Friday, July 24, 2009

Gates: Racism, or Belligerent Black Man?

Harvard professor Henry "Skip" Gates (who is black) got home from a trip and couldn't open the front door of his rental house. He went around back, got in, then went around front to try to force open the stuck front door, with the help of his cabbie (also black). Someone in the neighborhood called the cops and reported a possible break-in. The cops showed up. All hell then broke loose, thanks to Gates.

(1) Gates had only begun renting the home "recently," according to news reports. So... is it so nutty that a concerned neighbor would report seeing a strange person trying to force open a door in the neighborhood?

(2) Kudos to the cops for showing up so quickly and checking out the situation. (Having lived in lower-income neighborhoods for most of my life, I never received the same courtesy the times that I called about a disturbance. But it would have been nice.)

(3) When the police showed up -- 2 white cops and a black cop -- Gates asked, upon being asked for an ID: "Why, because I'm a black man?" (No, DUDE, it's because you're not known in this neighborhood and you're trying to bust down a door. It looks bad.)

(4) Once Gates produced an ID, he apparently then yelled at the cop, "This is what happens to black men in America!" etc. etc. and continued to argue. The cop then arrested him for disorderly conduct.

For any black people reading, lemme tell ya a little story about the police. We "middle-class white folk" were brought up to respect the police. Right or wrong, you just respect the police and answer their questions and do what they say. End of story. You don't argue with them or act like an asshole or pretend you're special or "discriminated against." Yes, the police are often assholes themselves. But in the few situations that you have to deal with them, you shut up and put up with it.

Let me give you a personal example. When I lived in Austin, maybe 2002, I was lying alone on my couch watching TV at 2 or 3 in the morning. Suddenly, a loud, scary BANG-BANG-BANG on my door. Several police officers were there, saying they'd had a complaint about a domestic disturbance and about a dog barking. Now... If I were an "ANGRY BLACK MAN," possibly I should have jumped up and gone all ballistic and yelled, "This is what happens to black men in America!" Instead, I looked at the officers at the door like they were crazy, and told them calmly and realistically that I lived alone and that I had no dog. And did they want to come inside and look around? They peered inside, then realized that I obviously wasn't the source of any "domestic disturbance" or "dog barking," then went away.


Did I freak out and put on a show: "I'm a proud lesbian! I have a Master's Degree! How DARE you!" No, I di'int.

It ain't a black or white thing. It's a "respect for the law" thing that you should have been taught as a kid (unless, that is, you were raised in a black family that stupidly taught you that if you did something wrong and got busted for it, it was because everyone non-black was racist). Gates threw a belligerent fit, thinking he was above the guys that came to check out the situation. He should have just showed his ID and shut the fuck up. I don't blame the cops one bit for hauling him in after his idiotic, "I'm a black man and you're racist" outburst.

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