Tuesday, July 21, 2009

think they can put themselves in the shoes of black people

I'm sure that by now, most of my readers have heard about the arrest (and subsequent dropped charges) of the most famous black professor in America, and perhaps the whole world, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Given my blog's topic, what interests me as much as the question (which to me is not a question) of whether his arrest was racist, are the reactions to it that I'm hearing and reading from white people. Those who seem to know a thing or two about how racism really works in America are mostly either as outraged as I am, or withholding complete judgment until more facts come in.

Many others, though, seem to lack the understanding that because they're white, they'll simply never know what it's like to be black in America. To have to be aware of that, so much of the time, while navigating largely white spaces. Like say, a wealthy neighborhood near Harvard University. Even if it's your own damn neighborhood.

So, you finally pull up to your house after a fifteen-hour flight from China, and then your front door is stuck. Damn! Then you ask the man who drove you home for assistance in getting it open, aware as you do so that your white neighbors' eyes are probably on you, feeling physically exhausted from your travels and now suddenly tense about this damn door. Eventually you manage to get inside, and then a police officer is knocking on the door and expressing doubts that you're the real resident of your own house! When you go to get the ID that he demands, he follows you inside, and when you show it to him, he turns around to leave with nary a word, let alone a respectful or regretful one. And then when you get to your front door, you see a whole bunch of other police on your doorstep!

Well then, after all that, who wouldn't start yelling things about what so often happens to black people in America? (Assuming he actually did start yelling -- it does look like he was yelling after getting handcuffed for being "loud and tumultuous.")

But here I am as I write this, imagining what it must've been like for Professor Gates that day. I think I should stop right there, and I probably should've stopped sooner. I should stop because I'm white, and he's black, and I'll just never know what such moments are like for black people.

So I shouldn't say, as a lot of white people are saying, that Gates should've shown some restraint, and then everything would've been all right. Or that the actions of the police had nothing to do with his being black, and that he should've instead been "grateful that somebody was investigating a possible break-in at his home." Or that his acting in any other way than completely calm and obedient was what caused his arrest for "disorderly conduct." Or that he probably made a ruckus because he knew it would get national attention, and so he "played the race card."

Because I'm white, I shouldn't say things like what this white columnist says, in a completely white-framed discussion of the arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:

This doesn't appear to be racism. It sounds to me like a colossal case of extraordinarily bad judgment on the part of a distinguished African American historian who happens to teach at Harvard, and who certainly should've known better.

That right there. That too is so white, isn't it? Talking about a black man with a PhD, a Harvard professorship and a mile-long list of accomplishments about how he "should've known better." Talking about him like he's little more than a child.

To think that if I were in a black man's shoes in a moment like that, I would act differently, more "sensibly," seems ridiculous. To think that my perspective is basically the same as his. To think that I could really have much of any idea at all what it's like to be black in such all-too-familiar (for black people) moments. And yet, I think we white people do that all the time.

Having read the police report and a lot of insightful discussions of this event, it seems very likely to me that the police did act in racist ways, whether consciously or unconsciously. And then, so did a lot of white people when they heard about this event, as they also do when they hear about others like it.

I think that the moment when their racism kicks in, and causes them to say naive, foolish things, is right when they think they know what that would be like, because they're basically imagining themselves in that moment. But then, because they're white, they really have no clue about what it's like to be on the wrong side in such moments. And so, they should stop thinking and talking as if they do.


  1. Thanks for placing in this context of Gates' likely exhaustion. Puts the outrageousness of this into a better context

    Why is there no investigation into the apparent cadre of officers who harrassed Gates...at his own home...after he gave them ID?

    And how is it "bad judgement" to be upset when officers demand entry into your home? To ask for a badge number? To raise holy hell when you're presented with a flock of hostile (and likely white) officers... after complying with their intial orders.

    At the very, very least, the officer involved should have been seriously reprimanded or fired for not providing identification.

  2. I would also like to see the offending officer punished in some way.

    i think these comments about how Gates should have behaved are very condescending, and further illustrates the power dynamics that exist between white cops and black people, as well as a wider white audience that engages in "if it were me..." these are quite often ignored, and if white people aren't putting themselves in black people's shoes, then they engage in silencing techniques by accusing black people of "pulling the race card." so so sick of this ignorant attitude.

  3. Ok I love your blog! I love the honest convo!!! I find that you are extremely insightful, what I want to know is why do you get it and soooooo many others just don't! I understand that as a black woman I can not even truly understand how Professor Gates felt when he opened the door to police officers demanding proof that he lived in that home! Even if it was a black police officer, I would have felt humiliated at best so I can imagine that as a man that feeling of humilation was probably magnified. No non person of color can ever understand that feeling of humilation when you are asked to prove your self worth, over and over and over and over and .................

  4. This is a brilliant post.

    To sympathize with a black person's plight does not require empathy -- if you aren't black, you just don't understand and that is ok.

    I never knew (until very recently) how offended some white people could get when they're told "you just wouldn't understand..." I guess I just don't understand that, either.

    All of this -- this "need" some white people have to be able to look through the lens of the black American experience is intriguing to me. It seems to me that it's a part of a larger need to "not see race.." (which I'm sure is a topic you've touched on). If a white person can know what it's like to be black, then that means race doesn't mean very much. I'm sure these same white people would never think that they understand individuals of the opposite gender.

    I and many of the black people I know (which surely isn't them all so I don't purport this to represent anyone but me and the ones I know...) oftentimes find ourselves assessing a situation and ultimately saying "well... guess that's a white people thing..." it's ok, in our minds, to accept that there's a larger thing at play in an issue that we just won't understand.

    In terms of Gates, I've not yet read any commentary from white people on it; though I'm not terribly surprised if this is the general consensus. To suggest that Gates had a right to be indignant is to suggest that there's a chance that in 2009 and in a supposed post-racial era of Obama... that racism still happens and can clearly happen to anyone.

    For the record, however, I'm more concerned with his across the street neighbor who didn't recognize him at any point in these series of events, not even to come over and say to the police "I made a mistake, this man lives here..." I highly doubt that she truly never recognized him.

  5. I just have to say thank you for that insightful post. I really appreciated that. As a black man in America myself, thise Gates incident resonated very much with me, because of shared and similar experiences. And yet, many times, those are the things that everyone does not get, because the racism could be so unconscious or so infused into everyday orinary life, that a PLE (Perfectly Logical Explanation) makes more sense than crying racism all the time. Thank you for posting this, because in context, I can not only understand why Gates was ALLEGEDLY outspoken and upset, but I also know the reason why the police received a call about a 'possible break-in' in the first place.

  6. one of my favorite posts in a long time. i made the mistake of reading the comment sections on news sites reporting this outrageous (but commonplace i'm sure) occurrence. that was an ugly, ugly mistake. i found comments that make the one you posted seem innocuous, even nice.

    i can't know what it's like to be a black man in America, but i can tell you what would've happened if someone had pulled that shit on my white father. he would've been just as "loud and tumultuous" and the officers would have apologized, slapped him on the back, and walked away embarrassed. race card indeed.

    i think about the relationship between fear and violence in this situation. white folks teach each other to be scared of black folks, men especially. fear causes people to misinterpret indignation and rightful verbal defense of one's home and bodily dignity as imminent, dangerous physical attacks. i can't (and won't ever) know whether the officers overreacted because of an irrational, racist fear of a not-really-young professor simply because he was black (as in this guy is black and therefore scary and will get violent if we don't cuff him now!), or whether they were outraged that he, a black man, would step out of "place" and defend himself in front of white policemen. maybe it's both... and really it doesn't matter and doesn't change Gates' rightful assertion that this was completely and totally racist.

    really nice analysis, thanks for the insightful read.

  7. Thank you for the great posting. I read a lot of them trying to find some balance such as this. I was on the receiving end of a police officer's bad judgment and bad temper, and was believed when I reported it and he was reprimanded. I was lucky - but I was white and had an institution behind me. What if I was black and worked as a laborer? Police have a tough job, but the "brotherhood" needs to police themselves better to improve their reputation. A uniform a weapon, and the authority they have indicates a police state - a far cry from "protect and serve."

  8. The people who claim that they'd be happy if a cop came by and ID'd them in their own home, don't understand what it is like to have to be stopped or pulled aside, for no reason other than looking different.

    I have a dark complexion, in my mid 30s, and dress like your average middle class, suburban father. Think of a young Bill Cosby minus the sweater. And I drive a recent model luxury car- nothing suspicious like non-functioning lights or missing license plates.

    I've been frequently pulled over, told I appeared lost, and asked for my ID. I did nothing but drive at the speed limit. And I'm frequently followed by cops up to my driveway.

    In stores, I see white people before me not having to back up their credit card purchases with an ID. But when I whip out the Amex Gold Card, they suddenly remember the policy of requiring an ID check.

    When I go to grocery stores, I get followed around by the security guard. Even in large ethic grocery chain stores.

    I went to a hockey game after 9/11 with my white friend. Guess who got ID'd.

    When I went to Switzerland, I didn't even make it to the immigration counter, before getting pointed out (from a group in which everyone else was white), asked to step aside and show my documents. I was humiliated as my fellow passengers watched me endure that.

    On business trips to China, I'm pulled out from the group of my white colleagues (as we walk together) EVERY time, and sent for a thorough customs inspection.

    I could go on, with little incidents here and there almost every day.

    But the point is, after what I've experienced, if some cop showed up at my door, when I hadn't reported anything, and asked me to identify myself and prove that I am the rightful occupant of the property, I'd refuse. I doubt I'd even open the door. I understand Prof. Gates’ frustration and anger.

    White people challenge whether this would be an issue had the cops not been white. They’re missing the point. It’s not about the race of the cop. It’s the logic and rationale employed by the cop. Using the same, would the cop have behaved differently, had it been a white occupant in the house? Would the lady who called the police, done so, had it been two white men trying to budge the door open?

    Furthermore, the race of the perpetrator is not absolute determinant of anything. I’ve experienced or observed racism from all manner of people: white/black/Jewish/Hispanic Americans, Mexicans, white Canadians, Polish, British, Spanish, Swiss, Italians, black and white South Africans, both fair and dark Indians, Arabs, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Koreans, Japanese, Australians, etc.

    It’s depressing really.

  9. There are many reasons why this incident would never happen to a white person. 1. My neighbors probably won't avoid me for being "one of them." 2. Even if they don't know me (it happens!), they won't assume I'm breaking in in broad daylight. 3. Most police officers would believe me after seeing my ID. 4. The police would not (consciously or unconsciously) think "uppity" when I protest. They might get annoyed or pissed, but they won't think "uppity."

    White people have a bad history of even knowing or caring when they are being racist. Even after reading all the research on the impact of racism on development, psychological health, stress, self-image, etc... we don't really know what it's like.

    I guess I'm not surprised it happened, given DWB, but all the vitriol is what gets me. What is it that bothers (some) white people so much when people say something is racist? It's like, white people could just ignore it & not respond, but they get about "pulling the race card," and then say "I'm not a racist, but..."

  10. that's so disrespectful... *jaw drops* - sorry, I know the rest of the world isn't as clear cut as the fantasy in my mind... but seriously, barging into the home of and arresting a highly distinguished Harvard professor is like barging into church and arresting a bishop (for the sake of descriptive clarity, let's make this imagined bishop white) for no good reason.

  11. I hadn't heard about this (I'm not reading the news because I am sickened by all the hatefulness in this world) but I am totally not surprised. Would this have happened if he had been white? Absolutely not. The neighbor wouldn't have called the cops. If she did only one car would have showed up and he would not have been asked to show ID or proof that he was the legal occupant/owner of the house (well, maybe asked for ID). There would have been no reason for indignation and no one would have been hand cuffed. Shameful.

  12. To those of you who have commented that the professor's ill treatment is a dynamic of black civilian vs. white cop: I disagree with you completely. Cops, regardless of colour, treat blacks this way. In New York City, it was cops of colour (black and Hispanic) who shot and killed, last year, a young black man on the evening of his wedding day. Cops are sick bastards. Most of them are uneducated, unworldly psychopaths with license to carry guns. (It would serve our nation--and black and brown folks, in particular--well, if our police were not allowed to carry firearms, as it is done in Britain.) Yes, there are some good ones, but overall, police culture--the code of blue--requires that you mistrust any one who is not a member of your "club."

    In NYC, when the 2004 Republican Convention took place, hundreds of people (mainly, whites) were swept up during the monthly Critical Mass ride and arrested, fined, and kept in temporary prisons, of poor conditions, for more than 24 hours. Last year, at the Republican Convention, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, was arrested and physically abused during the course of that arrest.

    Life in the Democratic Police State by Jonathan Schwarz

    What do you call "Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr trying to open the front door of his house with the help of his friendly cab driver"? Answer:

    "two black males breaking into a home near Harvard University."

    That's, anyway, how the caller to the police station put it. A cop was dispatched promptly.

    Gates gave the officer his driver's license and Harvard identification, but became upset when the officer continued to question him.

    So upset in fact that

    [t]he sergeant said he was forced to step out of the home because of Gates' uncomfortably loud yelling.

    Gates asked the police officer for his badge number and name several times but received no response. The sergeant told Gates that they could discuss the matter further outside, to which Gates allegedly replied,

    "ya, I'll speak with your mama outside."

    Police reinforcement arrived (presumably the anti-"uncomfortably loud yelling" unit) and Gates was arrested for

    "exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior" in his home.

    Not that one should, but forget the racial angle for a minute. So you're minding your own business at home, not bothering anyone. A cop comes and interrogates you. You forget to genuflect. Pronto, you're in jail!

    Don't misconstrue my target here. It's neither the caller nor the cop. It's the people who accept that living in a police state is a small price to pay for our security. It's the people for whom authority is something not to challenge, but to defer to. I see that among my own undergrads. And it's gotten worse over the years. It's the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in reverse: slouching toward tyranny.

  13. I need to make a correction to my previous comment:

    The shooting of that young man, before his wedding day, was done by (I think) four cops--they were white and of colour.

  14. To think that I could really have much of any idea at all what it's like to be black in such all-too-familiar (for black people) moments. And yet, I think we white people do that all the time.

    thanks for this. I needed to hear/see SOMEbody say this.

  15. Redcatbiker-I agree with you to an extent about the police harboring racist/prejudiced ideas regardless of their own race. I don't think it's because they're psychopaths, though. I'm not sure which is first (the age old chicken or egg conundrum) but they either decide to join the police force because they want to be in a position of power and be able to abuse it, or after being on the force in order to be "in" they abuse their power in the same way their colleagues do. As the police force in America is overwhelmingly white, I imagine POC policemen and women need to exhibit the same racist tendencies to be accepted, or perhaps they see themselves as above the other members of their race begin to believe the stereotypes themselves.

    This incident is completely vile. They have dropped the charges against him and I REALLY hope that that Gates sues the crap out of them.

    I think it bears mentioning that this is most likely only being reported on because Gates is a "safe" black man. If it had been the same situation (i.e., a man coming home to his OWN HOUSE to which he had a key and a lot of cumbersome luggage and showing I.D. that proved he lived there) but with a large, very dark-skinned black man wearing a backpack and hat, we wouldn't even be hearing about it.

  16. Let’s say that Gates was actually yelling. But so what? How much noise can a grey haired man with a cane who had just arrived from a 15 hour flight, and is probably jet lagged and grumpy make that it warrants arrest?

    Or let’s say he was a young able bodied man in the prime of his life and had had a good night’s sleep and was fresh as ever. Even then, how much noise can a single man make that it warrants arrest?

    They knew he had done nothing wrong by the time he got to the front porch. His only alleged crime was that he was yelling. The police could have just walked away at this point. Gates would have stopped yelling – I mean, why would you yell when there’s nobody there to yell at?

    It makes little economic sense too. I read he was booked, fingerprinted, photographed, questioned, and put into a cell...for yelling. He was at the police station for 4 hours. What are they gonna do? Arrest everyone who yells? Considering the number of police officers involved and what not, the arrest alone probably cost the state a few hundred dollars. If I was working in the US I’d seriously question where my tax dollars are going.

  17. Great post and very insightful. I think it can be hard for those that don't have to deal with this to wrap their heads around how frustrating it can be.

    I am a black female living in an upper middle class neighborhood. I used to get asked what I was doing by cops while walking my dog. The anger and fury you feel when this happens is hard to describe. Perhaps I shouldn't bring the snark, but you can't help it. Out comes, "Let's see. Wearing shorts. Running shoes. Dog. Leash. Hmmmm... Officer, I have no idea what I'm doing here."

    You then have to explain that you don't have an ID with you because you were running the dog out for 5 minutes, but if he follows you home you'll grab your id. The office finally decides to leave you alone but informs you that he can ticket you for not carrying your ID and will check for it next time. What?!?!?!

    It's infuriating. I think more people - POC and white - need to raise hell. This needs to stop.

  18. First of all... I've just discovered this blog, and for the most part, I love it! Your discussion of racial issues is not only deep and honest, but also thought inspiring.

    I'm particularly glad I happened upon this post; the story saddens me, particularly since I'm of mind that regardless of race, no human being can ever TRULY be able to put themselves into the "shoes" of another.

    Thank you for the insight!!

  19. Re fromthetropics:
    I completely agree. How much "disorderly conduct" could he have been engaging in? Not more than a regular college house party.

    Re: GeekGirl
    Having to carry an ID is offensive and goes against the notion of a free society. The Supreme Court ruled that checkpoints even in a "high-crime" area (Trinidad neighborhood in DC) are unconstitutional. But your neighborhood police don't abide by that.

  20. A close friend of mine had recently purchased a lovely BMW convertable within the last six months. Within three months, this gentle black man found himself one night face down and handcuffed on Washington D.C.'s Georgia Avenue, listening to a psychopathic cop rant that he'd "been watching" him drive on the stretch and didn't like what he saw. Given that my friend is gay and had been with his then-partner some nights, we think this guy was peering a little bit closer than he should have been. More, when my friend asked what he did, the cop said it didn't matter -- all while his female partner stood by and watched, shocked. Later, the cop said my friend "thought he was better" than him. This went on for a while until the guy's partner convinced him to release my friend. He didn't speak to anyone about it for weeks, it scared him so badly.

    I have said it before, and I'll say it again: Police departments across the country have an abuse of power problem, one that has worsened since 9/11. The flagrant disregard for our civil liberties is one that every U.S. citizen should be marching in the streets to preserve. But that takes showing more responsibility than reflexive flag waving, watching Faux News, and irresponsibly scouring President Obama's birth records. I shudder if this country ever sees the day that martial law is imposed for any reason. I certainly don't trust some law enforcement agencies to do the right thing, particularly when it comes to people of color. While I do believe there are many who try hard to protect and serve, their effectiveness is truncated by the morally challenged bureaucracies in which they find themselves. We live in modern times. It's time to invest resources in proper training, psychological screening -- including race bias -- and enforce zero-tolerance policies with taxpayer-funded police agencies.

  21. While I won't ever know what it's like to be black in America, you make it seem like white people can never understand what it's like to have racism directed at them.
    I lived in a country where most people aren't white (I'm white), and I faced discrimination very frequently.
    So I'd say that I can relate to Gates in some way.
    And while I do think race played a part in his arrest, I also think that police officers as a whole detain people, regardless of color, for the seeming reason of wanting to express their power over others.

  22. Well. Good job. I admit, I wasn't up on this story as much as I should have been when it broke, but I quickly got up to speed.

    The initial impression when the story broke was that Dr. Gates refused to show his ID. I'm a brother, and I was thinking, "Come on bruh. Just show the ID and be done with it."

    You see, I've tried to convince myself that racism in this country has gone as far as it can go. An organization like the NAACP or the SCLC have no place in a modern society. We've been given the right to vote, drink from the same water fountains, and eat from the same lunch counters. What more could there be? Isn't it time to be introspective as a people and attack the things that we are seemingly doing to ourselves? You see, black people have a lot more issues than just racism (obviously). Lifestyles that are far less healthy, black on black crime, poverty, education facilities that are respectively subpar, etc., etc.

    Well hell, now we still have to deal with this kind of shit? I guess Jesse and Al still have a little job security.

    Thanks for talking about this. It's refreshing to have this avenue explored by a majority voice versus a minority one.

  23. @ Anonymous- i'll admit I don't know your experience, but I HIGHLY doubt that. Thanks to European colonialism, white people are revered on all corners of the globe and as far as where I live right now, the white people who complain about "discrimination" are just complaining about not receiving special treatment. Not to mention that the racism in America is actually institutionalized, and in most other countries it's not really the case.

  24. Empathy does have its limites, but I don't think attempting to empathize with a black person, as a white person, is a bad thing by itself. Although, you can easily run into problems when you don't educate yourself about the black experience and don't recognize where there are and always will be gaps in your knowledge of it.

    Most of the jerk commenters who call Dr. Gates a racist, or say he's playing the race card, or whatever, don't even try to empathize because they have little respect for black people. Period. It's not that they're trying to empathize and failing - they just don't empathize at all. Their reasoning is basically, "If only black people had the sense to be as civilized as us white folk, you wouldn't have these problems."

    Either that, or they could use a little more empathy, starting with some education about why a black man might have more reasons to be angry with the officer than a white man would.

  25. Just discovered your blog, and this post was fantastic. I've been thikning about this for days (Gates' arrest) and how quick many white people have been to say that *they* would gladly let a police officer into their home and show them ID. And the myopic short-sightedness that motivates that type of reaction is stunning to me.

  26. Whites might never realize what it is like to be Gates in that moment because of race, but that doesn't mean a white person cannot understand discrimination. There are all types of white people as well, they could be different sexes, different religions, different sexual orientations, different classes, etc.

    So it's not like they can't understand the basics of how the professor feels, just not the specifics as they pertain to race.

    I am in the camp that we need to withhold judgment until further information is provided. On the part of the neighbor, that seems to be pure racism. But though the officer might be lying to justify his racist behavior, Gates could be lying to justify getting arrested as a Harvard professor. You do not know, and if you don't it is unfair to assume anything. If it turns out that the police officer was telling the truth and Gates was lying, what's next if you already made a conclusion? In this specific case I think it will end up as the officer indeed being guilty of racial profiling, but I often find this to be the problem with your blog. You assume too much. You might use a defense of relativity, saying that your stereotypes of white people are nothing compared to mainstream stereotypes of other minorities. But you do have an influence on your audience and you boxing in white people to something as the norm is dangerous unless you can verify it as fact. You condition people to expect something about whites until proven otherwise, which is exactly what you are trying to distance yourself from (except reversed and towards minorities). In the extreme long term, equality will not come through having a two wrongs make a right philosophy. I understand that is your gimmick, but to me because you frame it in such generalized terms about white people this blog is more of an attempt to validate you to yourself and minorities than a sincere quest for social change. I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel.

  27. @ anon 11:53:

    Stuff white people (problematic assumption but w/e) did in your comment:

    -Think they can put themselves in the shoes of black people
    -Make excuses for the racist behavior of other white people

    Seriously, "you don't know"? Yes, actually, macon does know - because he read the publicly released police reports and statements from Gates and understand the systematic racism of the police force.

    Ohmygoodness! How could he take the word of that black Harvard professor over a white cop! It's discrimination in reverse! He wasn't physically present at the arrest, so he could never make any true judgments about the case!

  28. Terrific post. As white people, we need to be calling this out. My white conservative father is a former cop. I grew up seeing the police as friends, helpers. And as the daughter of a cop, if there's a confrontation, the cop is on DUTY, it's his JOB to keep his ego and his testosterone and his personal feelings in CHECK. He gets paid to be the one who keeps control. He's been trained to do so.

    So much is made of Gates' reaction, so what. He's the civilian. And he had reason. The cop was getting paid to check himself.

    It's easy for white folks to say "he should've..." or "I would've...", but of COURSE your reaction would be different! You would be coming from a completely different history/experience leading up to it!

    Yes, I'm a cop's daughter, but today, I live in fear of my African American daughter organizing a protest in DC, coming under notice of the cops - the danger to her is real. The first thing I taught my son, when he got his driving permit, was to take his wallet out of his pocket, and put it in the center console. Every time. I don't want him reaching into his pocket if he's ever pulled over - which he most assuredly will be.

    The whole thing about white folks thinking we can put ourselves in Black folks' shoes, god, people do that all the time! And then get insulted at the "you wouldn't understand" bit. But hey, white folks, guess what, we DON'T.

    As a mother of 3 kids of color, I am active in anti-racist work. It pisses me off. It makes me sad, enraged, all of that. BUT, so what, I could spend my whole life educating myself and doing the work, and I will never, ever, really know what it's like for my son to be followed in a store. I will never know how it felt for my daughter when her best friend (at the time) didn't stand up for her after his roommate used the N-word. I will never understand what it cost my other daughter to "fit in" at high school.

    So if I can not REALLY understand the experiences of those closest to me in life, the ones behind my stretch marks, the ones I'd die for ... how the hell could I possibly understand what was behind Professor Gates' reaction to this indignity, after all the years, after all the indignities he's assuredly had to deal with for decades as a Black man?

    How the hell could White folks who, on any other day of the week, "don't even see color", possibly understand what they would've done as a Black man in that scenario? They DON'T. Deal with it White folks, yes it's a Black thing, and no we DON'T understand.

  29. What bugs me is that everyone's all outraged that a Harvard professor could be treated this way. As in: "Well yes, he's black and all, but after all, he's a university professor!" And thus one of the Safe POC, I guess.

    I can't help thinking that the fact of his profession, or his zip code, isn't what makes this incident outrageous.

    The outrageous thing is that I could come to the door of my house, be asked for ID only to have it ignored, and then if I took umbrage, I could be arrested for creating a disturbance in my own home. That shouldn't happen to an unemployed latrine-washer, much less a Harvard prof.

  30. Oh wait, that wouldn't happen to me, because I'm white.

    (Although I do feel we're slouching towards a police state, more and more.)

  31. An ID from Harvard isn't a legal document. I have an ID at the company I work for too. Doesn't do me squat when I need to verify my identity to a government official.

    Gates got mad cause the cop called to verify the ID. Cop should have known he was a "famous" professor.

    Cop got mad Gates was yelling at him. Gates should have known cops are touchy fackers.

    Dumb on both parts. Case closed, move on.


  32. That right there. That too is so white, isn't it? Talking about a black man with a PhD, a Harvard professorship and a mile-long list of accomplishments about how he "should've known better." Talking about him like he's little more than a child.

    Huh? It sounds like the exact opposite of that. It sounds like the guy means someone that is intelligent and renowned should have the maturity and knowledge to know better. Not saying I agree with him at all, I just don't understand your interpretation of that as infantilizing.

  33. Discrimination Is WrongJuly 29, 2009 at 4:24 PM

    "Talking about him like he's little more than a child."

    Hm, do you believe that adults are inherently better than kids? If so, it sounds like you're an ageist. Maybe you should sort out your own prejudices before criticizing other people for their supposed prejudices.

  34. This incident proves that pompous asses from Harvard come in all colors. Gates clearly has a chip on his shoulder that he was just waiting to unload on some unfortunate white person. If there had been a burglar breaking in to his house and the police had not responded, he probably would have turned that in to a racial issue too. I would guess the public will be hearing more from this guy about how mistreated blacks are.

  35. If there had been a burglar breaking in to his house and the police had not responded, he probably would have turned that in to a racial issue too

    Well, yes, if police ignored requests for help while his stuff was being stolen, I imagine that he would have a problem with that.

  36. What makes anybody think that police treat only blacks that way?

  37. Hey MaconD you stole that Bill O'Really from me so shame on you!! Just kidding but to 'poet' you are an arrogant,ignorant pissbag,living in oyur own little world of stupidity and privilege. After all how DARE that 'darky' act up IN HIS OWN DAMN HOME next thing you know they'll be want the right to VOTE and all sheeesh! Poor white guy you want a hug it must just SUCK to be a white male in a white male's world maybe we should hold you a telethon seeing how you are just 'suffering' and all. And proving Mr. Macon's very point by the way and 'stanky/wanky' what a bunch of CRAP with a capital C!! Cops have been bullying and brutalizing their way through black neighborhoods for YEARS so don't EVEN try it. And to 'redcat' I hear ya yeah it's not always about race but for MOST cops that's just icing on the cake but yeah far too many cops weild their power the way a child does a toy:recklessly.

  38. brilliant, sincere and empathic view of this event. congratulations on being a smart person in the 21st century. take notes on how to behave in a world where races should get along.

    -brilliant. simply brilliant


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code