As I watched the spectacle that CNN’s Black In America series has become. I wondered has the racial divide in America once again reared its ugly head? Have the years of injustice toward black men at the hands of law enforcement reached a tipping point. While many citizen have given unquestioned support to law enforcement and particularly White Police. Was Gates wrongly arrested it sure looks that way, but is Gates playing the race card?
None of us were in the room with Sgt. James Crowley and Dr. Henry Gates. And from what I have read and seen this unfortunate incident may not just be about race it maybe about the frequently overlooked masculinity as well. The Police officer was called out on a legitimate call of a burglary in progress, with the reporting party just outside. The officer responded with a heightened since of duty and confirmation from the RP (Reporting Party) of two black males breaking in to her neighbors home. So Dr. Gates, picked his own lock because he left his keys, happens all the time. I am sure that when Sgt. Crowley saw Gates inside the resident he had a series of questions for him. Like who are you? What are you doing here? This is Harvard so all Gates had to do was not move too fast, answer the questions and show an I.D. All Crowley had to do was check the given information. Simply enough we all know the drill. I also know that as soon as someone gets mouthy with the po-po, they become more suspicious of that person. Here is where race and masculinity collided Gates a proud man has probably been proving himself to whites for quite some time, the man’s a legend for goodness sake, a trailblazer. I am a professor at Harvard and you don’t know who I am. I am in my home. This is my kitchen. My knives. My spoons. My door. Now get out! And that is probably how it came across. Maybe it’s me but if that is how any of us came across to any officer responding to a burglary call I think that nine times out of ten we’d be arrested also. If you inject race and or masculinity into any law enforcement call you can be sure that it will escalate. So now you are having words with the officer and he says something like, step out on the porch sir and you refuse. Two things: One Sgt. Crowley isn’t asking because he knows who you are and two if you are outside he can arrest you, and you don’t need an advance degree to figure that out.
If the officer were black this situation would have never happened that’s for sure. Why? Because he would have recognized who he was immediately. If Gates were white would this have happened? Who knows and they could have really been robbers, but we sure as heck wouldn’t be talking about it. What if this had occurred in Compton? If it had Gates would be lucky to be alive, really. To many African-Americans Gates is top-tier, but this White officer’s tone showed that he was not impressed. Clearly Sgt. Crowley did not know who he was messin’ with! Sure there have been many times where you may not hand over your information as soon as asked, but police are trained to respond in a negative fashion to this noncompliance. Yes, this was a black man and white man, but more than that they were two agitated men face to face. I guess the officer wasn’t supposed to respond to the call. Should Gates’ credentials matter in this situation? His social Class? Do Black’s not have cause to be wary of systemic racism?
Blacks have gone to school to demand equal treatment, respect and now it appears that even with the surname Dr. isn’t enough to overcome a slave heritage. You would think that the election of President Obama would have lessened any ongoing racial injustices… it hasn’t, which only goes to show that the election was about Green and not Black. Was Dr. Gates, who sometimes walks with a cane, a threat….sure, intellectually. One thing I do know is that Dr. Gates is aware of what the police do, but what is not clear is that in America, no matter how many shows CNN chooses to run on race, whites simply will not understand the daily humiliations that blacks have suffered at the hands of whites for decades. Suffice it to say “It’s a Black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Cooler heads could have prevailed and Dr. Gates could have said “Thank You I appreciate your thoroughness officer.” And the Officer Crowley could have said “Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation, goodnight sir.” but that is not what happened. Here is where I am drawn to Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 movie Pulp Fiction, the scene where Marsellus Wallace is talking to Butch about pride. What was it he said about Pride?
Even Barack Obama has commented about the incident by saying, “Race Remains a factor in society”, thank you Mr. President for telling us what blacks already know and no one else wants to hear. Doctorate, Ph. D and degrees be damned nothing compares to Being Black in America, nothing. I hear many people throwing around terms like Racial profiling? Stereotype? Racist thoughts? But no one is throwing around the term that applies…Human Being. Are those terms issues? Of course but I think that both of these Human Beings erred and both could have done something different to change the outcome. However, if they had we would not be having this racial discussion now, or should I say finally be able to voice our frustrations. This incident only goes to show how Post-Racial America isn’t, sorry Gates no street cred for you, and there is nothing orderly about that.