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:
....in 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."
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?