Friday, July 24, 2009

Henry Lewis Gates Jr.: Obama's First Crisis?

I decided to do a little research on the Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. situation, in light of the President's remarks the other night that Gates' arrest was stupid. The more I learn the more bizarre the situation seems. First I read the police report. Then I did a little googling and found out Professor Gates asserts that he could not lock his house before he went to the police station due to a previous break-in, but is irate that the police are investigating a break-in. The arresting officer has spent 5 years teaching race relations at the police academy, and he was appointed to that post by the black chief of police. Then I started seeing a list of all the people who were weighing in on this situation, which seems to be just about everyone. At this point, I decided simply to post up the link to the police report and leave it at that. For that reason I won't mention that when you compare the transcript of the question at the press conference to the police report, not only did the President not know the facts, the ones he assumed he got all wrong.

UPDATE: You can read the update to this post, which I wrote after the White House Beer Summit, by clicking here.


Blogger Bo's Blog said...

I think the President was correct, however, in stating that this was a "teachable" moment in that sometimes when African-Americans are confronted by the police, they feel that they will be giving a hard time as many of their previous experiences have shown to be true (to them).

With that said, I think it's time that sensitivity on BOTH sides is necessary to move beyond this issue. Though it seems that this officer (I did not read the report) was following protocol, the situation highlights the continuing divide in perception of a situation between white and black and the unresolved feelings on both sides....just a thought! Ruff! Ruff!

Jul 25, 2009, 7:36:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

Well, Bo, in Illinois the President was instrumental in passing legislation that required police to do so much paperwork when they stopped anyone, police started stopping a lot fewer people. The net result of this was a lot more really bad driving which has made life much more unpleasant for me. I am reminded of the remark of a North Shore policeman reported by a friend. "They say I stopped them because they were black, they say I stopped them because they were white (some say the law Obama championed encouraged more white traffic stops to show no favoritism). They say they were stopped because their car was too old, or because it was too expensive. But in every instance, the only reason I stopped them is because they were breaking the law."

While I don't have a clue what you look like, in my experience no one--regardless of color, economic status, or polics-- enjoys interacting with the police, either, because mostly it means you are in trouble and might have to go to court.

Jul 26, 2009, 7:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much Bigger fish to fry....
Unemployment is very high
Healthcare for Everyone
Trillions in debt
Henry Lewis was just being his African American self, no biggie

Jul 27, 2009, 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Gates belongs to Reverend Wright's Church also

Jul 27, 2009, 5:51:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

Somehow this story captures everyone's imagination, probably because at its core it's not about race at all, it's about human nature. Latest at the "Irish Times" is that Gates and Sgt. Crowley are distant Irish cousins, leading one to surmise that the whole incident is due to Irish hot tempers. And Obama? He's so unrealistic that he thinks people should travel all the way to DC for a beer? Please. For a journey that long he should be able to throw in a sandwich.

Aside from all the distinguished stuff, Henry Gates is sort-of a goofy guy living in a bubble. Isn't this proof? Then again, if you have focused your entire career on race and its effects and succeeded, it could be highly threatening to realize that perhaps we are living in a post-racial society. Can you blame Gates for clinging to the past?

Jul 28, 2009, 7:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Joe Southerner said...

This is a situation of the "RICH" acting like rich people do. They are above the law and how could anyone have the audacity to question them on any level. (I'm a friend of the President you don't know who your messing with "BOY".) Mr. Gates is the one guilty of "profiling". He should appologize to the entire U.S. Shame on you Gates.

Jul 30, 2009, 4:58:00 AM  
Blogger Publia said...

Well, Joe, no one appologized but after the White House Beer Summit Prof. Gates made a fine statement recognizing the importance of police work, free speech, and the value of differing opinions. Do go back to the article, click on the update, and follow the link on the update to Gates'statement. I hope the statement is acceptable to you, because I was happy to read what he said.If it takes you a little out of your comfort zone due to its expression of traditional values,do note that Prof. Gates was probably raised right: he notes that his dad (who went along to the White House for the photo op) is a long-time Republican.

Jul 31, 2009, 9:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again, a big problem that should nver ahve happened, that is if the professor would have actedlike a professor.

Aug 2, 2009, 3:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am completely surprised at the amount of blame and lack of historical sensitivity floating around the blogosphere on this issue. The office was simply doing his job? Professor Gates provided him with his Id and the officer knew he was not breaking into his own and the officer continued to pursue the issue. I would be more than irrate. The officer was a trainer for profiling--this does not make him an expert, at least not next to Gates who has been the chair of and founded the African American Studies program at Harvard. Gates is a Du Bois Scholar and has made a documentary on race across this country. The officer...well he...hmmm. Last, the report of Gates' outburst is questionable. Gates never admits to it and it is highly out of character for the mild, temperate, eloquent Harvard man of letters. The officer reported that Gates "started insulting his (the officer's) mother" and this constituted resistence. Does this sound like a 56 year old scholar? The truth is that Police do lie, reports are exaggerated and officers, even when doing thier job, do not do it well. In most of our cases, failure to do our job well is not a big deal, when police fail to do their job well it constitues an act of violence against a community. The Presidents comment, I think was well placed. The police acted stupidly because of the issue of power and not race.

Aug 2, 2009, 9:00:00 PM  
Blogger N said...

Skip, is that you???

Yes, I think this sounds like Gates (who is a wacky guy), but this is over folks. Gates sent flowers to his neighbor, had a good chat with his distant Irish cousin, Crowley--who was supported by his brethren without regard to skin color--and Obama has shown himself to be a capable commmunity organizer. Obviously, the President has pleased his most fervant fans who go to blogs and place comments on them about what a smart guy he is. So Gates got publicity which he loves, Crowley got the support of those with whom he works which is always rewarding, and the President shored up his support among the faithful in a time of declining poll numers. If this isn't a win-win-win situation, I don't know what it.

Aug 4, 2009, 3:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well N. this is not skip or more correctly Professor Gates. I find it curioous that you did not respond to my post but instead elided any point of contact. As a direct retort, here you go: Hmmm Limbaugh, or ditto-head, is that you?

I felt compelled to reply not because your remarks are witty or provocative, they are simply stupid. But I wanted to reply to highlight what was missed. A) The defense of the officer has been largely waged because an officers report has been percieved to be more authorative than a victimized citizens despite the fact that citizen's report corresponds to the audio from the police dash in many respects. Let me add that Gates' act of defiance was to ask for the officer's name and badge number, a right we all have and should have. In fact, if police respect the law, they should encourage this civil act. B) Power and authoritianism: the disturbing aspect of other post is not simply that they miss the racialized aspect of the case but that they are willing to concede that police authority has more power than citizen rights. Even if the officer was wrong, his duty is to tolerate the citizen in order to preserve his.heer rights. Without this, police serve the function of the state as simply a form of violence. That is, we face a contradiction: That which is the representative/symbol of law only enforces the law by chance, but is more correctly a presentation of the malfunction of law. Read Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism, for a detailed description of this viewpoint. C) In what way is this a win-win situation? Professor Gates stated on a morning show that this is an indication of how vulnerable we all are to the misuse of power. Although police misuse of power tends to effect women and minorities more than the white-middle aged male populations, we are all vulnerable and by passing this issue off as a win-win, let's stop thinking about it, you really simply move to accomplice in the abuse of police abuse of power, Again, read Hannah Arendt's description of what the real crime of Nazi Germany was. She argues that what made Germany intollerable was not the presence of the Stasi or the tightening up of the rules, etc. but the willingness of close non-jewish friends, neighbors, etc. simply to want to get-on with the day, despite disapearing people and street violence. See her Origins of Totalitarianism. My point is not to compare Crowely to the Stasi, but the potential and form of violence is the same. Our obligation to build our thinking on these issues is the same as well. Let me say this contrary to Bo's post, African American's do not simply "feel" they are given a hard time, just as women do not simply "feel" they are being harrassed, violence is real and not simply a matter of perception. It is convienent for White Ideology to move the issue to an issue of perception rather than structural racism or political racism. One does not only see violations of justice, one knows them. One may wish to get along by moving the structural problem of racism or other forms of violence to an issue of perception, but the result is that one population will be condemned to pathology. See Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Madness and Civilization for an elaboration on similar themes.

One final note on this blog, I know this may seem antiquarian, but I came to this site because the write started with the words "I did some research...", however googling and visiting a few websites, some tabloid sites does not constitute research. The correct way to put would be, "I looked a bunch of crap up, but I don't know..." If you are doing your "research" online, Consider using credible sources at least. Present contradictory or varied accounts if there are some. Interpret them. If you can find sites that have editors and fact-checkers, what you present will be more informed and less e-noise. I simply cannot believe that you supposedly did research of Professor Gates did not come across any of the traits I mentioned in my last post. Whether or not you have a valid point, it is simply sloppy.

Aug 5, 2009, 4:11:00 AM  
Blogger Publia said...

When the ad hominem attacks begin and the debate ends, it's time for me to shut down further comments.

Aug 5, 2009, 4:19:00 PM  

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