an avoidable controversy

Let me just preface this by saying that I don’t know the facts of what exactly happened (nor does anyone else, really), but based on what I’ve read I know that there will be mixed reaction to this story.

The Reverend Al Sharpton was quoted in the story as saying, “I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going into your own home while black is a new low in police-community affairs.”

It would seem to me that any person who is seen attempting to pry open the front door of a home and then proceeds to refuse to identify him or herself and gets argumentative and confrontational with police officers is likely to find themself arrested.

Yes, this is one white girl’s opinion. But I didn’t grow up sheltered in a small town my whole life. I started out in a city, in a poor area and school where I was very nearly a minority myself. I’ve traveled, and lived in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world. This doesn’t mean that I in any way know what it’s like to be black or to be targeted for the color of my skin. But it means that I know it happens, and it means I know it isn’t right when it does happen.

If the way things have been described in news reports isn’t how it really went, then maybe there was racial profiling. I know it exists – it would be foolish of anyone to think that racial bias doesn’t exist, whether police and attorneys want to deny it. But why do people have to be so quick to latch onto that notion every time?

Professor Gates is a highly educated and intelligent man. It would seem to me that common sense would have stepped in and he could have easily cooperated with the police. They were acting on a call from a neighbor who clearly didn’t realize that it was Gates trying to get into his own home and who was concerned over what anyone could call suspicious behavior. If the police had not acted on that call and had let someone break into his home, you can be sure that hell would have been raised. Every instance where a minority is arrested is not racial profiling. People who claim it is so do not further race relations in our country. They open the rift even further.


7 thoughts on “an avoidable controversy

  1. There was no reason for him to be argumentative and non-cooperative with the police . . . that was his big mistake IMO. Everything else snowballed from there.

  2. That’s pretty much the way I see it. His reaction determined the outcome, which is true in many situations.

    The thing that gets me is that his front door was damaged from a previous break-in attempt, according to the police report. You’d think he would be happy that the police came by to check out the situation if there was a history of attempted break-ins.

  3. The fact is police officers often feel like they are the law and are not ready to accept anything but the fear that normally comes over people when they are around. So to have Dr. Gates address them as the public servants they are and ask for identifying information they became offended and like any alpha male needed to reestablish their dominance the only way they knew how. I understand that some people may not agree with me, but I hope they can be calm and open minded and hear the whole story before formulating an opinion.

  4. Basil: I agree that people need to keep an open mind about it. And I also agree about the complex many police officers have. At the same time, I hope you can agree that Dr. Gates’ reaction wasn’t exactly appropriate for the situation. I think both sides were wrong with the way they reacted to one another, and I also think it’s wrong for people to latch onto this situation like it’s a “typical example” of what happens.

  5. Pingback: Don’t Forget about the White People « Legal(ly) Questionable Content

  6. Hey,

    Fellow (prospective) law student blogger. I found your blog by this post, and it reminded me of a good story. You can check it out on my blog (I’ve already added you to my blog roll, you have a good one here.)

    My belated two cents on the story.

    1) There may be some people who are still part of the “old days” and think minorities are really criminals, but I’d like to think most cops today are more mature than that. I personally think a big part of racial profiling has to do with how stat driven police departments are. “You must have X number of traffic tickets each month.” “The Mayor is looking to lower the felony rate because he wants to run a campaign on crime, so make less felony arrests to keep our funding.” Depending on what “stat message” is sent to the cops in a department, I think it’s very easy to have officers look at stats of “who commits crime more frequently,” to make sure they get the stats they need. So it’s part racial, but it’s root cause could really be bureaucratic in nature.

    2) Perhaps I’m out of line on this regard, but as a white male, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when minorities won’t give YOU the time of the day because of your skin color. I know it doesn’t apply to many people, but I can personally attest to instances where people have prejudged me because I’m white and they are a minority. With Michael Vick, Roland Burris, and now Henry Gates all making the news and having the “race issues” come up is just ridiculous. Everyone always says we’ve come a long ways from Jim Crow, but our news media doesn’t act like it.

    /End Rant.

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