GATES vs. CROWLEY: RACIAL PROFILING AS I SEE IT
Speaking my mind on the recent incident in Cambridge, and my views on this controversial issue
On the surface, what happened to Henry Louis Gates, noted Harvard University scholar and an expert on racial issues, would seem like a cut-and-dry example of racial profiling: He was arrested in his home after the police were called with a report of two black men trying to break into a dwelling.
Being African American and male, and having been racially profiled more than once, including being handcuffed just a few feet from my house because I "fit the description" of a stalker, I understood Gates' view; he felt that he was being unnecessarily mistreated in his own home.
At the same time, the whole thing has seemingly turned into a he-said, he said affair; Gates saying that the policeman who arrested him had entered his home without permission and would not give him his name and badge number.
Meanwhile, James Crowley, the Cambridge, MA police sergeant who was involved, stated that Gates was the one being uncooperative and escalating the situation.
After reading stories about this from two news websites, I say that both sides were at fault in this case.
While it was understandable that Gates reacted the way he did, he could have done a better job of keeping his cool, as it's common knowledge in the African American community that black men, no matter what status level they are in, are often seen as suspects and potential criminals by the (predominantly white) authorities.
If Gates had kept his head and not been provoking - as Crowley has claimed - then the arrest would not have happened.
On the other hand, Gates claimed that Crowley was uncooperative with him by not providing what he asked for and generally being disrespectful in his view.
It seems to me that if Crowley had asked permission to enter Gates' home - which he didn't according to Gates - and had simply apologized for the inconvenience and left when Gates' identifications were produced, everything would have been squashed.
What it comes down to is a question that must be asked...
If Henry Louis Gates were white, would he have been arrested and treated the way he was?
Many whites, I reckon, would answer in the affirmative.
I, however, do not agree.
What white communities, as a whole, do not understand(though I know there are lots of whites that do) is that there has been a long history of mistreatment of blacks by white police; many cities, particularly the Boston, MA area where Gates lives, have been notorious for racism among the ranks of white cops.
African American men have been brutalized and jailed for no reason other than skin complexion throughout America's existence, the rationale being that they "fit the description" of some criminal.
This targeting of black males has continued across the country. This has particularly been the case along the nation's roads, as the term "DWB" - Driving While Black - has been a common one in recent years.
It is almost inevitable that many, if not most, black men in America would feel threatened when stopped by a white cop while doing something simple as driving to work or walking down a street. I have certainly felt that way, and will likely feel that way again if a white policeman stopped me while I was merely attending to my business.
I know that many whites feel that blacks who claim racial profiling and harassment are unnecessarily playing the race card and behaving like the boy who cried wolf. I know that in their opinion, the police are merely doing their jobs, that any racist mistreatment they may have suffered in the past is ancient history in a "post-racial" society where a black man is Commander-In-Chief, and that blacks should stop whining and just "get over it".
What those people don't get is that while law enforcement is obligated to be equal, impartial, and without bias in their dealings, it rarely has been - or is - as long as there have been police and black people in these United States.
Putting it in a different way - how many white males have been handcuffed and harassed in a predominantly black neighborhood for "looking suspicious"? How many have been stopped on a street or highway for "Driving While White"? And how many white men have been accosted, beaten, and called racial epithets by cops for no other reason except for the color of their skin?
If there is even one while man who has experienced any of the above things, I would absolutely love to meet him.
As for Gates, while he could have taken a calmer approach in his interactions with Crowley, he shouldn't shoulder the entire blame in this incident.
When any ethnic group has been treated the way African American men have been treated by law enforcement for as long as it has, it's nearly impossible to simply "get over it" and forget such history. Not when it continues to happen.
Most blacks who are stopped by police while having done nothing wrong will feel as if they are unnecessarily attacked, harassed, and profiled.
That is the essential point that needs to be made here.
All that I'm asking is that whites try to understand the black point of view in this issue.
Perhaps then some real dialogue would result from all of this. Or even a solution.