Friday, July 24, 2009

Beyond FRUSTRATION: Post-Racial Society? Not Exactly.

The arrest of renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. last week in his Cambridge MA home has infuriated a lot of Americans. Though unfortunate, a U.S. case involving a black man accused of breaking into his own home and then arrested on a trumped-up charge is really not all that surprising, even in 2009. Tell me I’m playing the race card by instantly siding with a person of color and I’ll say you’re right. From what I’ve learned over the past few years of researching tolerance issues, every person who is not a tall, thin, white, perfectly proportioned, attractive, wealthy, heterosexual male (yes, this cuts a wide swath) deserves a card they can flash at any time to remind others their kind is traditionally mistreated and deserves special consideration.

I’ll not rehash the specifics of this case, though I’ve read with interest details regarding the actions of both main characters, Gates and the Cambridge Police sergeant who arrested him. A brief overview is presented in one of the latest articles on the topic, AP’s “Obama rushes to quell racial uproar he helped fire,” a glimpse at the media storm the president’s original reference to the case indeed fueled.

What concerns me most is the animosity voiced by so many participants of this debate in on-line chats and forums. How will we ever get to a place of real discussions about race in this country if the conversation is fueled by hate? Certainly people of all backgrounds have the right to voice their anger at unfair treatment, whether those being mistreated are private citizens in their own homes or police officers on duty. But the hatred that fuels so many pseudo-arguments on both sides and serves only to broaden the divide…how can we ever hope to overcome that?

Maybe each of us, including every perfect white male, needs a card to hold up when tensions run high for whatever reason, a card that requests special consideration simply because each of us is human, a card that reminds everyone in a tense situation that it makes more sense to stand down and think and breathe for a minute than it does to pursue an angry reaction until things get out of hand.

If you’re about to suggest we should all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”…I’d agree that’s not such a bad idea, either.

Photo © Justin Ide, Harvard University Gazette


Blogger gerry rosser said...

I'm just sorry Obama backed down and crawfished on this.

An accompanying issue (aside from questions of "race"), is that the police, by and large, think it is a crime to speak your mind to them, i.e., they do not care a fig for the first amendment. It is not perhaps a great idea, but telling an officer what you think of a situation, in language of your choosing, is not illegal.

As an aside, I once handled a small criminal matter (as an adjunct to a civil matter) where a young woman was charged with "resisting arrest." When I inquired of the arresting officer exactly what crime he was attempting to arrest her for (an underlying sine qua non for a "resisting arrest" beef), he looked at me as though I were crazy. He had no answer, because the girl had not committed a crime he could think of for which he felt the legal duty to arrest her.

The case was thrown out pronto, but sheesh!

4:57 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Unfortunately I've heard and read about similar cases in the past week, Gerry, in which people are pressured to provide id for no apparent reason or allow an officer into their homes without a warrant or not question an officer's actions...maybe high schools should offer classes in basic civil rights and what a U.S. citizen legally can--but at times probably shouldn't--do in the presence of a police officer. Scary stuff. K.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

I was disappointed that Obama backed down on this, too. Professor Gates, currently staying on the Vineyard, has received so many death threats that he may have to move from his home in Cambridge. And yet, the ranters on the radio continue...

11:33 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hadn't heard about the continued death threats, Patry, which is another reason to be concerned about this case. Not important enough for national headlines? I'd hoped the discourse would continue but the beer at the WH seemed to diffuse everything, including anything "teachable."

1:29 PM  

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