Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I swear to you that I don’t always write about racial stuff. I promise.  But tonight I do.  I feel awkward doing so while listening to Elvis Costello.  It just doesn’t feel right.

  1. Race probably did have something to do with the fact that the police were called.
  2. He never should have been arrested.  Uncalled for and unnecessary.
  3. You don’t yell at policemen.  Period.  Unless you’re calling for help.  (I’ve seen officers menace and stare down a kid for calling them with “Hey you!” instead of something more respectful.  He was a white kid, too.)  You don’t antagonize policemen.  When they ask or tell you to do something, it is in everyone’s best interest to comply.  Or at least to decline in a calm, respectful fashion if you have to.  You only push it so far.Showing your ID is par for the course.  It’s the basis of every interaction with the police.  I don’t care if you’re offended that you’re being asked, you show it.  Or if you’re feeling lucky, like I said, you calmly decline.  And then be willing to deal with the consequences.
  4. Prof. Gates was offended, angry and felt persecuted so he reacted viscerally.  Legacy reaction.  Old school hurt.

In a sense it was a self-fulfilling expectation.

Even if it were straight up racism with epithets on the officer’s part, which it was NOT from what I understand, but even if it had been, you don’t fly off the handle and get combative with people that have authority and guns, tasers, pepper spray and batons.

You do NOT escalate the situation.  You can not assume that the other party will not escalate the situation as well.

You maintain your dignity and composure and pursue a course of action that fits the situation.  If you need to report the officer you do so.  If you want to get the badge number and name or car number, you ask like the Professor did.  I don’t know the rules for that.  But then you observe as well.

If every black man — or every poor man for that matter — got loud and confrontational whenever they felt they were being racially profiled … there’d be a lot less of us around.

It’s rough, black men.  I know.  But still.  DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL!

Oscar Grant

If you wonder how or why a black man would react like Prof. Gates did, I’d like you to watch this video.  The experience of certain communities with police officers is not amicable.  There’s a lot of mistrust because there has been a lot of abuse and injustice.

No one is perfect, okay.  I’m not going to try to idealize anyone.

This is as bad as it gets.  The crowd was rowdy.  There’s another video where some of the guys walk up to the police.  In this situation?  Not cool.  Cops manhandle people.  It’s within their procedure.  You do what you have to (within limits) to control a situation and a person.  It can be excessive, can easily cross the line to abusive, and it pisses people off to watch someone be treated like s—.

Just watch it.  It’s disturbing, though.  It’s not dramatic like on TV or the movies.  That makes it even more troublesome.

Senseless.  This is what black people are afraid of and pissed off about.  About 50 years ago?  This kind of thing could happen at will.  About 80 years ago?  They would take a young black man like Oscar Grant and hang him from a tree limb.  White folks would bring their children to watch a black man have his neck snapped and suffocate at the end of a noose,  y’know.  I saw a photo where white people were having a picnic under a tree where a dead black man was hanging.

The tension, frustration and rage come from more than a few generations of that.  And then something like this happens in 2009.  A young black man, unarmed, not violent, pinned to the ground and is shot in the back and subsequently dies.

The immediate response of the officers?  Handcuff Oscar Grant and then try to confiscate people’s cameras and cell phones.

It opens wounds.

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