The Gates Incident And Obama's Pavlovian Response
By Alicia Colon
By now everyone has heard of the disorderly conduct arrest on July 16th of a distinguished Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., by a Cambridge Police sergeant, James Crowley. The arrest is still in the news because of the remarks that President Obama made at a press conference when he said that the police "acted stupidly." It would have been wiser to say that he did not have all the facts or simply "no comment." Instead, he made a presumption on the side of his friend "Skip" Gates, not on the integrity of the arrest.
But one can hardly blame the president for doing what liberals do all the time: Creating a racial incident in which African-Americans are always the victims. It has become almost Pavlovian for them to exploit racial disharmony to enhance their politically correct agenda whenever they get the opportunity.
The mainstream media has weighed in unsurprisingly on the side of Prof. Gates. Stanley Fish wrote an article in the New York Times - "Henry Louis Gates: Déjà vu all over again" - explaining how Prof. Gates had been dealing with racial prejudice for over 20 years when Mr. Fish first met him.
I know what racial prejudice is firsthand and the Gates/Crowley confrontation does not meet that definition. At first I had assumed that both Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley had overreacted and, in a recent statement to quell his unwise remarks, Pres. Obama seemed to have come to that same conclusion. However, after reading the actual police report, which can be viewed at www.smokinggun.com, the onus of the blame falls squarely on Prof. Gates. Whether he was jet lagged from an overseas trip or suffering from pain due to a hip ailment, his confrontational behavior incited the eventual arrest.
The report clearly shows that Sgt. Crowley tried to defuse the incident but Prof. Gates continued to shout after he exited the house that he was a racist and used inflammatory language. His behavior was witnessed by several bystanders including the woman, Lucia Whalen, who had phoned in the 911 call after seeing one of two men wearing backpacks wedging his shoulder into the door.
Sgt. Crowley, who was nearest to the alleged incident, responded to the call and was met with the indignant Prof. Gates who, after hearing why the officer was investigating the possible break-in, immediately initiated the racial overtone by saying: "Why, because I'm a black man in America?"
Sgt. Crowley had every right to investigate the 911 call. He had every right to inquire if there was anyone else on the house. He did not recognize Prof. Gates, who at first refused to show identification and then offered him his Harvard I.D. card, which does not have his address. Some newspapers reported that Prof. Gates showed his driver's license but that is not in the police report.
Officers Carlos Figueroa, a Latino, and Leon Lashley, an African-American, confirmed the justification of the arrest. In Officer Figueroa's report, he wrote: "As I returned to the residence, a group of onlookers were now on the scene. The Sgt., along with the gentlemen, were now on the porch of xxx Ware St. and again he was shouting, now to the onlookers (about seven), "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA"! The gentleman refused to listen to as to why the Cambridge police were there. While on the porch, the gentleman refused to be cooperative and continued shouting that the Sgt. Is racist police officer."
Neither Prof. Gates nor Pres. Obama, both extremely successful individuals, has ever lived in a ghetto or a barrio yet they continue to suggest that they personally know what the average black man experiences. According to his PBS documentary "African American Lives," Prof. Gates learned that he is 50% white and is descended from the Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages. How typical is that?
A friend of my family who is a black Panamanian witnessed his teenage nephew being assaulted by a white man with a knife. He charged at the man and hit him. The man ran off and my friend and his uncle unwisely chased him. The man dropped the knife and raced ahead into a store and locked the door. My friend's aunt called 911 and so did the manager of the store. Two white police officers showed up and arrested my friend and his uncle and refused to believe their version of the event, saying: "Two black guys chasing a white guy? Yeah, Sure."
It took many months and expensive lawyer fees for him to clear his name and one could certainly describe that incident as racial profiling but why don't we call it by a more accurate description: Prejudice. No doubt the police prejudged my friend as the suspect because he resembled the majority of culprits they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
My young friend is a true gentleman who experienced real racism in the past when his house was torched when his family first moved to Staten Island. Yet he bears no animosity toward the police and understands that they have a very difficult job to do. Throughout his ordeal he was smart enough to treat the police officers with respect, something that a certain Harvard professor was unable to do.
One other incident in recent weeks again illustrates how liberals use race in lieu of substance to divert meaningful debate. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, tried to deflect the testimony of the president of the Black Chamber of Congress, Harry Alford, who was arguing that the Cap and Trade bill would be detrimental to small businesses. She read a resolution from the NAACP supporting the bill. Mr. Alford recognized her condescension and called her on it, reminding her that they were discussing climate control, not race.
Prof. Gates, who had threatened lawsuits, now says that he hopes that his arrest will lead to a greater understanding about racial profiling in America. But liberals are unlikely to cease salivating like Pavlov's dogs whenever there's an opportunity to inject racial disharmony into volatile newsworthy events. It's worked so well for them and they have no shame.
Alicia Colon resides in New York and is a columnist for www.nysun.com. Her web site is www.aliciacolon.com