[AS CLOSE AS I WILL COME TO ORIGINAL: On the question of whether the police should have simply said good night and moved on or stayed and asked a few questionS after Gates (allegedly) produced a driver's license showing his residence at that address:
Is it inconceivable that Gates was an angry husband in the midst of a ghastly separation from his wife? Not every woman who kicks her husband out and changes the locks also gets a temporary restraining order, and perhaps the police don't check for TROs in their immediate response to a break-in call. My question - is it the official position of domestic violence workers and the feminist movement that henceforth, police should simply move on if the apparent man of the house says all is well and refuses to answer any questions?]
At his health care press conference Obama was asked about the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates for disorderly conduct.
Shorter Obama - I don't have all the facts but I am going to side with my friend Skip Gates and show some racial solidarity by declaring the Cambridge cops to be stupid.
Hmm, thank heaven we don't have a stupid President like George Bush, who would spout off without all the facts...
By these everything old is new again post post-racial standards I shouldn't even waste time trying to ascertain the facts either - the arresting officer, James Crowley, is white and maybe even Irish, so I'm sure he behaved appropriately. Additional facts, such as the news that James Crowley is a bit of an expert in race relations, are hardly relevant:
Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley has taught a class about racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy after being hand-picked for the job by formerRonny Watson, who is black, said Academy Director Thomas Fleming.
I assume Obama and Gates will want to get to the bottom of this Cambridge cover-up.
Bill Cosby thinks Obama jumped the gun with his opinion, which is so June 2008 - where's the solidarity, Bill?
Let me reprise Obama's response at the press conference:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I should say at the outset that "Skip" Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house, there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place -- so far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now so -- (laughter) -- it probably wouldn't happen. But let's say my old house in Chicago -- (laughter) -- here I'd get shot. (Laughter.)
But so far, so good. They're reporting -- the police are doing what they should. There's a call, they go investigate what happens. My understanding is at that point Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in, I'm sure there's some exchange of words, but my understanding is, is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house. And at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct -- charges which are later dropped.
Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact.
As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made.
And yet the fact of the matter is, is that this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and oftentime for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be.
Let's extract the President's insights:
Angry about what? Having the police show up at my house in response to a break-in report? By his own account Gates was hostile and uncooperative from the outset. Yet Gates now claims, improbably, that he is grateful for the role played by the neighbor who instigated the incident:
"I'm glad that someone would care enough about my property to report what they thought was some untoward invasion," Gates said. "If she saw someone tomorrow that looked like they were breaking in, I would want her to call 911. I would want the police to come. What I would not want is to be presumed to be guilty. That's what the deal was. It didn't matter how I was dressed. It didn't matter how I talked. It didn't matter how I comported myself. That man was convinced that I was guilty."
Well, Gates was convinced from the outset that the policeman had an attitude, anyway.
Back to the President:
I think the President is wading in Number Two on this one. First, there seems to be a dispute as to whether Gates produced a drivers license (with an address) or simply a Harvard ID (no address.)
Secondly, even if Gates had produced a drivers license with that address, is it inconceivable that the license was a bit dated and that Gates was a former tenant having a bitter dispute with his landlord? Is it inconceivable that he was an angry husband in the midst of a ghastly separation from his wife? Not every woman who kicks her husband out and changes the locks also gets a temporary restraining order, and perhaps the police don't check for TROs in the immediate response to a break-in call. My question - is it the official position of the feminist movement that henceforth, police should simply move on if the apparent man of the house says all is well and refuses to answer any questions?
Per the possibly self-serving police report, one of the officer's first questions was whether there was anybody else in the house. The unwillingness of Gates to even describe that seemingly reasonable question in his own possibly self-serving account caught the keen eye of Mickey Kaus. One might further guess that if the question had been something outrageous and provocative that Gates would not have been so coy in recounting it later.
Back to the President again:
Right, and so what? As Ralph Richard Banks of the Times round table explains, this case has nothing to do with racial profiling:
The officer approached Professor Gates not as a result of a racial profile, but based on a witness’s account of a specific suspect engaged in suspicious behavior, just as we should expect him to.
I understand why Gates wants to wrap himself in the No Racial Profiling flag. I am far from clear why the President wants to play along.
CAN'T MAKE THIS UP: The arresting officer, James Crowley, refers to himself as Jim Crowley, which as a helpful mnemonic can be shortened to Jim Crow.
CUI BONO: It's easier to see Henry Louis Gates flourishing in the new-old post post-racial America than in Barack's post-racial America of yesterday. Secondly, where was Gates' street cred prior to this arrest? This is from the Times round table:
Yet if we believe what Gates told the WaPo, he had no war stories at all:
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has spent much of his life studying the complex history of race and culture in America, but until last week he had never had the experience that has left so many black men questioning the criminal justice system.
Gates was arrested outside his house in Cambridge, Mass., after a neighbor reported seeing two black men in the middle-class, predominantly white area pushing against the front door.
"I studied the history of racism. I know every incident in the history of racism from slavery to Jim Crow segregation," Gates told The Washington Post on Tuesday in his first interview about the episode. "I haven't even come close to being arrested. I would have said it was impossible."
But now Gates is a hardened criminal, with a terrifying four hour stint in the Cambridge lock-up to talk about, comforted only by the presence of several Harvard colleagues and attorneys - and now maybe he will get a book or a series out of it! It's ridiculous to suggest that Gates planned this incident from the outset, but I don't think he was afraid to ride it as it developed.
CHANGING TIMES: Between the Ricci case in New Haven and the stupid Cambridge cops, we have come a long way from 9/11 and the national admiration for New York's Finest and Bravest. Of course, by "we" I don't mean all of "we", just the usual suspects of the left and (pardon my redundancy) the media.
BOO HOO: John McWhorter tells of being stopped for jaywalking and explains that "I simply cannot imagine [the policeman] stopping like this if a white man of the same age in the same clothes with the same stubble had done the exact same thing".
Yeah? Back in 1986 I was in Beverly Hills for a friend's wedding. While out jogging at about 9 in the morning I was hassled by a cop for jaywalking and threatened with a trip downtown since I didn't have any ID. A trip "downtown" in shorts and a t-shirt really didn't appeal to me or fit into the wedding schedule, so rather than summon forth the memory of centuries of British oppression of the Irish I employed the power of positive groveling. Don't cop an attitude with the cops - is that rule too complicated?
But my experience suggests a helpful "diversity" course for the Cambridge cops - the tentative title will be "How to treat black people the way black people think cops treat white people". Yeah, because I tell 'em what I really think. Ten minutes after they are gone.