The story that wouldn’t die. So who am I to let it before I get my say. There are two sides to the story. And as they say, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Professor Gates says that he had just made his way into his home after returning home from a trip. And shortly after getting into his house with the help of his driver, the police show up accusing him of breaking and entering. He told them that it was his own house and showed them ID and yet the cops arrested him. Well, that side of the story sure does sound pretty damning of the police action.
Officer Crowley states that they got a call about a possible breaking and entering. Now in the 911 call, you can hear the caller say that she’s not sure if it is a breaking and entering or if the man was entering his own home, but that comment didn’t seem to make its way to the officers responding on the scene. All they knew was that there was a possible B&E. And sure enough, when they arrive, they find a house has been broken into. When the cop asks what’s going on, the man starts yelling at him, accusing him of racial profiling and eventually insulting the cops mother. The cop sensing that the man is not going to calm down decides it is best to haul him in for refusing to cooperate with the cop.
Now normally, I’d be on the side of whoever is going against the police. It’s not that I’m anti-authoritarian but it is easy to see what I consider to be police abuse of position. But in this case, putting myself in the cop’s shoes, with what he knew at the time and the reaction he got from Gates when he showed up, that’s about the right reaction. Hell, I know that if I had just broken into a house and a cop showed up to whom I started yelling, even me as an unimposing white guy would be arrested. Most people know that cops don’t respond well to disrespect, even when you know you are right. And while Gates may have known that intellectually, his knowledge of all the racial injustices through the centuries trumped his reason and he started lashing out.
Also, it’s worth noting, that I do believe racial profiling is real. And that a black man is more likely to be arrested for doing something that a white guy isn’t, even in Cambridge, MA, and even in this day and age. However, for this incident, a black cop would have arrested a black man and a white cop would have arrested a white man. Besides, this cop was an instructor in anti-racial profiling. So while racial profiling may exist, this wasn’t it. And I believe that’s why this story has captured the public’s interest. Because although it wasn’t in this case, it could have been and that would have been quite the story indeed.
One more comment: It is remarkable that this is one of only two times when Obama has clearly made a PR/speaking mistake (the other was the aside about the Special Olympics). To call it stupid was reactionary and even though Gates may have been a friend of his, he clearly made things worse for everybody. Once he appreciated the situation, he did eventually respond correctly and the sit-down, mafia-style, at the White House was a good call. Oh, and between the four of them, Crowley clearly has the best taste in beer.