Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Weekly Radley - This will be discussed for decades

From Radley Balko's Agitator blog:

So if you’re going to be a pedestrian who mistakenly calls the cops because you see a black man trying to pry open the jammed door to his own home, and if you’re going to be the responding cop who then questions said black man for possibly burglarizing his own home, then arrests said black man for subsequently taking offense and getting uppity with you, both of you should probably make sure said black man is not Henry Louis Gates, the famed Harvard professor of African-American Studies.

Uh-oh. I bet Gates is a mite irritated. Here's The Washington Post: a country where one in nine young black men are in prison, where racial profiling is still practiced, the arrest of a renowned scholar on a charge of disorderly conduct in front of his house last Thursday has fueled an ongoing debate about race in America in the age of its first black president.

....The white officer who arrived found Gates in the house (the driver was gone) and asked him to step outside. Gates refused, and the officer followed him in. Gates showed him his ID, which included his address, then demanded that the officer identify himself. The officer did not comply, Gates said. He then followed the officer outside, saying repeatedly, "Is this how you treat a black man in America?"

The charge against him (Gates) was dropped Tuesday, but Gates said he plans to use the attention and turn his intellectual heft and stature to the issue of racial profiling. He now wants to create a documentary on the criminal justice system, informed by the experience of being arrested not as a famous academic but as an unrecognized black man.

The harsher side of the experience was "deeply painful and traumatic," Gates said. "I'm outraged that this could happen to me in my own home, but I'm outraged that it could happen to any individual."

He said his documentary will ask: "How are people treated when they are arrested? How does the criminal justice system work? How many black and brown men and poor white men are the victims of police officers who are carrying racist thoughts?"

According to Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition., Reverend Al Sharpton has already chimed in. Here's The Washington Post:
Rev. Al Sharpton: "I've heard of driving while black, and I've heard of shopping while black. But I've never heard of living in a home while black."

Meyers continues:

Give me a break. Why isn't it enough that the charges of disorderly conduct have been dropped against Gates? The question answers itself: The race activists need to posture that the nation has to pause and contemplate and endure yet another round of guilt around their "truth" and constant observation of racism by cops. "See," they exclaim, "in postracial America, the black man with a Ph.D. can't get into his own home without causing suspicion and getting arrested."

The real truth is that Gates did not get arrested for being black or even for being suspicious or for breaking into his own home. He was arrested for disorderly conduct - for failing to do what civil rights activists and race experts always advise innocent black men, and all others who come into contact with the police, to do: cooperate.

It makes sense to repeat this message now, especially for the benefit of young black men. If the police confront you, don't go demanding badge numbers and reading the cops the riot act. Be courteous and calm. Explain yourself and, if asked, present ID.
If there has been a constitutional violation of some kind by the cops, that can be taken care of once the police have left you alone, moving on - let's hope - to investigate other suspicious behavior.

So which way should Professor Gates have responded?


Hammer said...

9 times out of 10 these thing will go south due to indignation and histrionics.

The Whited Sepulchre said...


But can you imagine being the arresting officer and then realizing you've got Henry Louis Gates?

Dr Ralph said...

I'm getting slightly mixed signals here. What exactly would a Libertarian's response be to an agent of the government arresting them in their own home?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

That's why I have this under the "hypothetical questions" category.
I think I know the answer, but am waiting on more of my FREEDOM LOVING BROTHERS AND SISTERS to chime in.

Dr Ralph said...

...So far the silence is deafening.

Jackie D said...

"...Gates was arrested after he yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly inside the residence then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him. "It was at that time that I informed Professor Gates that he was under arrest,'' the officer wrote in the report."

He wasn't arrested IN his home, he was arrested outside it, after refusing to cooperate with the officer and then following him outside.

vampE said...

I really cannot believe what I am reading. I cannot believe that you repeated this blog in your space. Especially without your opinion to go with it. Silence is not your usual style. Silence implies complicity. And in this case, complicity is horrifying.

I can understand your political rants. People are entitled to their political affiliations.

But this. This makes no sense.

What does a DC policeman arresting a man in his own home (oh, excuse me, he came OUTSIDE his OWN home, and THAT’s when he was arrested) have to do with Libertarianism? What does the fact that there is a long history of African Americans and Hispanics being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately have to do with Libertarianism? What do your freedom-loving brothers and sisters have to do with injustice?

Are you saying that, if Libertarians were in office, DC police and the black professor would have acted with prudence, respect and intelligence toward each other?

This was not a hypothetical event, so it can’t be a hypothetical question.

The Whited Sepulchre said...


Property rights are one of the hallmarks of libertarianism. So is protection of private property. So what we have here is a near-perfect dilemma.

Should Gates have gone along to get along, or should he have raised hell, not cooperated, and thrown a fit? The racial angle only adds some anoother complication to the mix.

Maybe it's not a hypothetical, but it's a great dilemma. The opposing columns were posted on the same day by Real Clear, one of the best journalism aggregators in the U.S., and both present a fairly clear point of view. The initial link is from Raley Balko, who is the most anti-racist, anti-statist (and anti-police) voices on the 'net.

I've got my opinion on what shoulda been done. I like hearing what other people think Gates should've done.

And I'm not saying anything about what would happen if Libertarians were in office.

Dr Ralph said...

Maybe I haven't waited long enough, but I'm beginning to think many of your co-religionists pay lip service to private property rights. Other than Jackie D's hair-splitting defense of the police action being discussed, no other Randinistas have piped up with an opinion.

But let the topic be smoking bans in bars....

BTW - let it be noted I'm not finding fault with you: you're putting both sides out there for the debate (which no one seems to have the stomach for).

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Perhaps my co-religionists are slumbering. Perhaps TLG has taken them to a secret mountain retreat, with no wireless service.

Or perhaps they've been conditioned, like most of us, to avoid any controversy about race.

I dunno.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

Or perhaps the co-religiwahterverists didn't comment because they were off elsewhere on the Interwebs looking at

My opinion, based on what little I've read and the fact that I wasn't there to witness the event?
Well, sounds to me like the officer was just doing his job up until the arrest, hell the guy had a freakin crowbar and was breaking into a house! Do I agree with the arrest(once Gates' residence was established)? No. Why is it against the law to be a race-card pulling, self-righteous prick to a policeman, especially on your own property?

Honestly, I don't know who to believe in this story because our sensationalistic media just LOVES a juicy racism story, whether one truly exists or not.

Either way, I don't see why Gates had to be arrested, based on the info provided.

But what do I know, pasty whites like me aren't allowed to have opinions on race these days...unless I call myself "progressive".

Anonymous said...

Or it could be that this topic doesn't interest everyone equally. I'm not sure that there's a uniquely "libertarian" angle or answer here. Sometimes people just get sideways with each other for whatever reason. I don’t imaging political philosophy doing much to change that. But let's take the Washington Post version of events as written.

"The white officer who arrived found Gates in the house…and asked him to step outside. Gates refused, and the officer followed him in. Gates showed him his ID, which included his address, then demanded that the officer identify himself.”

At this point, there doesn’t seem anything untoward, though I wonder about the circumstances of the officer “following [Gates] in.” (Probable cause, perhaps, but I would be interested to know if the officer just walked in or asked permission to enter). If I were forcing my way into my home and a cop pulled up – either by chance or because someone called it in – I would expect to have to show some ID to prove that I was indeed the owner of the property in question. Of course, I would also have the right to demand that the police officer prove his identity as well. Continuing…

“The officer did not comply, Gates said.”

It seems the officer should have provided name and badge number as Gates requested, and after Gates’s identity as the property owner was established, the officer should have left the property if that was Gates’s desire. I can speculate about why an officer might ask the homeowner to step outside even after his or her identity had been established, but ultimately the property owner has the right to determine who stays and who goes.

“He then followed the officer outside, saying repeatedly, ‘Is this how you treat a black man in America?’”

Gates is still on his own property, and within his rights to say whatever he wants, as far as I’m concerned. Even if he had left the property and was on the street, he still has the right to speak his mind, so it seems the arrest was unwarranted.

That’s my property rights-based take just off the top of my head. Then again, there’s something to be said for not being a dick to a cop who’s come by to make sure your house isn’t being burglarized.

Gar said...

What a cool read. I've been in Germany for two weeks so I missed it.

Profiling and not profiling is one of the worst things wrong with American law enforcements.

If this man had been breaking into someone's house and was stopped by the cops everyone would be praising him (the cop).

Unfortunately, the man was breaking into his own house.

As a "white Caucasian male", I can honestly say that I've broken into my own car several times and even had the local police help me once or twice.

There is so much wrong with this story. After hearing about the alcohol raid at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth I can't help but side against the cops. But this, in itself, is profiling.

Sometimes the media and the resulting blog fodder or just the blog itself can do more harm than good.

In many cases, such as this, you have to throw profiling out the window and talk to all the people involved to make your own judgment.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

Has anyone commenting here read the ENTIRE story? Gates was arrested for "Disorderly conduct" and it was NOT in DC. He was shouting racial insults at police officers who had been called to investigate a possible burglary in progress and the insults began before he identified himself.

Pogo said...

It looks like the messiah is backing off from his own racial profiling regarding this event. Tsk tsk.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Ahhhh....There we go. I knew the boys would show up.

Dr Ralph said...

Re: the boys showing up - my faith in humanity is restored!

My own take: Gates may have been a dick, but if being a dick were a criminal offense, the jails would be a lot fuller than they already are. Several sources have opined this may be as much about social class as race.

BTW -- say what you will about Obama, after his initial (perhaps ill-advised) comments, he manned up and did an excellent job of gracefully seeking a way to cool down the situation.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Man - I'm way late, but just my two cents. After being seen breaking into his own home, Gates should've said "Oh, I can imagine how this looks officer and I appreciate that you're responding to witnesses who may not know me reporting some guy banging a door and crowbarring a window. Here's my ID." Officer "Hmmm." (looks at ID) "I see. Everything appears in order. Thank you, Dr. Gates" and walks away.

Instead it appears to have been a "You don't know who your messing with, boy" argument on both sides. However, if Gates showed his ID to the Cop (and he only showed his Harvard ID, by the way) - the Cop should've cross referenced it, made sure he was the owner, then left. Even if Gates was yelling whatever commentary to the Cop.

However, if a neighbor would've filed a disturbing the peace complaint against Gates for yelling on his porch, then the cops have a case. Otherwise, you should be able to call Cops racist pigs from your own property with impunity per the First Amendment and property owner rights. Pretty cut and dried to me. Being an A-hole is still protected by the Constitution.

DAve said...

Are we sure that Gate's indignation wasn't a function of being caught with a secret love interest?