrong, to exploit that notion.

    Is this another example of a BAD LAW?

    What you’re not recognizing is that to disrespect an officer of the law is not grounds for an arrest. And if you’re in your own home, those grounds become even more tenuous.

    If you listen to Crowley as he reports to HQ, what you hear from him is that Professor Gates was uncooperative, but appeared to be the occupant of the house.

    This also supports the suspicions of the woman who initially called 9-1-1, who, by the way, was reticent to call in the first place, but did it to allay the fears of another.

    Hell broke lose when Professor Gates’ insisted on knowing Crowley’s name and badge number. In Crowley’s official report of the incident, he claims he gave that information to Professor Gates several times. If that was the case, why would Professor Gates follow the officer out of the house and onto his porch?

    Was this Crowley’s setup–by not answering the professor– to takedown Professor Gates once he exited the house? I believe so!

    “I’m just saying that mouthing off to the cops wasn’t the best way for Gates to earn respect for himself and other Blacks. Engaging in possibly disorderly conduct gives the cop grounds to arrest you for…disorderly conduct.”

    How, pray tell, does Professor Gates’ behavior impact on me or other blacks? I don’t know the professor. What a black person does, or doesn’t do, neither add, nor detract from, the respect I give myself, or the respect that others should afford me.

    There’s that “weasel” word again, “possibly.” Inside his home, Professor Gates may act anyway he pleases, only bound my other laws, such as arson, murder, assault, and so forth.

    No where is it written in law, that “disorderly conduct [If it truly occurred.) gives the cop grounds to arrest you…” while in your home. It just not so. That’s why Crowley had to entice the good professor onto his porch, while Gate’s still insisted on knowing the cop’s name and badge number.

    Check out the police report, Professor Gates was arrested for “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place,” not for “mouthing off” to a cop. And the public place? His front porch.

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0723092gates1.html

    Although Crowley’s police report has Lucia Whalen identifying two black males with backbacks, her call to 9-1-1 has her saying that she didn’t know their ethnicity, and thought perhaps one was Hispanic.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/27/gates.arrest/index.html

    “Read these reports: Black Officer Weighs In on Gates’s Arrest….”

    Although not of the same numbers supporting Crowley, there are several white officers supporting Professor Gates, and denouncing Crowley for his tactics. Not surprisingly, they’re retired officers. Blue is always true to Blue, a brotherhood that will often lie and break the law to support fellow officers.

    There’s a video of police officers agreeing to cover up an officer’s rear-ending of a drunk suspect’s car. The drunk charges were eventually dropped against the woman, once the video went public. Here’re others:

    http://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=topsearchbox.search&q=video+police+officers+lying+drunk+woman+cover+up+arrest+video

    Now if Professor Gates was actually guilty of anything, as Crowley maintains, by arresting him , why were charges against him dropped.

    “I saying Gates might have escalated the situation. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    “Doesn’t help his case that his neighbor snapped the picture of him yelling.”

    It’s telling that you suggest that Professor Gates was the only one expected to behave properly. Again, you use the weasel word, “might have,” and begin the next sentence with “Sort of….” If Professor Gate’s behavior is so nebulous, why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

    What we do know is that Crowley was the one with a badge and gun, and with a sworn duty to protect and serve and not correct and preserve…his wounded ego. He was the professional. He was the one with the training, and it was not to ensnare Professor Gates, but to “defuse” the situation, and keep it from “escalating.”

    Crowley was trained in such measures, and taught “diversity” and “profiling.” He, above anyone in this situation, was required to comport himself in a manner that wouldn’t disgrace his badge, and his profession. The burden wasn’t on Professor Gate to behave in any manner. He was in his own home, and not breaking in laws.

    The only thing that was self-fulfilling about this whole incident were the actions of the white cop who didn’t believe he received sufficient deference from a haughty black man, and was dead-set on putting his uppity butt in his place.

    Crowley had already been arrested when the photo that you refer to was snapped. If you are ever placed in chains for something you didn’t do, I hope you’ll yell, too!

    “No disorderly conduct there. Rosa Parks isn’t yelling at the cop and impugning his Momma.”

    No self-respecting academic, white or black, is going to be caught dead using the vernacular of the streets.

    It took them too many years to reach their level of sophistication, and scholarly preeminence, not to maintain that decorum even while being arrested.

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