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July 23, 2009

Racial Bias in America

It's an ugly thing, isn't it?:

All of a sudden, there was a policeman on my porch. And I thought, ‘This is strange.’ So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’

Because, you know, white cops (having already called for back up so there will be multiple witnesses, standing on a city street in full view of passers by and with a neighbor only a few feet away) are notorious for beating down innocent black men for the crime of being at home while black. All I can say is, it's a good thing he wasn't driving. There's no telling what would have happened:

Last week, about 2 p.m., while driving a nice car, I got stopped by a police officer about a block from my home in Los Angeles. The officer asked for license and registration. "Yes, sir," I said, handing him my license. Before I could retrieve the registration, he said, "Mr. Elder, do you still live at this address?" I said I did. He said: "OK. I stopped you because you rolled through a stop sign. Two pedestrians saw you, and they gestured to me, as if saying, 'Are you going to do something about that?' So I felt I had to stop you. I'm not looking for area residents. I'm looking for people who don't live here who might be committing crimes. You're fine."

I did roll through the stop sign. He could have ticketed me. Rather, he responded to my politeness with politeness. Besides, don't we want a proactive police department that, within the law, doesn't just react to crime but also tries to prevent it?

Cops routinely deal with conflict, angry citizens and quite often the worst of the worst — while going to work every day willing to take a bullet for someone they don't even know.

Even Henry You-Don't-Know-Who-You're-Messing-With Gates should understand that.

As the President remarked so astutely last night, we still have a long way to go before we stop making unfounded assumptions on the basis of skin color.

Posted by Cassandra at July 23, 2009 03:18 PM

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Just saw that they're now noting that the arresting officer taught recruits at the academy how to avoid racial profiling. In other words, the guy Gates was screaming at about 'racial profiling' is the absolute least likely officer in the whole region to practice such unimaginably stupid 'racial profiling' as to arrest a black man minding his own business in his own house. Frankly, I find myself having to question the intellect of a man that would actually accuse a police office of arresting him for doing nothing other than being black in the middle of the day, in the middle of a crowd, in the midst of a number of fellow officers (including at least one black one), I don't care how many meaningless titles Harvard has given him.

Posted by: Falze at July 23, 2009 04:13 PM

"...we still have a long way to go before we stop making unfounded assumptions on the basis of skin color."

Unless, of course, you're making an assumption about a white person, especially a white cop. Then anything goes from everybody -- everybody not white, that is.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 23, 2009 04:26 PM

Bill Cosby, what a guy!

Anyway, Bill Cosby has an interesting observation on prognostications made by omnipotent seer trained in The Church of Separationists Standing against the White Devil and a Deity-Damned America® who just happened to hoodwink ≈33% of the voting population...

And yet one wonders, why can't we all just get along?

Posted by: bthun at July 23, 2009 04:40 PM

Bill Cosby's perspective is one that I wish many people -- black, white, yellow or blue -- would aspire to emulate.

"And yet one wonders, why can't we all just get along?"

Not me. Never have *wondered*, but have been frustrated and disgusted with *why* for many years.

Posted by: DL Sly at July 23, 2009 04:59 PM

For what it's worth, I think both of them could have handled it better - Gates was more out of line than Crowley. On the other hand, considering Crowley's past experiences with being accused of racism for the crime of trying to save Reggie Lewis' life, it must have been pretty damned galling to listen to Gates repeatedly insult and harangue him.

The sad thing is that an unfortunate incident that in the big scheme of things isn't that big a deal is being blown out of proportion. In the end, Crowley is almost certain to be fired and Gates will sue the city for a million bucks.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 23, 2009 05:20 PM

If I am ever unfortunate enough to lock myself out of the house and have to break my way in, far from being outraged, I would be flat out grateful if one of my neighbors sent the police over to investigate.

It means they're looking out for my house. And it takes two minutes to walk out onto the porch, show your drivers license and explain that you locked yourself out.

Ann Althouse is right Lesson learned: If you think you're witnessing a crime, mind your own business.Somewhere, the new Kitty Genovese walks into the alleyway.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at July 23, 2009 06:29 PM

Obama said the police acted “stupidly”...

He could have said, "Wait 'til all the facts are in" and changed the subject, but chose to play the race card, metaphorically speaking...

Posted by: BillT at July 23, 2009 06:52 PM

Ya know, once upon a time I was a less savory individual than I appear to be now. In those hardly forgotten days I was an outcast, a drifter, a seeker and all that jazz. But I was not violent, nor was I, or could I be, a thief. Except for the occasional flatulance resulting from my vegitarian lifestyle, I wasn't even rude.

But I was ... um... unkempt. Long hair, dirty jeans and denim jacket over flannel shirt and Frye Boots, just looking for a place to crash. I wasn't a hippie or anything. Those folks couldn't find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight. I was running down the road trying to loosen my load with a world of troubles on my mind. And I was trying to find that corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see. And that girl, my lord, in the flatbed Ford...I think that I knew her from birth. *drifts*

Anyway, it sucks to be poor and dirty and broke and rudderless, and the cops remind you of exactly that. The cops aren't being mean, they just want you out of their territory. Move along, trouble. And most poor people just take it all in stride and move along. Another day in the jungle.

But when you're educated and prominent and wealthy and a member of a protected class, you can stand up to the Man. You can be indignant. You can claim ownership of a life that you've never noticed before underneath the overpasses not two miles from your Harvard Square digs, wher the cops check on the regulars to make sure they are stil on their meds, and take them in when they are about to hurt themselves, again.

It must be nice to live in a world where it's all about you, professor. But you're just another blind man in ours.

Posted by: Ten Eggs at July 23, 2009 07:12 PM

"If you think you're witnessing a crime, mind your own business.Somewhere, the new Kitty Genovese walks into the alleyway."
It may one day be my undoing, but I'm fairly certain that I could not convince myself it was none of my business. A neighbors car, their house, or especially a person, as was the tragic case with Miss Genovese, being killed within earshot would be too much to ignore and try to live with myself for the rest of my days.

Crazy, crazy people. Yup, God is great, beer is good, people are crazy... as <fill in the blank>.

Posted by: bthun at July 23, 2009 07:15 PM

He ws an African-American studies professor. This means he has a deeper insight and understanding of racism than the average cop.

Which means, if someone askes him for his driver's license or ID, they are profiling him.
He can read minds, people.

Posted by: Cricket at July 23, 2009 07:29 PM

I grew up in the South in the 1950's and 1960's. I've spent time in the northeastern US where racism was still widespread and on public display into the 1980's in certain areas. And I'm certain that black people in America have first hand experience with and insight into racism far beyond anything I can grok or would tolerate.

All this goes without mentioning how it must grate on an otherwise civil, intelligent person to be treated very badly, when least expected, by some bozo of the rather be inbred variety, simply because of the hue of their carcass.

But as someone mentioned earlier, if the cops show up at my hovel because I've had to force my way in, I think I'd comply with their instuction knowing that they were not there for slaps and tickles... And once the stress had been dispersed, I'd thank em for checking and offer em a glass of refreshment.

But then some of my best friends are cops... Seriously. =8^}

We really have to get past this garbage For the Children™*, if for no other reason.

All Rights Reserved - Hilliam Clinton 2012 Campaign*

Posted by: bthun at July 23, 2009 07:52 PM

Obama, playing the Race Card™?! Say it ain't so!!!

Posted by: camojack at July 24, 2009 03:46 AM

From the MSM: "President Obama said Thursday he was surprised by all the hubbub over his comments that a white police officer had acted 'stupidly' in arresting a prominent black scholar for disorderly conduct."


Posted by: BillT at July 24, 2009 07:23 AM

Well, I've been reading that Obama is going into campaign mode over the health care bill. Maybe this is what the writers mean: playing the race card (to his credit he had stopped doing that); expressing surprise over utterly expectable reactions to his words and actions; I even read he thought the hubbub over his remarks was a "distraction". Hearing that last was like running into an old friend - I've kind of missed that whole "distraction" gig.

Posted by: Elise at July 24, 2009 08:58 AM

Well, to give Obie his due, he *does* appear to be an Equal Opportunity President.

In only six months, he's managed to antagonize the leaders of Britain, France, Russia, India, Germany, Poland, Afghanistan (twice), Israel, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, and Poland, and the ordinary citizens of Honduras and the US.

On the flip side, the leadership of Venezuela, Kenya, and Hamas still like him, sorta-kinda...

Posted by: BillT at July 24, 2009 09:23 AM

Bubbathehun, you brought something to my mind that I have been chewing over since yestiddy...when my son showed me the CNN update on his friend's cell phone. As has been mentioned here before, there is profiling in terms of race as in ID'ing the Most Likely Perps and to identify a suspect. In the context of the latter, skin color is a physical characteristic, not a character flaw. Gates acted like being black is a point of contention instead of a point of identification.

Some years ago at FLW, I was at the gas station, late at night when the car in front of me drove off. I had glanced at it just in passing, and made a mental note of the driver; he had a shaved head and was wearing sunglasses. I thought that was odd. The plate was out of state.

About two seconds after the car drove off, the gas station attendant came flying out of the store asking me if I had seen the car, the driver and his plate.

Yep. He had driven off without paying. The MPs were summoned. Two. One black, one white. I gave my statement and I was asked point blank: Did I get a good look at the suspect's face? No. Did I see his race? Yes. It narrows the field a bit to annotate race. Features would be even better. I told him I only noticed him because he was shaven bald, was wearing sunglasses (at night a la Jake Elwood) and I noted his race as a third option. It was the black MP who asked me.

Was he a race traitor? Hardly. He was doing his job. I had seen the plate in passing as being from out of state, but not the number. I had the make and model of the car.

They caught the perp. Now, the question is this: Did they catch him because of his race or other identifying factors?

I say the other factors played a part.

Posted by: Cricket at July 24, 2009 12:26 PM

The fact that Gates teaches the history of racism at Harvard says more about Harvard than it does about Gates. Additionally, the fact that Obama was able to fan the flames on the issue of race in the face of pending and polarizing health care is indicative of his ties to Rev. Wright and the politics of hate.

He single-handedly diverted attention from his massive pass-before-reading health care plan for some pissy black activist who makes a living teaching entitlement from behind the skirts of Harvard. At least the neighbors know that in the future, Gates' house is fair game whenever he leaves the premises.

Reminds me of the Watts riots I lived through when I lived in Compton, CA. Seems the locals always targeted the neighborhood grocery/liquor store first. After studiously removing all the goodies they torched it. Then when all the grocery chains and banks left the area after the riots were over they complain to this day about the inconvenience of traveling out of the city to conduct business. I wonder if the anomaly of black-on-black violence is part of Gates' curriculum?

Posted by: vet66 at July 24, 2009 01:01 PM

"They caught the perp. Now, the question is this: Did they catch him because of his race or other identifying factors?"
I think I'd have to agree with you Miss Cricket. Race would play a part in that situation as would a 10 inch tattoo of a pink flamingo up side Jake or Elwood's head. It would be but one of the many attributes used to id the perp.

Now that might big a whoop for Al Advisor to Twana Brawley Sharpton maybe. But not so much for anyone else who might bother to step back and consider the situation from the perspective of those who place their lives on the line to serve and protect.

Posted by: bthun at July 24, 2009 01:41 PM

Gezackly. They have to know every detail you can give them at the time. A good friend of ours who is a forensic artist for the state of GA told me that if a witness can get a good look at facial features, race is secondary to looks, albeit it is a part of them because it is noticed first. Hair color, second, and build, third. If she gets a witness who has the perp's face imprinted, chances are the perp will be arrested.

It makes the cop's job easier to know all the witness knows. Even asking the questions builds the profile of the perp!

Posted by: Cricket at July 25, 2009 07:37 AM

I've decided this whole thing was a setup. How do you promote your upcoming documentary? You get the cops called on you and try and taunt them into a beat down.

Then you have a president who carefully screens questions from the press, and this one happens to get through on the day it happened? Oh, and he happens to be a friend with Gates. How convenient that we can use a manufactured 'crisis' to divide people and keep the community organizer base riled up.

Problem is, they got the wrong cop. A guy smart enough to lure Gates outside so he could arrest him, and had plenty of backup to witness. Guess that stereotype the Dems have of soldiers and cops just being a bunch of stupid meatheads who aren't smart enough to go to college isn't panning out.

Posted by: Erik at July 28, 2009 04:43 PM