Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gates arrested; Obama complains

Let me see if I've got this straight - a man breaks into a house. Police arrive and want to know what's up with that. Fact is, it is a black man. In Chicago.* Fact is police tend to take an interest when anyone is seen breaking into a house.

But that's not the part that Obama is calling "stupid". No, it's the fact that the police arrested this man who just broke into a house. From the reported story, it sounds like Gates initially refused to show ID, and got a little defensive with police, accusing them of being "racist".

Again, let me review the facts. (Arrest report here. It's insightful.) A man breaks into a house and is seen - not sure by whom. Police are called. They show up and confront the person they find in the house. Now think about it: How are they to know that this person is the owner of the house and lives there. The only evidence that they have is that this guy was reported having broken into this house. Owners don't generally do that.

Yes, we've all forgotten our keys and had to resort to extreme measures. But if you've just broken into your own house, you know - you know - that you've just done something that could look suspicious. If the police show up, a little humility and humor would go a long way. "Yes officer, I just had to break into my own house. Forgot my keys." And then the next part would be crucial to defusing the situation: "Here, let me grab my wallet and show you my ID that has my address and my picture on it."

The police would have seen his picture, checked the address. They would have seen the sheepish, borderline embarrassed look of a person who's just gotten caught doing something very human, and the whole thing would have been over. "Thanks for coming out, officer." It doesn't sound like this is what Gates did. Instead, this personal friend to the president and Harvard scholar thought that the police should have simply believed him with deference and left - by following proper police procedure which they would have done for any color man Gates retorted was that the officer was a racist.

CNN is running their "Black in America". Guess what. Being black in America means that you have to live by the same rules and endure the same discomforts that the rest of us do. That includes the requirement to be humble and compliant when police confront you after you break into a house.

Final observation: Had this man who broke into Gate's house not been Henry Louis Gates Jr., scholar and owner of this house -- had it instead been a white guy coming to steal his TV, and had police come out and simply taken his word that this was his house. What then would Obama had said? Would the police still have been accused of "racism" for leaving the white guy there? Would they (properly) have been called "stupid" for having not followed proper police procedure and allowing a thief to run free in Gate's house? Of course. Fact is, the police had to insist that Gate show them identification to prove that he lived and owned that house because that was police procedure. They need proof that this was not an illegal situation.

If you actually read the arrest report it is very obvious that the police officer was ambushed and immediately "race baited" by a belligerent Gates. I've seen this. I've experienced this. Gates acted arrogantly and improperly. He deserved to be arrested. Obama, by defending him, deserves to be criticized. While there are many examples of racial inequity in America, this is not one of them. Instead this is simply bad behavior by an arrogant Harvard scholar who thought he was above the law and should be treated with deference due to his connections and position. Were this a white guy doing the same to a black man the outcry would be deafening.

Update: Cosby aka, used to be funny weighs in. BTW, He makes a lot of sense, though his "defense" of the President speculates too much.
Update: Whitehouse to People: Er, what The President meant was...
Update 7/24: HuffPo covers it. It's surprising to Obama that this is exploding like this. Naw, ya stepped in it dude, er, Mr. President Dude, Sir.
Update: CNN Editorial: She gives good insights drawn from both her experience and academic background into the situation law enforcement finds themselves in.

I imagine Obama was, as reported, very surprised at the reaction. He never imagined that we'd react to his reaction in the way we have. And here I thought it was usually the V.P. that steps in poo.

*(I actually tried to find crime statistics by race. I found crime statistics. A Crime Risk Index was illuminating, showing how much above the national average many of the categories of crimes were, including robbery. I also found a breakdown of the Chicago crime by many factors (I'm sure Boston stats could be found too). Race was not one of them. It seems that some feel that the collection and publishing of crime statistics by race is a form of racism. I would disagree. Facts are facts. If the common racist misconception that black men commit a disproportionate amount is crime is wrong, publish the data proving this.)

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