Sounds like a medical condition, doesn’t it? It’s not, and I’ll explain the phrase a little further in, but the issues of race, and racial profiling, and “good-cop, bad-cop” long ago passed the point of being a real issue…it is now a national psychosis. I guess it is kind of a medical condition, our never-ending obsession with racism. If it were a rash, we could say that it is flaring up at the moment.
Unless you’re just back from Neptune, you know what I’m talking about. The now-national story of Henry Gates, Harvard Elite and considered one of the countrys pre-eminent scholars, arrested in his home near the University after forcing his way through a door, having lost his house keys, I suppose. Gates is the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Right away one wonders if the prospect of being the next “Joe the Plumber” had anything to do with this, but let’s ere on the side of caution and look at the story as it stands at this writing.
Someone had reported two black men with backpacks forcing their way through the rear door of Gates’ home. Cambridge Police Sergeant Jim Crowley responded. By the time he arrived, Gates was in the home, and when asked for an I.D., he responded by asking Crowley… “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” One can imagine the tone this set for the rest of the conversation. Crowley, following protocol, asked Gates to step outside, not knowing how many people were in the home, or if Gates was in fact the homeowner.
Gates admits that he was tired, and it appears that he talked himself into handcuffs, for a disorderly conduct charge that has since been dropped. Most of us either know, or, as in my case, already learned the hard way that mouthing off to police officers is a sure way to get a “Go To Jail For Free” card. In my younger years, I was not known for my penchant for rational discourse with policemen. As I grew older, and wiser, I learned to be polite. Not just as a matter of respect for folks who make their living protecting us, and dealing with unhappy customers all day long, but in my own self-interest, because keeping myself composed almost always yielded a happier result for me.
Still, it’s not the nuts and bolts of this case that are intriguing. I have no doubt that racial profiling exists, I just don’t believe it is rampant. I suspect there are probably black cops who may give their white customers a little rougher treatment. The assertion, however, that we are a racist nation, or that when it comes to race we are “a nation of cowards”, as we were reminded by our new Attorney General Eric Holder, is bogus.
One might think, that with a black President, who won with an overwhelming majority of votes in spite of his epic lack of experience, that we are not only NOT a racist country, but a country eager…even over-eager, to demonstrate that we are not.
I know of nobody who questions the dismal history of slavery in this country, or the impact that slavery had on this nation and it’s psyche, but is there ever a moment in time when we kind of collectively move on?
As I said, it’s not the details of this incident, it is the fact that the media, the Al Sharptons, the Jesse Jacksons, the race merchants, all descend upon an incident like this as a tiger might attack a gazelle carcass. It is a pathetic sight.
Gates himself, demands an apology, states that he will deem the apology’s worth or sincerity, and has threatened, of course, a lawsuit. Had he any dignity, he would have laughed it off, would have not spoken to a police officer in a demeaning manner, and would have set the example for other black men, reinforced the message that to heal race relations in this country, forgiveness and patience is requisite on all sides. Instead, he behaved like a twelve year-old. Stunningly, our own President interjected his views during a national press conference on…of all things…health care. Obama stated, after admitting he is friendly with Gates and did not know the facts of the case, that the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly”. Huh? How did a local Boston story so captivate the national media? Well…we can thank our President for that, to some degree, a man who has himself played the race card so deftly throughout his campaign, that you barely felt it. But it was there. Remember the old “they’re going to try and scare you..” line? No, Mr. President. “They” are not scaring me. You are.
The only real prejudice in this story is the prejudice the media shows in which stories it elevates to national status, and which ones they don’t. If we really wanted to heal race relations in this country, we should report alternate stories with equal zeal and passion. But we don’t. And I can think of one that would have been a good choice.
A few years ago, in Manchester, NH, Officer Michael Briggs was shot in the head and killed after responding to a call for a fight. A young black man, Michael Addison, was running away, ordered to stop, turned, aimed and shot. Officer Briggs was a veteran, a husband, and a father. An outstanding American patriot and servant to his country and community.
But there was more to the story, for just a few short years earlier, Officer Briggs had responded to a report of “shots fired”.
When he arrived, a victim was bleeding from a gunshot wound. Officer Briggs cradled him, comforted him, tended to his wound until an ambulance arrived. The young, black victim, was none other than Michael Addison. Yes…the same man who would later shoot and kill this same officer.
But Al Sharpton was nowhere to be found for this event. No “bad-cop” story here. And I’m certain that if we could ask Officer Briggs about it today, and of course we can’t, because he is dead, he would say that he was just doing his job.
I often wondered, as I’m sure many others did, if, on that fateful night, Officer Briggs hesitated for just a moment with his weapon drawn. If somewhere in his mind he thought “if I kill this kid…a young black man…it will be national news.” And, of course, it would have been. Let’s call it “Racial Hesitation”. That split-second in time when an officer has to make a dreadful decision, one that should be unhampered by the prospect of political or media-driven fallout. We’ll never know, but I’ll bet it happens.
And it is a sad consequence of where we find ourselves today. Pragmatic people know that the best way to avoid being shot by a cop is to not be a criminal. Pragmatic people know that Sgt. Crowley in Cambridge was doing his job, responding to a report of a possible break-in at a house that, by the way, had been broken into recently. But these silly, logical thoughts will never slow the Ferret-like gnawing of the race merchants at the ever-juicy bone of Race in America. Why? Because it’s not about equality anymore. Equality is here. It’s about money. Racism, in America, is a business, and unlike most enterprises in this country right now…business is booming.