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July 24, 2009

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Unpossible, Obama drinks buttery-oaky-chardonnay from Sonoma.

word

Bonus points for the first person to find a winger seriously arguing that Obama is threatening the press with this comment:

He also did say he wanted to find out if there was a way of getting the press off his lawn. (Laughter.) I informed him that I can't get the press off my lawn. (Laughter.) He pointed out that my lawn is bigger than his lawn. (Laughter.) But if anybody has any connections to the Boston press, as well as national press, Sergeant Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass.

Diarists on redstate don't count (though front-pagers do).

Politically smart or not, it's kind of pathetic these follow up comments were needed at all...

This is what I like about the guy.

It's smart and it fits in with his larger political narrative. Crowley-Gates is metaphor for Israel-Palestine.

Can you imagine our last President walking back like that (instead of doubling down)?

I can't.

Word to the Kringle!

I'm still gobsmacked by the amazingness of the symbolism. BHO is the Gretzky of identity politics. Crowleyis bound to come out of that meeting all smiles. He looks good. Obama looks good. Gates looks good. The man's a genius. Makes you wonder how he could have chosen Joe Biden of all people.

"President Obama's comments today regarding Gatesgate were not only politically brilliant, but also the right thing to do."

The right thing to do, ASIDE from politically brilliant (which to me reads as "expedient")? How so?

The police did "act stupidly," which even they in effect admitted by dropping the charges. Obama's first statement was a direct recognition of the continuing problem of racial profiling, and of the probability that it happened to Gates. This statement was "politically brilliant" backpedaling from a chance to really highlight and address a significant manifestation of American racism.

So I'm confused -- again, aside from political expedience, how was it "the right thing to do"?

Makes you wonder how he could have chosen Joe Biden of all people.

I've grown to like that choice less and less.

This title sure is hogging up the real estate on the side bar.

I agree with von 100% on this (ObLeftyDisclaimer: no, never in a million years did I think I would ever say that, etc yadda etc yadda)...but please, pleeeeeze: no "Gatesgate." No more "-gates" of any kind, for that matter.

Seriously. Ixnay on the atesgay. I'm beggin' here.

macon d,

From what we can tell (and apparently in the opinion of the POTUS), both guys acted like dicks. It's more serious when a cop acts like a dick, because he's the state, but this guy seems like he was probably generally an OK cop. And the POTUS should have stayed out of it, because it did not involve the federal government and no one really needs yet another edition of the endless 60s culture war.

So, yes, it was the right thing to do. If it upsets people who do want yet another edition of the endless 60s culture war, that just makes it even righter.

If it upsets people who do want yet another edition of the endless 60s culture war, that just makes it even righter.

Don't you mean the endless *80's* culture war?

What jonnybutter said.

Aside from that, how does addressing institutional racism, in the form of violent enactments of racism by the police (and I do think false arrest is a form of state violence), amount to engaging in a "culture war"?

It's the right thing to do because this is seriously distracting from healthcare reform. It's the right thing to do because maybe Crowley regrets his actions but needs to save face. It's the right thing to do because Gates might make a much more effective documentary if he included both sides of the argument. An escalating war between Gates and Crowley in the press is just a bad idea all around. Should have been handled without all the press inflammation. Gates and Crowley can possibly get together and find common ground in order to move forward with a national discussion that is useful rather than adversarial. We could do without another 10 days of I'll sue him, I'll sue him back played endlessly on cable news. And I am not in any way addressing the issues involved, merely the poor choice of format for discussion, cable news, talk radio, and tabloid press reports.

macon d: It's the right thing to do because there's absolutely no evidence that race played any role whatsoever in what happened.

You can read whatever you like into it, but by just about all accounts Gates was the one that introduced race into the mix by immediately accusing the cop of being racist -- which is a pretty ugly assertion to throw at someone who's just doing their job (and potentially putting himself in the middle of a dangerous situation, no less).

It really appears that Gates was a real jerk to the cop, became unruly, and the cop overstepped his bounds by arresting him for it. Which is pretty much what Obama ended up saying, so good for him.

Politically smart or not, it's kind of pathetic these follow up comments were needed at all...

I think it was pathetic that Obama made the statements he made without the facts. That being said, it was all he COULD do. But well said.

And until the tapes are out, I reserve the right to call either Gates or Crowley stupid.

I've been treated with extreme suspicion in my own home by the police and I'm white. Officer firmly requested I step out, asked for i.d, and then asked to speak to my wife all the while not being polite (very on task). Turns out my 2-year-old had the phone and dialed 911 and they thought there might be a domestic disturbance. I thanked the officer for his concern. He was just doing his job.

Not saying Crowley was right here, but why inject race into it? If Crowley is right, Obama stepped big time in it as far as race relations go.

As for the arrest, one black officer at the scene supports Crowley. That's why I think the tapes will be telling. While an arrest for Gates taking off verbally might be suspect in the abstract, I'd like to hear the tapes.

The cop acted stupidly, no matter whether the homeowner accused him of racism or jack-booted thuggery.

Where the hell are the libertarians on this one?

--TP

Where the hell are the libertarians on this one?

--TP

Reason.com covered it solidly, many articles, much consternation. Though they were a bit bitchy today about Obama doing his whole "let's have a healing moment" move.

Yeah, the libertarians were pretty firmly against the cop on this one. Mr. Agonist was, of course, firmly against. David Bernstein came out early against. Even Glenn Reynolds was linking negative posts.

The right thing to do, ASIDE from politically brilliant (which to me reads as "expedient")? How so?

Truth be told, that was my first reaction as well. But then I realized that this was, in fact, turning into pure politics. Thus, a political answer was the correct one (see the comments of Pithlord and Kia as well).

Incidentally, I still have no doubt that the cop is in the wrong. I also still have no idea whether race played a factor, and frankly don't care if Prof. Gates might have been a bit of a jerk as well ... Gates didn't have a gun and the ability to toss the cop in jail.

As for the arrest, one black officer at the scene supports Crowley.

Cop Supports Action Of Other Cop -- Film At 11.

I agree that there shouldn't be any moral equivalence here. We all act like dicks sometimes, and I can sort of understand both Gates and Crowley's point-of-view in a subjective sense. I imagine I'd feel pissed off if I was either of them. The difference is Crowley acted illegally and unprofessionally.

The police did "act stupidly," which even they in effect admitted by dropping the charges

Not at all; the goal was to mess with Gates, not to convict him of anything. Crowley knew from the start that charges wouldn't stick.

Ta-Nisisi Coats covers this one best, I think, when he notes that after everyone is done making nice, this leaves us just where we started- in a country where you can be arrested for sassing a cop, and even worse, in a country where the cops and the citizens alike are GLAD that you can be arrested for sassing a cop.

Crowley had the power to toss Gates in jail because he didn't like what Gates said.

Spot on Von. For me, this entire episode is a metaphor for the general debate on abuse of power by the state.

If being a douchebag and race baiting is a punishable offense, then I submit to you that Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck should have been drawn and quartered eons ago.

In all seriousness though; defending clearly illegal actions by the state because it is directed at somebody with unpopular views is just terrifying.

Then again, this is a nation even divided on whether or not it's okay to imprison and torture people (many of whom are clearly innocent) because they harbor deeply unfavorable views of us.

The authoritarian mindset - "You don't sass, you RESPECT author-i-tie"- from many of Crowley's defenders is deeply distressing.

PS - I didn't mean to imply that you're defending right wing authoritarianism in your post when I mentioned Limbaugh and Beck.

I agreew with von that the state power/rule of law thing is the critical point here. Imagine a white homeowner and a black cop. Imagine further the homeowner is alleged to have said something racially inflammatory. Then the cop arrests him on a bogus charge.
Even if you are inclined to understand this hypothetical cop's feelings, it;s still an abuse of state power. No amount of empathy or identity politics should override that.

Professor Henry Louis Gates is not the victim of racism. Professor Henry Louis Gates is the member of the "frou-frou blancmange" elite and untouchable class unfortunate and mistaken enough due to an unfortunate incident to be the recipient of the arm of law enforcement as it is applied to the plebeian and/or common citizenry.

I can imagine well enough that the newly-capped, highly-placed, intellectual class would be outraged (OUTRAGED) at this handling. They long ago sold their souls to the ruling elite in return for some shelf space on the gated community compound's trophy display wing. Now they're being man-handled by these common centurions? Outrageous!

To give you today's anecdote as enlightenment:

When I worked in CitiGroup it became abundantly clear that every...

OK - my respects to Alberbtacowpoke (ACP) an' all but this case has annoyed me for some time and it's time I set this straight.

Professor Henry Louis Gates is not the victim of racism. Professor Henry Louis Gates is the member of the "frou-frou-blancmange" elite and untouchable class unfortunate and mistaken enough due to an unlikely incident to be the recipient of the long arm of law enforcement's "standard practice" (intimidate and take no sh1t) as it is applied to the plebeian and/or common citizenry.

I can imagine well enough that the newly-capped, highly-placed, intellectual class ensconced in Boston, the Hamptons and other fine areas would be outraged (OUTRAGED) at this handling. They long ago sold their souls to the ruling elite in return for some exclusive shelf space on the gated community compound's trophy display wing. Now they're being man-handled by these common centurions? Outrageous!

To give you today's anecdote as enlightenment:

When I worked in CitiGroup it became abundantly clear that every single trader was a member of the upper class (the "jet set" as they are now known as). I supposed this was a necessary component to speaking both Japanese and English fluently. The requirement that they'd lived in both California (or other parts U.S.) and Japan (e.g.) pre-supposed some form of mobile, disposable wealth.

After a year and a half CitiGroup's FOREX floor finally got its first Indian Trader employee. Long overdue in my opinion since (everyone will agree) their agility at mental maths is like a magician's trick compared to everyone else. Inventors of the "0" and all that. Well... you should have heard the cheer that went up amongst my colleagues in the IT department. Every single one of them (excluding me) recent hires from Mumbai by CitiGroup as a new cost-control measure. I was conflicted about the process but I liked all of them. Each one was a variegated individual with his own dreams and quirks, I genuinely felt happy in their company despite the implied job threat they represented (I was axed a 1/2 year later).

I turned to them in Pyrrhic triumph and noted the following:

"You don't get it do you? This guy is no more a representative of you lot than Sonia Gandhi. You and I have more in common than you do with him. Haven't you listened to his conversation? Holidays as a child in Hawaii, Skiing in St. Moritz... He'S just another member of the elite. The fact he Indian is just a happy coincidence. He looks down on us the same as the rest of them."

True to my description and to the chagrin of the other IT staff, our new hire made a point of asking for me (the only white person) exclusively on every PC troubleshooting call, avoiding the Indian staff like the plague. Why? Who knows. Maybe he preferred the English intonation. Maybe he was embarrassed to be mingling with his own kith and kin in that prestigious environment. But it served the lesson to these guys well. The issue is not race but class.

To return to Professor Henry Louis Gates. He will be the recipient of much "you Poor Dear" shoulder massaging amongst his community and I imagine he will write the odd polemic or two on how hard it is to be a "black man" in the USA. But the fact is, he got a shock introduction into what life is like for ordinary people even though he got kid gloves treatment (due to his address) compared to what would've happened to "normal" citizens. Haven't we read enough about 72 year old women getting tasered at speeding checks to know what the real issue is?

I have zero sympathy for this pampered elitist, skin colour be damned.

I would rather have Sgt Crowley as my next door neighbor than Professor Gates. I bet Sgt Crowley would know who his next door neigbors are. If he came home and was not able to get into his home, his next door neighbor would probably come over to help him get into his house.

My temperment is liberal, but this sticking it to Sgt Crowley seems like liberal elitism of the worst kind.

This happened in Cambridge! The bastion of liberalism. Crowley voted for Obama. The mayor of Cambridge and the governor of Massachussets are black. Crowley teaches about racial profiling (at the request of a black commissioner) and is a respected officer.

If all of this is not good enough, then I don't know what planet you guys live on.

If you and Professor Gates don't support your police officers when they are doing good (like investigating a potential breakin), then it is going to be very difficult to get some traction when some real racial profiling happens. When something horrible really happens. Because it seems to me that you guys will never be satisfied.

Members of the bourgeoisie are entitled not to be arrested on trumped up charges.

Thinking otherwise is Stalinism.

Hmm, after the Crotchety post, I thought the focus on this one would be talking about how everyone, President and police alike, wants to keep the [press] kids off of their lawns.

I guess I am in serious need of some unseriousness.

Crowley voted for Obama.

I'm curious where you heard that. I caught a bit of an interview with James Crowley on a local Boston TV station in which I thought I heard him say he did NOT vote for Obama. But I wasn't paying strict attention, so I could easily be wrong.

But I do predict that "Jim the Cop" will replace "Joe the Plumber" in the Republican backlash pantheon. I make this prediction fearlessly, and in the hope it proves wrong.

--TP

I would rather have Sgt Crowley as my next door neighbor than Professor Gates. I bet Sgt Crowley would know who his next door neigbors are. If he came home and was not able to get into his home, his next door neighbor would probably come over to help him get into his house.

My temperment is liberal, but this sticking it to Sgt Crowley seems like liberal elitism of the worst kind.

Either you're lying about yourself, or you haven't done any reading about the incident. Perhaps both.

But basically, you're arguing, as Coates indicates, that officers are well within their rights to arrest you for sassing them. Sounds pretty Soviet to me. Maybe even Maoist.

Everything gwangung just said...

To all the "Gates *COULD* have been a threat, how could the officer know, he was just doing his job..." excuse makers a few questions:
1) Have you seen Gates, in photo or on TV? He's 61 years old, for crye-eye, totally gray of hair and beard, walks with a cane [and I saw it suggested suggested elsewhere "well he could have had a sword in the cane." Gad!] Now I don't live near Cambridge anymore, and I'm not conversant with the criminal subculture there, but I'll bet there aren't too many 61-year-old, all gray, limping housebreakers around.
2) If there is racism and ignorance here, it belongs to the neighbor. Does anyone seriously believe she'd have called the cops if Gates were white?
3) When did we let Al the troll in? And I know its against the spirit of the board to say that, but for those of us who've regularly seen his work on Yglesias' and Drum's blogs, he is what he is.
4) The same day, or the day after, someone (Yglesias?) suggested that Crowley's reaction was at least as much town/gown as white/black. There's a long, long history of antipathy in Cambridge, although not so much the last few decades as the old manufacturing base has shut down and the ironworkers, candy makers, etc have moved away and died off.
5) Be glad the Bushies are out of power, lest they would have immediately proposed a national act, overriding all local laws, that made annoying a cop an arrestable, punishable offense.

What Pithy said. Throughout.

And Al seems like the Al trollbot from Yglesias threads. Not sure about hidflect, but what a weird worldview to support where elitists should be subject to this kind of harrassment by the police. Liberal? Unlikely.

BTW: Von, are you trying to set the record for length of post title?

"I would rather have Sgt Crowley as my next door neighbor than Professor Gates. I bet Sgt Crowley would know who his next door neigbors are. If he came home and was not able to get into his home, his next door neighbor would probably come over to help him get into his house."

Also, he's white.

frou-frou blancmange?

Crowley had the power to toss Gates in jail because he didn't like what Gates said. That just isn't right.

Cops have the power in the moment to do all kinds of things, but they don't have the power to do them legally. That's why if Gates was a just slightly less prominent and respectable member of society and if Obama hadn't so squarely aligned himself with him, I would be crying for Gates to sue, just to make a point about police power generally, and their hyperpower when race is involved. But Dr. Henry Lewis Gates Jr. suing the Cambridge PD would ignite a race war at the very upper echelons of our country that would have potentially devastating consequences for whatever progress was ever represented in this liberal moment. We nee the elite to at least try to do a bit of semi-productive governing for the next 18 months or so.

But if it was just about anyone else, I would be CRYING for a lawsuit to make an example of this guy. The fact he leads ethnic/racial sensitivity training in his department only makes his decisions when the rubber hit the road that much worse.

The fact he leads ethnic/racial sensitivity training in his department only makes his decisions when the rubber hit the road that much worse.
I don't see this - there really doesn't seem to be much evidence that Crowley was motivated by racism. Sure, I strongly disapprove of his actions, but I don't see much evidence that the guy is a racist, or that he's ill-informed on the topic.

If anything, the reverse proposition seems to be the case, i.e. that Crowley was convinced he was not influenced by Gates's ethnicity and was therefore especially offended when Gates allegedly called him a racist, such that Crowley decided to humiliate him. And although I seem to recall my fellow Cambridge resident (Cantabridgean?) Turbulence denying the existence a big Town/Gown divide a few days back, I'm not sure I agree. I don't see a lot of class resentment (and the money side is in any case far from simple, because so many academics are graduate students and postdocs without a lot of cash), but I do see a big social divide, with the townies and the students-and-faculty not mixing all that much and often having preconceived notions about each other - most relevantly about the assumptions members of the other category make about members of their own.

At the end of the day, Crowley abused his power, but he did so nonviolently and by the malicious but careful application of the rules, and there isn't much evidence of racism (indeed, the types of bias I can believe are that Gates may be predisposed to assume racism in cops, and that Crowley may be predisposed to assume entitlement and contemptuousness from Harvard professors). It really doesn't sound like a great test case for a lawsuit, and as anyone who's ever read Balko can tell you Crowley is clearly light-years better than the worst cops around.

"But Dr. Henry Lewis Gates Jr. suing the Cambridge PD would ignite a race war at the very upper echelons of our country that would have potentially devastating consequences for whatever progress was ever represented in this liberal moment."

That does sound pretty attractive...

"The fact he leads ethnic/racial sensitivity training in his department only makes his decisions when the rubber hit the road that much worse."

What? He's likely an equal opportunity asshole. You've got the right to mouth off to cops in your own home, but that doesn't make it prudential to irritate a walking ego with a gun, no matter what your respective races are. But I'd love to see the lawsuit: People really shouldn't have to walk on egg shells while they're around police, which most people understand is necessary to do.

Warren Terra: If anything, the reverse proposition seems to be the case, i.e. that Crowley was convinced he was not influenced by Gates's ethnicity and was therefore especially offended when Gates allegedly called him a racist, such that Crowley decided to humiliate him.

Yeah. A white man who's CONVINCED he's not a racist, and so is REALLY OFFENDED when he harasses a black man in the man's own home for no very good reason, and the black man points out that this is racist? - and who decides that the appropriate penalty for is to humilitate the black man?

We saw during RaceFail09 how many white people who are called on making racist comments, react with rage and strike out at the person identifying their behavior as racist. Teresa Nielsen Hayden went out in an outrageous flaming meltdown over this: many others did too.

Wouldn't surprise me if Crowley was the kind of white person who thinks the problem with having their behavior identified as racist is their own hurt feelings...

Jes, if I insisted that you were a talking, typing willow tree, when you believed you were not and indeed had invested considerable effort in building an identity for yourself as not being a willow tree, despite the regrettable tendency of all too many people in your profession to be willow trees, you might be very offended and take a particular dislike to me, especially if the situation was already stressful and I was making the accusation quite strenuously. Your doing so would not, despite what you claim in your comment, prove your essential tree-ness. Not even if you decided to seize your revenge on me for my making the accusation.

Also, we didn't see anything during "RaceFail09" because we didn't see the event in question. While I'm given to understand that a great deal of heat was generated, and perhaps also some light, "RaceFail09" wasn't a major feature of this blog or of the political blogosphere more broadly. I'm only somewhat aware of what "RaceFail09" was, and that only because I read John Scalzi's blog and he hosted a couple of guest posts inspired by the controversy. And even then, I suspect that different people who did see "RaceFail09" saw different things.

BTW: Von, are you trying to set the record for length of post title?

Longtitlephobia is ruining this country, Eric. I dream of the day when longtitle marriage is legal, and one longtitle can marry another longtitle to produce evenlongertitles.

I don't see this - there really doesn't seem to be much evidence that Crowley was motivated by racism. Sure, I strongly disapprove of his actions, but I don't see much evidence that the guy is a racist, or that he's ill-informed on the topic.

I don't know where we'd be without white folks helpfully instructing us dumb negros on what is and isn't 'racist.'

Really, from the bottom of my black heart, thanks.

WarrenTerra: Jes, if I insisted that you were a talking, typing willow tree, when you believed you were not and indeed had invested considerable effort in building an identity for yourself as not being a willow tree, despite the regrettable tendency of all too many people in your profession to be willow trees, you might be very offended and take a particular dislike to me, especially if the situation was already stressful and I was making the accusation quite strenuously.

As Matttbastard said. Where would black people be without white people to tell them what is and is not racist? How dare Gates be so uppity as to think he could identify the behavior of a white cop as racist? What white person would not agree that such an uppity black man deserved to be humiliated!

Well, me, for one. But evidently, not you.

...and that was unnecessarily harsh on my part. Apolgoies, Warren Terra -- let overall frustration with how this has been framed in the public square get the better of me. Your post happened to catch me at a particularly edgy moment

Look, read this column by Charles Blow. This event didn't happen in a vacuum, as the many personal anecdotes from POC over the past several days (not to mention the empirical evidence) makes clear. Shit, even John Freakin' McWhorter understands. The 'Club' that Blow describes transcends ideological boundaries, because ideology can't scrub away the surface of your skin.

Is Crowley a racist in the pejorative, cross-burning sense? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that racial (and class) dynamics aren't a factor nor an important subtext to this narrative (along with creeping authoritarianism, as others have pointed out).

Regardless, judging by the collective response to this incident, it would appear that Eric Holder has been vindicated.

matttbastard| The principal problem with your perspective that only the victim can tell makes it pretty subjective and open to abuse.
It is likely to produce false positives, just as if only white folks get to say it will produce a lot of false negatives. Objectively it is somewhere in the middle.

From my reading of the incident, (and maybe because I'm white and have a prejudice against arrogant police I think Brett put it best:

"He's likely an equal opportunity asshole"

There are two issues I haven't seen ahyone comment on:
1. President Obama's press conference statement was pretty ill informed (even if he got to the right conclusion).

2. The scary police press conference, when all the police lined up to argue that Crowley had done nothing wrong: in effect to say, at best, arresting for contempt of cop is OK.

Before I respond, is that you, Mike, or a different Johnny Canuck?

I started writing this comment to complain that mattt had strongly implied that I was a racist, but I see that while I was writing the comment mattt has dialed his rhetoric back, for which I thank him.

Meanwhile, Jes has decided to jump in and simply say, rather than merely imply, that I am a racist. So at least she's playing to type. Could someone please tell me why this consistently absolutist and frequently disparaging person is permitted to comment on this blog despite her frequent, almost predictable infringement of the posting rules?

Both Jes and Mattt seem to conflate two issues; first, whether it was reasonable under the circumstances for Gates to suspect and to allege racist motivation, and second, whether Crowley actually was motivated by racism, or indeed whether we can come up with an explanation for Crowley's decision to humiliate Gates that doesn't require racism as a motivation. And the two issues really are quite separate.

No-one is denying that there's a lot of racist cops, and there's excellent statistical evidence for widespread racial profiling. This is why so many people of color have personal anecdotes to relate, such as those Mattt links to. And knowing all this, even in the unlikely event that he had been spared any previous negative personal experiences with the cops, it would be perfectly reasonable for Gates to suspect that Crowley was similarly victimizing him because of his race. And, given the heightened feelings involved, it would be perfectly normal for Gates to voice those suspicions, and to get increasingly angry when the cop continued to treat him disrespectfully. But the reasonableness of the suspicion doesn't prove that it was correct in this instance.

As I tried to argue above, it's fairly easy to imagine reasons other than race that could have caused Crowley to decide to humiliate Gates. And I'm not aware that anyone has alleged a pattern of racism by Crowley, a use of racist epithets by Crowley, or any other evidence that would prove racism was involved in this particular case, even as racism continues to be a major problem in the country and especially in policing.

Given all that, it seems to me to make more sense to criticize Crowley's abuse of power without making incendiary and unprovable accusations about him, even as we use this incident as a public reminder that our country has a wider problem of racial profiling that may not necessarily be connected to this individual incident. That is to say, to talk about this incident exactly as Obama did on Wednesday night - before all those commenters asserted that it's impossible to say Crowley did wrong without calling Crowley a racist, muddying the issues and causing a political problem for Obama.

Whites are going to have a different perspective on race than black people. They have their resentments and grievances - some legitimate, some not so much - too. Identity politics inevitably goes all around. If you shut even reasonable and respectfully expressed opinions with rhetoric about whites "instructing us", that identity politics isn't going to go away, but it will become more sullen and angrier.

I understand not everyone is going to be Barack Obama, but it's worth appreciating what he's trying to do.

Matt, no I am not Mike. I've been posting comments on this site for the last year or so.

Bernard Chazelle, himself an "elitist" professor made the following observation on Jon Schwarz's A Tiny Revolution:

For those of you who wondered what I meant by a "democratic police state," here's a quiz. When a cop behaves like a racist, power-mad pig, arresting a harmless, innocent citizen in his home, what's the president of the United States supposed to do?

(1) Order a full investigation and remind cops all across the land than the license to carry a gun comes with the obligation to show respect to others, not behave like a prickly two-bit tyrant.

Or (2) Call the cop at home to make sure his feelings were not hurt and invite him to the White House for a beer.

If you answered (2), Congratulations, you've mastered the definition of a democratic police state. (No, I am not even making that stuff up.)

I find myself fat more in sympathy with Chazelle's analysis than anything I've read here...

The principal problem with your perspective that only the victim can tell makes it pretty subjective and open to abuse.

There is something deeply wrong with the attitude that if a white person harasses a black person, and the black person says this is racist harassment, this is abusive behavior on the part of the white person.

Why is it that everyone's so worried that an accusation of racist behavior might hurt the white person's feelings? Much more worried, apparently, than that the white person's behavior was in fact abusive.

Argh, typos that result from editing two sentences into one:

"There is something deeply wrong with the attitude that if a white person harasses a black person, and the black person says this is racist harassment, this is abusive behavior on the part of the [black] person."

Seriously. Why is it that white people regard "accusations of racism" as so much more abusive than, you know, actual abusive behavior of a white person towards a black person?

If Crowley's motivations were in fact as Warren Terra hypothesised - that he wanted to humiliate and punish a black man for saying he was being racist - then Crowley is deeply, possibly unfixably, racist. And so is every white person who thinks that's justifiable/understandable behavior.

Jesurgislac |Pity you didn't read my next two sentences before posting:

"it is likely to produce false positives, just as if only white folks get to say it will produce a lot of false negatives.

You say: "There is something deeply wrong with the attitude that if a white person harasses a black person, and the black person says this is racist harassment, this is abusive behavior on the part of the white person."

Really there is something deeply wrong if a white person harasses a black person. There is also something deeply wrong if a the black person says "racial harassment" when there wasn't.


I'm with Warren Terra's 10:04 post.

I think the primary problem I have with your perspective, Warren, is how you seem define 'racism', ie, as something automatically malicious, predicated on intent. I have no doubt that Crowley believes that (and, for the most part, is) he's a good person, doesn't see colour, tried to save the life of a POC, provides professional instruction to his colleagues in order to combat racial profiling.

And yet.

The problem with discussions where race gets injected is the defensiveness that is produced; I bet you were ready to flame me when you thought that I was implying that you are a racist (which I wasn't, btw).

I also note that some whites have in many instances been quick to empathize with how it feels to be accused of racism. This is not meant as a criticism, merely an observation about how it's sometimes easier to relate to someone who shares identity (whether class, racial, or otherwise).

Now, with all that said, I'm more than sympathetic to the equal opportunity authoritarian angle. It converges with a broader thesis re: law enforcement officials believing they are justified in overstepping legal boundaries even among ethnic/class strata not traditionally identified as 'marginal' that I've been developing over the past two years. This article of mine is a good starting point, although I've since reconsidered the proclamation of 'cold blooded murder' on the part of Grant's killer based on subsequent revelations.

As for Jes, a meta-discussion of her rhetorical style shouldn't be allowed to derail the discussion. Isn't that why we take it outside?

Oh, and Pithlord, I would respectfully appreciate it if you'd save the lectures. This is one of those moments when reasonable white liberals should do more listening to us angry negros (to perhaps help you understand why this issue is so immediate and raw for some of us), rather than reflexively providing us with unsolicited (and, frankly, condescending) instruction.

Seriously. Why is it that white people regard "accusations of racism" as so much more abusive than, you know, actual abusive behavior of a white person towards a black person?
Why do you make this assertion about "white people"? Do you have anyone specific in mind, someone who's even suggested something of the sort?
If Crowley's motivations were in fact as Warren Terra hypothesised - that he wanted to humiliate and punish a black man for saying he was being racist - then Crowley is deeply, possibly unfixably, racist. And so is every white person who thinks that's justifiable/understandable behavior.
This is complete and utter nonsense. Bonus points, though, for sneaking the word "justifiable" in there, as I don't know that anyone making any related argument has been saying that Crowley's abuse of his power was justifiable. Or, indeed, for the way you used "understandable" - I never pretended to "understand" Crowley's decision to abuse his power, I merely proposed a couple of hypotheses (town/gown divide, resentment at being called a racist) that could explain Crowley's apparent antipathy towards Gates without requiring a racist motivation.

I assume, Jes, that even you don't mean to say that anyone who can "understand" that a hypothetical non-racist might take umbrage in response to being called a racist is themselves automatically a racist? Because that's how I read your comment.

Matt, no I am not Mike. I've been posting comments on this site for the last year or so.

Hah. That long? Amazing how time flies. JFTR, I've been here...for a lot longer (late '03-early '04). There is another Canuck blog-buddy of mine who sometimes posts under the JC handle. Have been curious if you two were one and the same.

Anyway, I take issue with your mischaracterization of my point as being "only the victim can tell" what is and isn't racism. My actual point is that, instead of having white folks listen--really listen--to the those of us who have experienced racial discrimination and trying to gain understanding of the complexities and nuances at play, we (as in POC) receive lectures and instructions, evaluations meant to determine whether our "grievances" are indeed justified. Don't you see how this centres the concerns of white people (more often than not the perpetrators of racism) as being paramount?

Also, this:

Really there is something deeply wrong if a white person harasses a black person. There is also something deeply wrong if a the black person says "racial harassment" when there wasn't.

If you can't see the false equivalence here, well, we might as well stop talking, because it's only going to get ugly.

Seriously.

Mattt, I am very willing to concede that Crowley's actions could have been motivated by racism, and that this remains the case whether or not he was cognizant of any such feelings.

But I'm not aware that we can prove racism was involved in this particular incident, and I've been very upset over the last couple of days that a clear-cut case of abuse-of-power has become a very muddy issue of race. This means that the obvious problem with "contempt-of-cop" arrests has been overlooked as people debate whether Crowley is a racist, and it also means that the people who like to spend their time denying the existence of racism are talking about what a great guy Crowley is, instead of either facing the statistical evidence of racial profiling or having to discuss other incidents, such as the Grant killing, where there is less room for debate about the role racism played.

By various accounts, Sgt. Crowley is a good cop overall. You have to wonder if he hasn't said to someone that he trusts to keep it private, "I arrested a tenured Harvard professor, in his own house, after he proved it was his house, for 'verbal abuse'. What was I thinking?" The possible repercussions for admitting his error seem to me, though, to make it very difficult for him to admit that he made a mistake even if he believes that he acted wrongly.

This is going to sound very unsatisfactory, but given what's out there, it doesn't seem possible to make a definitive statement about intent here. Yes, it is possible that Crowley was harboring some racist attitudes that he didn't suppress with Gates. But it's also possible that Crowley was a garden variety asshole that didn't like attitude. The situation was ambiguous enough that you can't tell what really happened without at least a sixth level telepath. Which means that I think people can fairly take either stance as what happened and not be too far off base.

Of course, if we focussed on eliminating "contempt of cop" as an arrestable offense, it'd probably take care of either scenario....

...I've been very upset over the last couple of days that a clear-cut case of abuse-of-power has become a very muddy issue of race.

As am I; but the now-infamous incident report (the accuracy of which Gates rejects, as I noted here) kinda made it next to impossible to suddenly purge racial and class dynamics from the discussion.

So, instead of trying to 'prove' or 'disprove' racism, or running away from the 'mess', how about we (as in 'those of us attempting to work through the events and the subsequent fallout in good faith') try to seize the narrative and turn this into a teachable moment?

Otherwise, we really are cowards.

Mstt, the first time I posted i was (strangely) conscious that I was "interfering" with the US electoral process by expressing my Canadian opinion. I wanted to make it clear I was a foreigner, without having to say I am a Canadian each time. This was the only handle that I thought many Americans would recognize as Canadian without actually using the word.

I stand by my sentence: "There is also something deeply wrong if a the black person says "racial harassment" when there wasn't. I didn't mean to imply it was as deep as actual harassment, just that it was serious. " Actual harassment is a much, much, much more serious.

I see why it is frustrating to POC to have "liberals" adjudicate. I'm not saying their opinion is any more accurate, (this is why diversity of judges is important). But I am not sure the answer is for us white folk to just shut up.

I read the article you referred to, and note the following paragraph:
"More and more, contemporary law enforcement officials throughout the so-called ‘civilised’ world seem to view the public they purportedly serve and protect through a clouded prism of reflexive suspicion and militarized paranoia. Under this distorted reasoning, anyone–be they a pregnant woman, a wet naked man with a hearing impairment, or a frail 92 year old grandmother–is automatically deemed to be a potential threat; all options, therefore, remain on the table, to be utilized at the official’s discretion. Above all, obedience is paramount; when this principle is not sufficiently adhered to by civilians (especially marginalized segments of the population), the consequences can quite literally be fatal."


When asked how he was addressing black unemployment, Obama said thathelping get the economy back on track was the best way to help everyone including blacks who had been hurt most, so I would say getting police under control would help everyone, including minorities who have been most adversely affected by police misconduct.



I don't think accusations of racism are that big a deal. I've always found it interesting that most white males can take the suggestion that they are sexist in stride, but act like being called a racist is the end of the world. I'd also note that conservatives tend to be pretty free with the "racist" label when arguing about affirmative action.

That said, "racism" may not be the most helpful term to get at the main racial issues in contemporary America. It's easy to apply to the guy who shot the security guard at the Holocaust museum, but it doesn't quite get the 2008 Democratic primary.

Let me suggest an analogy closer to where Jesugirlac (sp?) Is from. The troubles in Northern Ireland were and remain a worse example of negative-sum ethnic identity politics than anything post-60s America has seen. Of course, they originate from the completely one-sided Protestant ascendancy and then the violent suppression of the late 60s peaceful civil rights movement. So even-handedness is a bit grating.

Still, the Troubles didn't get better by asking the Loyalist community to accept the Nationalist community's perspective on all matters of dispute. There might have been the odd prod who spent too long in graduate school willing to do that, but the average working-class person never would and never will. A better strategy is to accept that we're not going to see history exactly the same way, and concentrate on structural changes that both sides will benefit from.

Anyway, that's what Obama seems to think.

Michael Cain- I completely agree with you that at this point the possible repercussions for admitting that he was in the wrong may be stopping Crowley from doing so.

But from a good government perspective, when you have improper use of the power of arrest, what you're looking for isn't public contrition. Its effective discipline. Intentionally arresting someone who didn't commit a crime isn't a laughing matter. Its not so important that Crowley admit that he erred, than it is that we as a general public admit it, and even that is less important than that those who oversee Crowley recognize it.

Because if we, collectively as a country and specifically as those in charge of police oversight, cannot meaningfully respond to an officer abusing his authority to punish a Cambridge intellectual with the social firepower to bring down the President of the United States on his behalf, then we can pretty much forget about ever protecting the rights of anyone else.

2) If there is racism and ignorance here, it belongs to the neighbor. Does anyone seriously believe she'd have called the cops if Gates were white?

Interestingly, Gates said he doubted anyone could tell from afar whether his driver was black and implied that one couldn't tell whether he was either. And he states that what the neighbor did was appropriate.

I don't know where we'd be without white folks helpfully instructing us dumb negros on what is and isn't 'racist.'

While I understand the sentiment, this goes both ways. I often feel "helpfully instructed" and try to take it in stride and seek to understand, but it does get annoying at times.

I understand not everyone is going to be Barack Obama, but it's worth appreciating what he's trying to do.

Yeah, not everyone is going to jump to conclusions on national t.v., link Crowley's actions to all racial profiling in the past, then look at poll numbers and try to fix the problem over beer at the white house.

As matt noted, there are serious discrepancies in the accounts. Gates' own account seems verifiable from the tapes and witnesses at the scene. Why not get those out before jumping to any conclusion?

This at face value seems like a potential contempt of cop. But then I can see verbal abuse rising to an arrestable level if the officer is trying to simply do his job and a citizen is interfering with his performance or trying to rile people up. Not saying that is what Gates was doing, but the tapes will tell.

I also have a problem with an attitude that seems to not respect what an officer responding to a reported break in is actually doing. Officers put their lives on the line. I'm sure Crowley was on alert when he responded, mindful that even if Gates was the owner he might be in a pickle, Gates might not even be aware there was an intruder, etc. It struck me that Gates may have never have seen an officer "in the zone" trying to get a handle on a situation.

[F]rom a good government perspective, when you have improper use of the power of arrest, what you're looking for isn't public contrition. Its effective discipline. Intentionally arresting someone who didn't commit a crime isn't a laughing matter. Its not so important that Crowley admit that he erred, than it is that we as a general public admit it, and even that is less important than that those who oversee Crowley recognize it.

I give you Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr for the motherfncking WIN.

bc, you especially should read.

Money graf:

There is no crime described in Crowley's official version of the way Gates behaved. Crowley says explicitly that he arrested Gates for yelling. Nothing else, not a single threatening movement, just yelling. On the steps of his own home. Yelling is not a crime. Yelling does not meet the definition of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts. Not a single shouted word or action that Crowley has attributed to Gates amounts to disorderly conduct. That is why the charges had to be dropped.

The bottom line:

Unless you confess to a crime,or threaten to commit a crime, there is nothing you can say to a cop that makes it legal for him to arrest you. You can tell him he is stupid, you can tell him he is ugly, you can call him racist, you can say anything you might feel like saying about his mother. He has taken an oath to listen to all of that and ignore it. That is the real teachable moment here — cops are paid to be professionals, but even the best of them are human and can make stupid mistakes.

IOW, spare me the 'thin blue line' apologia. Bellmore is right (yeah, I said it -- mark your calendars): "People really shouldn't have to walk on egg shells while they're around police... ."

Bc, in Obama's defence, no matter what happened, the charges do not seem to have been appropriate. It's reasonable to infer that Crowley reacted to being pissed off. It doesn't matter whether we want to understand why he was pissed off. I'm not saying he should be hung from his thumbs, but criticism is appropriate and unthinking solidarity from police and their supporters is not.

Matt/Pithlord:

A), I'm not defending Crowley at this point. I agree with what Matt linked to about the police report. It doesn't appear on its face provide facts sufficient to arrest. The only explanation I would find sufficient would be that Gates was starting to act threatening, trying to incite a riot, or interfering with Crowley's ability to do his job. The tapes might show that, but they might not. My main point is to wait until the witnesses get their version out and we listen to the tapes.


b) Not sure why my comments constitute unthinking solidarity. I shared my earlier account of what happened when the police came to my door. I was asked outside because of a concern of DV. In a DV/breakin, I'm sure that SOP is to have any person step outside to control the situation.

Sure, I could have taken the officer's attitude as hostile and been all offended at his attempt to control the situation. Instead, I thanked the officer for responding after he did his job. Afterwards, it was clear that his intent was to protect my family. I'm sure that was Crowley's intent.

So I take Crowley's actions in context. As do you, Pithlord. If it is as you are reading it, yes, criticism is appropriate.

And if Crowley is trying to radio an all clear and all Gates is doing is yelling so he can't do it, yes, I'd arrest him. Maybe the charge would be interference with police business, but I'd arrest him.

I personally don't think the cop in this case was doing anything for racist reasons. I can understand why a black person might think it was racist, but I disagree.

If one believes these actions to be racist, I must assume you believe that if Gates were white and behaved in the same fashion, he wouldn't be arrested. I'm under the impression that some black people believe cops generally treat white people with respect and would allow this stuff to happen from white people.

I personally can tell you that's not true. There are many police officers out there that think "if I'm talking to you, you treat me with respect. If you don't you suffer the consequences."

I'm positive black people suffer all sorts of things at the hands of the police like profiling and so forth. But it seems like a lot of that is in the initial moments of contact with the police. I firmly believe that a lot of cops will see identical behavior from afar by a white man and let it slide, but if they see the same from a black man, they'll engage him for being suspicious. For this and many other reasons, minorities end up dealing with the police as potential suspects far more often than white people.

But I think once you're put in that "potential suspect" or "pain in the ass" or "not respecting me" bucket, you're screwed no matter what color you are.

So if the woman reported two white men breaking into the house, and the cop showed up looking for white men, and a white man went off on him, I have little doubt he'd have been arrested just the same.

The thing is, I bet this cop knew these charges wouldn't stick. That's the problem. Even if they don't stick, he still embarrassed you in front of your neighbors, made you take mug shots, made you sit in prison for 4 hours.

Even if they don't stick, you've already been punished. Total BS.

Here's a blog where officers are giving their viewpoints on this. Interesting discussion:
http://crookedtimber.org/2009/07/23/police-discretion-a-different-perspective/#more-12139

One thing I found in the comments on that blog is case law showing that Gates' behavior most assuredly cannot be considered disorderly:
http://altlaw.org/v1/cases/446391

And that's where this gets most offensive to me. If Gates were a regular guy with a court provided defense attorney, he'd be paying fines I bet, even though the cop should know this does not rise to the level of disorderly conduct.

Warren Terra: Why do you make this assertion about "white people"? Do you have anyone specific in mind, someone who's even suggested something of the sort?

Yes: I assumed that you were white. If I was wrong to assume that you were white, I apologize for that.

I also, incidentally, had in mind a whole lot of white people who have, over the years, made clear to me that they will get mad if they are told that their behavior or their comments are racist - and who tell me, when I suggest that they might with benefit re-examine their behavior or their comments, that I just don't understand what a serious accusation "you're a racist" is. Which does nothing but convince me that those white people are unfixably of the view that their own hurt feelings are way more important than the hurt feelings of any people of color who overheard their comments or were affected by their behavior.

Jesurgislac, I do think calling someone racist is a pretty serious accusation.

By the definition of racist, calling someone that means that you believe they consciously believe their race to be superior to another.

That's not something you throw around lightly.

You can call someone ignorant or insensitive for saying something perhaps, but it's not all racist. I think everyone benefits from leaving that a reserved word.

This is fantastic. Jes has now offered to apologize for calling me white, if I happen not to be white, but not for having called me a racist. Are there posting rules here, or aren't there?

By the definition of racist, calling someone that means that you believe they consciously believe their race to be superior to another.

I don't see this. At all. Someone who tends to assume e.g., random black people are "very possibly criminals" (while consciously thinking obviously well-heeled black people are plainly fine, and not assuming an obviously poor white person to be likely criminal) is racist. It needn't be about consciously thinking their race is superior to others; they need only treat different races in distinctly different manners. That's the sort of thing one can easily do without ever sitting down and consciously deciding to.

(If you care to argue "but that's not the definition of racism", I suggest you look long and hard at the second definition given in your link.)

Jes has now offered to apologize for calling me white, if I happen not to be white, but not for having called me a racist.

Huh? Certainly, I'll apologize for mis-identifying you as white, if that's what I did. Did I?

And if Crowley is trying to radio an all clear and all Gates is doing is yelling so he can't do it, yes, I'd arrest him. Maybe the charge would be interference with police business, but I'd arrest him.

bc, that would clearly not justify an arrest.

See the case I highlighted here.

The court ruled that the only words that can be considered disorderly are "fighting words", in other words, some level of threat being present to either the officer or another person.

Here's a quote:
"Thus, while police, no less than anyone else, may resent having obscene words and gestures directed at them, they may not exercise the awesome power at their disposal to punish individuals for conduct that is not merely lawful, but protected by the First Amendment.

No less well established is the principle that government officials in general, and police officers in particular, may not exercise their authority for personal motives, particularly in response to real or perceived slights to their dignity."

Obstruction of justice is probably an easier case to make, but someone talking loudly in their own house so you can't hear something is not obstruction of justice.

I'd be curious to see how you would have reacted to this story when you read the original police report from this blatantly lying officer, who still has a job [how is that even possible?].

I don't believe police officers deserve the benefit of the doubt. They have a tough job, but they should have to prove their allegations just as much as anyone else. Treating their words as gold is just a recipe for disaster as googling "police caught on tape" will show you.

By the definition of racist, calling someone that means that you believe they consciously believe their race to be superior to another.

Yes, indeed. Well, consciously or unconsciously.

Surely, if you think that's a serious accusation, your reaction to being warned that your comments or behavior come across as racist, ought to be a serious examination of how your comments/behavior had come across as racist - as speaking or acting as if you think white people are superior - rather than getting mad at the person who identified for you that your comments/behavior make you appear racist.

Unless, of course, you do believe that white people are sufficiently superior that your hurt feelings are way more important than resolving any issues about how your behavior made you appear racist to others.

Jes, since you seem to be unclear, in your 9:40 AM comment you directly stated that I must believe that "an uppity black man deserved to be humiliated". I complained in my 10:04 AM comment that you were calling me a racist. i assume you've been reading the thread, as you've commented several times since then.

For the record, on what you seem to think is the salient issue, I am white, but am also Jewish, and was raised not to consider myself a part of the majority white culture - possibly because my parents were 60's activists who went to college when quotas still limited the number of Jews that could be accepted; because my father's classmates were taken out of class to receive parochial instruction by the pre-Vatican II clergy, leading them to blame him, as quite possibly the only Jew they knew, for their god's death, and to stone him; and because even thirty years ago in this country some neighborhoods in nice northern cities did not allow Jews to buy houses, and it was still possible to meet nice white folks who thought Jews had horns.

Whether being accused of "racism" is serious or not depends on the context. If you are alleging that I'm secretly a member of the Aryan Nations and intend to incite race war, then that's a serious allegation and I'm within my rights to be offended if it's not true. If what you're saying is I have an ethnocentric bias or lack the experience of being an identifiable minority in my country pof birth, then that's true enough and I should at least be open to the possibility that is affecting my behaviour or opinions.

Bc, would you really arrest an elderly African Studies professor who had just been detained on suspicion of break and enter in his home on the basis his agitated yelling was making it hard for you to radio the all clear? If so, at best you have no common sense.

Warren Terra, I don't think you really comprehend what the salient issue is, but thank you for clarifying that I did not, in fact, misidentify you as a white person who believes that when a white cop is accused of being racist, it's perfectly reasonable that he should want to humiliate and punish a black man for saying so.

And yes, I do think that for a white person to think "That black man accused me of being racist, I'm not racist, so I'm entitled to punish him for saying so" is pretty much identical with the "He's getting too big for your britches" comment I saw directed at President Obama not long after he was inaugurated: the desire to punish a black man for being "uppity".

and was raised not to consider myself a part of the majority white culture

If you find yourself identifying with the white cop wanting to humiliate the black man, then it didn't take, did it?

Warren Terra: possibly because my parents were 60's activists who went to college when quotas still limited the number of Jews that could be accepted; because my father's classmates were taken out of class to receive parochial instruction by the pre-Vatican II clergy, leading them to blame him, as quite possibly the only Jew they knew, for their god's death, and to stone him; and because even thirty years ago in this country some neighborhoods in nice northern cities did not allow Jews to buy houses, and it was still possible to meet nice white folks who thought Jews had horns.

And when a Jew suggested to a Gentile that "Hey, what you said sounds kinda anti-Semitic, and that makes me feel uncomfortable/angry" the Gentile's reaction was to get mad at the Jew for saying he was anti-Semitic, because that was a very serious accusation, which ought not to be made lightly, and the Gentiles all turned the conversation on to how Jewish people are always accusing Gentiles of anti-Semitism, and it's hurtful and they ought to consider whether it's ever justified - and behold: the conversation has turned from discussing the anti-Semitic comments made by the Gentile, into how Jews hurt people's feelings by accusing them of anti-Semitism and how wrong it is for them to do so.

In the context, perhaps, of a situation where a cop arrested an elderly Jewish professor and dragged him off in handcuffs because the professor had shouted at the cop for harassing him in his own home.

Does that analogy make you understand what the salient issue is? Hint: it's not your hurt feelings.

nossuem: The case you cited has nothing to do with this case. Justice Kozinski mentions factors not involved in this case, such as the illegal stop. Here, Crowley had every right to be where he was. And Kozinski eliminates the possibility of a disorderly conduct/disturbing the peace because it happened on a deserted road with nobody else around. Not the case here.

But, as I have said, let's listen to the tapes and decide.


If so, at best you have no common sense.


that may be true :). But my point IS to analyze this from a common sense approach. I don't know what the protocol is in such situations myself, but I understand Crowley was alone and had called for other responders. I'm not clear on whether those outside were all the responders that were coming when he went outside. If he was trying to give an all clear to avoid others from arriving at the scene and interpreting Gates' actions as a threat, Gates interfering with that endangered his own and others' safety. If the situation was calm from a police perspective and Gates was just venting, there was no basis to arrest. I think the tapes would make that easier to interpret as would witness statements.

But, yes, if all that was involved is someone calling him pig, sure, no basis to arrest.

All the more reason to wait until all the facts are out.

Well, not every accusation of anti-Semitism is valid, as visiting any Internet thread on Israel/Palestine will attest.

Surely, if you think that's a serious accusation, your reaction to being warned that your comments or behavior come across as racist, ought to be a serious examination of how your comments/behavior had come across as racist - as speaking or acting as if you think white people are superior - rather than getting mad at the person who identified for you that your comments/behavior make you appear racist.

Well of course, but that's beside the point. We all should always be responsible for our own actions and examine our own actions. Just as in this case, both actors should admit that they could have behaved better. Even so, that doesn't excuse the cop from arresting this guy. Gates could say, "I should have been nicer. But I shouldn't have been arrested regardless." The cop should just say, "I shouldn't have arrested him," and keep his mouth shut about Gate's behavior, since it's beside the point.

Yes, sure, if someone called me racist, I should examine what I did to make him believe that, but he should also examine his assumptions and whether throwing the term racist around actually opens the door to conversation or shuts it down.

Are you going to get more out of someone by telling them that what they are saying could be perceived as insensitive/prejudiced or by telling them it IS racist? Especially if you know the person well enough to know he IS NOT in fact racist, the attack is uncalled for and adds nothing to the interaction.

To reiterate, I'm not saying it's "wrong" to do this. I'm simply saying it's ineffective. People have every right to say whatever they wish and believe I'm racist if they wish. That doesn't mean I have to sit around and listen to it either though.

Essentially, you're asking someone to be sensitive enough to your own needs that they should:
1. Accept the personal attack of being called racist
2. Apologize for hurting your feelings with whatever ignorant thing they said.
3. Consider how you felt to be more important than how they feel by being called racist.

That's a lot to ask. I think you'll get 2 and 3 a lot more often if you remove the "racist" commentary. Calling someone racist kind of shuts the door to dialogue, IMO. And sometimes it's called for. I don't use that word to correct someone. I use that word to tell them I'm done speaking with them.

Thank heavens we have a white British lesbian around to explain to us dumb white Americans how black Americans think.

Whether being accused of "racism" is serious or not depends on the context.

Yes. And I don't think it's just a matter of being accused of a particularly strong version of racism. I think it can also be a matter of believing the accusation is highly unjustified.

I would consider accusing Warren Terra of being a racist simply for thinking officer Crowley wasn't motivated by racism as just such an unjustified accusation. I would prefer to think that reasonable people can disagree about Crowley's motivations.

I think we'd really getting into some far-flung and strained reasoning, extrapolating from racism to being offended by accusations of racism to thinking someone else might have been offended by an accusation of racism without thinking the accused is necessarily racist. I guess now I can be considered a racist for suggesting that someone isn't racist for thinking that someone accused of being racist isn't necessarily racist if that accused person took offense. And, if I am accused of being racist for suggesting that someone isn't racist for thinking that someone accused of being racist isn't necessarily racist if that accused person took offense, anyone who might defend me must also be racist.

Sooner or later we're all going to be swept up by this contagious abstraction of racism such that the only way not be racist is to assume everyone is being racist given the slightest of reasons.

That's not to say that I would condemn Gates for thinking Crowley was motivated by racism. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to think under the circumstances. But that doesn't then require me to think Warren Terra is somehow racist for thinking otherwise.

("Racist" for the purposes of this comment is meant to mean "noteworthily racist," since I think no one is entirely free of racism.)

Phil: Thank heavens we have a white British lesbian around to explain to us dumb white Americans how black Americans think.

Indeed: matttbastard is undoubtedly better worth listening to on this topic than I am.

BC, the circumstances of the case may be different, but this principle, quoted about as well above:
No less well established is the principle that government officials in general, and police officers in particular, may not exercise their authority for personal motives, particularly in response to real or perceived slights to their dignity."

Even a real slight to a police officer's dignity is no reason to arrest someone.

The reason i used the case I linked to is because that defendant was exonerated. If anything, he was behaving even worse and was clearly in a public place. I think it's a real stretch to call Gates' front porch a public place.

Here's another quote from that ruling:
Whether or not officer Aguilar was aware of the fine points of First Amendment law, to the extent he is found to have detained Duran as punishment for the latter's insults, we hold that he ought to have known that he was exercising his authority in violation of well-established constitutional rights

So not only is the defendant not guilty of disturbing the peace, the officer did a poor job. He "ought to have known that he was exercising his authority in violation of well-established constitutional rights

I think that clearly holds in this case. Crowley ought to have known that he was violating Gates' constitutional right to free speech by arresting him.

Also, if a police officer is accused of racism by a leader in the African American community, it's not just his feelings that are at stake. His career might be too. Not that that's an excuse for an arrest.


Crap, italics.



Can't seem to close them though

I fear the police I don't respect them and I believe they want it that way.

technical question: If a cop come to your door, no warrant, and asks you to step outside, do you have to?

Indeed: matttbastard is undoubtedly better worth listening to on this topic than I am.

Indeed he is.

Crowley-Gates is metaphor for Israel-Palestine.

Really now, Pithlord. Interesting, yes, extrapolating a personal interaction to a squabble between the Allah Knows Best crowd of gut splat brigades among these squatters who call themselves "Palestinians" and a true nation called Israel. Hmm.

Well, I was thinking more along the lines of "it epitomizes that scapegoating is still with us to the degree it (easy scapegoating for one's own moronic behavior)CLAIMS that racism is, and to that end when people like Gates use this shakedown/chip on thy shoulder to cover for the fact they think they can act like a horse's ass with impunity"

How much mileage is to be given for the spurious charge of racism? Apparently quite a bit still.

Good to see the POTUS step in the pile on the sidewalk, and then hope to rectify things with the offer of a cold brew. Nice touch in a time when he's also offering Euro-Canadian health care slop that will all but be the end of individual responsibility and the will usher in the age of government control over most aspects of life in order to ration said "care".

But still--nice touch.

This is the more proximate problem--not racism.

The POTUS can't seem to gather the muster or nuts to proclaim Iran (or that guy over in N. Korea who dresses like Bea Arthur) to be crazy as hell, and/or dangerous to the commonweal.

But damn if he can't proclaim the pigs stupid without gathering a lesser ranger of the facts.

Wow.

Also, if a police officer is accused of racism by a leader in the African American community, it's not just his feelings that are at stake. His career might be too.

How sad it would be if a white cop refrained from racist harassment of a black man because he was afraid that being publicly guilty of racist behavior might threaten his career.

Or is "sad" the word I'm looking for?

I'm not sure why you feel it would be sad if racist cops saw their careers damaged by being racist...

I've met a lot of cops, and as a group, they are a lot more prejudiced per capita than any other occupation I've ever spent a lot of time around.

A lot of non-racists seem to pick it up a bit after becoming cops. And that's speaking from observing friends of mine change after taking up the badge.

It might be anecdotal, but I live in the Northeast. I can't imagine it being better in Memphis, that's for sure.

I'm not sure why you feel it would be sad if racist cops saw their careers damaged by being racist

I'm not sure why you think I feel that.

I'm not really interested in returning to the question of whether Crowley is a racist, but I'm pretty sure he thinks he's not a racist. So I can further see why he was pissed off if Gates called him one on the basis of no evidence. Had he gone back to the police station and swapped stories of Harvard profs with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, I'd be on his side. But instead he arrested Gates on bogus charges, so I'm not.

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