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31 July 2009 @ 03:14 pm
Skip Your Ass Outta My Gate With That Bullshit  
(Note: This post comes from my new public 'blog Trilluminati Chuuuch of Ackrite.  I apologize for not being active in this community for so long: to make a long story short, life got in the way.  I'll do my best as co-moderator to keep earth_tone active & healthy.  You are all valuable to this community, and to me.)
Why can’t my judgment be trusted when it comes to racism? You’d think 28 years of life as a POC in America would enable me to discern when someone’s being racist. Apparently I’m mistaken, because every time “the R-word” leaves my mouth or my fingertips, someone abruptly appears, like an ethereal genie from the spout of a just-stroked magic lamp, to debate me by suggesting every other possible motive for the questionable word or deed. (If you haven’t instinctively guessed by now what race said Great Debater tends to be, you need not proceed any further.) Such challenges usually carry the implication that I haven’t gathered all of the facts; that I’m being impulsive or hypersensitive; that I waste mental energy looking for ways to ascribe racist motives to every white person who has ever conflicted with a POC. I rebuke that implication: I’ve smelled enough shit to know when something stinks.

I recently made the following statement in a public forum about the infamous confrontation between Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley: “I refuse to believe that an unarmed, outnumbered, elderly and disabled man could pose enough of a threat to a cop by merely raising his voice to justify arresting him.” Almost immediately, a commenter chided me for accusing Sgt. Crowley of racism and ignoring Dr. Gates’ irascible behavior, and questioned whether I’d read Crowley’s police report or Gates’ interviews about the confrontation. This commenter conveniently ignored the complete absence of racial indicators in my statement, as well as my acknowledgment that Gates yelled at Crowley. What this commenter didn’t know is that my opinion about the confrontation is based predominantly on the official police report.

Yes, I overcame both my (healthy, justifiable) distrust of the police AND my (healthy, justifiable) ambivalence toward white people to examine Crowley’s version of the story, and the most charitable interpretation I could come up with is that he arrested Gates for embarrassing him in public, not for breaking an actual law. Having to break into my own home would be enough to put me in a bad mood, let alone having to then prove that said home was actually mine. If I were in Gates’ position, though, I’d have calmed down once Crowley left my porch: I wouldn’t have followed him outside, and I definitely wouldn’t have yelled at him. However, my calmness would be rooted not in respect for the law, but in fear of its enforcers. I don’t have the Ivy League or the President on my side, and I live in a city where POCs get tazed for asking cops not to yell at THEM.

Gates assumed that his class would trump his race, a haughty yet (mostly) correct assumption: all charges against him were dropped, and President Obama spoke out on his behalf, neither of which would’ve happened to me if I’d have gotten that crunk with a cop. However, I refuse to use Gates’ behavior as a smokescreen for the fact that he still got arrested without breaking an actual law, something that happens way more often to POCs than it does to whites. I don’t wish to brand Crowley as a cross-burning white-hooded demon; however, it surprises and confuses me that an officer responsible for diversity and sensitivity training in his department would be “surprised and confused” by Gates’ behavior. Gates was merely doing what most lower-class POCs are too scared to do when wrongfully apprehended by white cops. Crowley responded by trying to use his power as a trump over Gates’ class, and for that he should be reprimanded.

I guess there are advantages, though, to not being upper-class: I can write things like the previous paragraph without worrying about a mammoth backlash…unlike President Obama. Obama was right to say that Crowley “acted stupidly,” which made his subsequent decision to “recalibrate” his words very disappointing to me. However, such recalibrations are mandatory for even the richest, whitest politicians (except, it seems, for Bush Jr.), and Obama’s nothing if not pragmatic. To me, Dr. Gates is just this year’s Rev. Wright, a man whose arguably hotheaded rebellion against white supremacy is being used as a distraction by “R-word” people to derail Obama’s goals. If Obama became the “ride or die” dude I wanted him to be for Wright, I’d be using the words “President McCain” right now; if he does the same for Gates, I’ll never be able to afford a physical again in my life.
Current Location: work
Current Mood: fullfull
Neo_Prodigy: Obamaneo_prodigy on August 2nd, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
That's one of the many things that piss me off. There's this monumental misconception that POCs can't be objective about issues of race, unlike our caucasian counterparts. Because we're too close to the situation and we're too emotional about it and we have a personal stake in the matter. Like whites don't have a vested interest in maintaining a corrupt power imbalance that benefits them.

The police report is from the cop's point of view, it does not mean he's telling the truth. All of which has since been debunked by the woman who made the call. The cop has been caught in several lies.

And Obama is playing it smart. Because people are going to look at him to see how he's going to handle race issues. Is the Negro President gonna side with the coloreds in the big black conspiracy or is he going to be "objective?"

It's a no win situation and he's still bringing the win out of this by showing he's a unifier.
sean_coltrane on August 2nd, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
The police report is from the cop's point of view, it does not mean he's telling the truth.

That's part of the point I'm trying to make: when I wrote this post, the ONLY account of the confrontation I'd read was the police report. Even if the police report is 100% correct, it contains no account of Gates breaking a law, therefore he shouldn't have been arrested.