Up to now I have purposely avoided this whole disorderly conduct arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for a number of reasons.
First reason being that compared to the other cases I’ve written about here and elsewhere, this is a very minor case of police misconduct. I have yet to read or hear any reports that Mr. Gates was roughed up even a little bit.
Second, Mr. Gates seems like a real ass. Gates seems to be someone who has a chip on his shoulder and apparently views the world in black and white (i.e. if the police as much as ask a question, s/he is a racist!). A woman saw 2 men trying to break into Gate’s home; unbeknownst to the woman, one of the men was the resident of the home. The woman even said as much on the 911 call:
“I don’t know what’s happening. … I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in…”
Now some people are calling her a racist for making the call to the police to begin with!
Third, like President Obama, I “don’t have all the facts” but unlike the president, I’m not going to say definitively that the police “acted stupidly.” There are no videos that documented the encounter and I wasn’t there so I cannot make a judgment as to who acted stupidly or to what degree. My best guess, based on what I have read about the case, is that both Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley acted inappropriately and overreacted.
So why have I decided to weigh in now you ask? I think the reason has to do mostly with the fact that this story won’t go away and with so much commentary in the MSM, talk radio, and the blogosphere, I can’t help but offer my 2 cents because certain aspects of this saga trouble me.
I am troubled that this case has turned into a race issue. This was not a case where a white police officer pulled over a black man for DWB. The police responded to a 911 call of a possible break in. This is what the police are supposed to do!
I am troubled that the president would make a public statement without knowing more about the facts of the case. For whatever reason, President Obama thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to opine about the historically troubled relationship between racial minorities and the police. Whether or not the president has a legitimate case to make, this case is not what I would consider a good example of the police racial profiling. What he should have said was something like: “Mr. Gates is a friend of mine but I don’t know all the facts; it would be inappropriate for me to comment about this case at this time.”
I am troubled that (apparently) the police did not leave Mr. Gates home once he identified himself as the home’s rightful resident, thus proving no crime had been committed.
I am troubled with how the police can apparently arrest someone for disorderly conduct for just about any reason they wish. While I do believe that Mr. Gates acted like an ass…since when is that a crime? Sure, he yelled some nasty things at the police when he should have been thanking them for investigating what appeared to be an unlawful break in, but how is making his displeasure known to the police disorderly conduct? I believe Doug is right: arresting Gates in this case was an unconstitutional voilation of his civil rights.
I am troubled by the way certain commentators such as Glenn Beck have gone off the deep end on Obama’s handling of this case, even going as far as calling the president a racist. I didn’t like it when people called Bush a racist and I don’t like it when people call Obama a racist*. That is a hell of a nasty charge to make of anyone (and if one does make that charge, they should have some damn good proof). Like I said before, Obama mishandled this situation but to say he is racist for commenting on race relations with the police (however inappropriate in using this case as an example) is a bridge too far.
I am troubled that other commentators say that because Obama said that the police “acted stupidly” that this is a slap in the face to police officers everywhere…as if he called all police officers stupid. What complete nonsense. I think its worth pointing out that Obama called the actions of the police stupid; he did not call the police stupid. This is a very important distinction. Even the most intelligent, honest, and morally upstanding individual acts stupidly at times. Not even college professors, police officers, or world leaders are immune from this.
Yes, this is indeed a teaching moment. Its just too bad that too many people seem to be learning the wrong lessons.