black and white in black and white

The roles have been cast. Representing the left: angry black man with a chip on his shoulder. On the right: racist rogue cop. No deviating from the script, please.

But suppose — just suppose — less broad caricatures were at play in Professor Gates’ arrest. Anyone ever met a scholar with a self-righteous streak? Yeah, me too. And who hasn’t crossed paths with an an overzealous cop.

Gates was assuredly pissed that he’d locked himself out of his home, and when he learned a white woman had called the cops on him he was, understandably, more pissed.

The cop probably felt the same way once the monied academic started with the broad accusations. No one wants to be assumed a racist, and there’s no evidence to support the cop in question is (though in the broader sense, black mistrust of law enforcement is perfectly reasonable).

I’m glad the president reconsidered. Their respective track records suggest both Gates and the cop are decent enough chaps who overreacted. The cop, more so, because no laws were broken; Massachusetts’ disorderly conduct statute applies only when disturbing the public peace.

That said, it’s never a good idea to be confrontational with a cop. Considering the charges were dropped, the harm done was minimal.

Moderation is often viewed as a vice these days, and the propagandists don’t help. Rush Limbaugh wasn’t at Gates’ house, and neither was Al Sharpton. Assuming the worst usually serves their interests — not ours.

4 responses to “black and white in black and white”

  1. Thank you. I’m glad someone had the balls to say it.

    It’s shameful enough that our president makes snap accusations, but all the hipster bloggers coming out and defending a man they’ve never met and were not at the scene, who’s going to watch the watchmen now? Where is our intelligent voice? What’s the world coming to, now that our own morally high bloggers like Andisheh ( and Sara ( can’t be trusted?

    Cops are trained and trained and trained to deal with the public and we, as tax paying citizens, entrust them to keep the peace. How ignorant can a person be, thinking that you can treat cops any way you want and get away with it? You aggravate a cop, you’ll be put into cufffs. You may not be arrested, but you’ll be placed in a situation where you can calm down enough to be reasonable.

    Sometimes, I’m ashamed to be a liberal.

  2. I’m not sure why you felt the need to bring me up over here, Carlos. “Morally high blogger?” I don’t blog for Creative Loafing, and never have. I also haven’t blogged about this particular case anywhere.

    I also think you are vastly overreading the things that I wrote in the comments to that post. I wasn’t defending Gates, and in fact I think he probably did act like a jerk. But I don’t think he did anything for which he could or should be detained or arrested.

    I have also never said that I think Gates was racially profiled or that the police officer acted with racist motive. I have no idea what was in his head. I do know that the greater Boston area still harbors its fair share of racial prejudice, having lived there for 8 years. But who knows if that played a role in Crowley’s motivations or not…I certainly don’t pretend to. To me, the racial aspect is really only important in terms of how people are reacting to the story NOW. The reason that buttons are being pushed so effectively on both sides to bring up strong feelings is precisely because people still approach situations like this with their own prejudices and preconceptions.

    Here, to me, is the important question: Do you think it should be legally permissible for a cop to arrest and book you on your own property or in your own home, simply because you aggravated him or insulted him? Why do we give the police so much power that, in addition to everything else, we have to be polite and respectful in any interaction with police or risk arrest? I don’t accept that the constitution or the Mass. law at issue in this case requires that. I practiced law in Massachusetts for 5 years, and I am 100% certain that no court in the state would ever have convicted Gates of any crime based on the facts contained in that police report.

    My opinion would be the same if there were no racial aspect to the situation. If I were arrested because I told off a cop during a traffic stop in which I made no threats and had committed no crime, I would be pissed as hell about it too. And I’m white. I don’t think the police should have the power to arrest you simply because you acted like an asshole, provided you complied with their requests to produce identification or otherwise demonstrated that you were not committing the suspecetd crime for which you were being questioned. Insulting someone or accusing them of being a racist is not in and of itself a criminal act…even if the person you insult is a cop.

    I’m simply not willing to concede to police officers the power to arrest me and book me for a crime simply because they don’t like my attitude. Apparently some people are.

  3. I guess that’s where you and I differ, and that’s cool. I mean, the world would be pretty boring if everyone agreed. And you’d be out of a job, too!

  4. IH8LongCounty

    I think the newly released dispatch audio pretty well proves Crowley lied in his account of the event.

    Even if race was not a motivating factor for this officer in this incident, it is pretty obvious that he reacted to Gates (not illegal) behavior in anger and arrested him on an unrproscutable/un-winnable charge, which was subsequently dropped.

    Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to be impolite to a police officer. Gates was breaking no law and, once he provided his ID which stated he resided at the address in question, the officer should have left.

    The idea that cops deserve all the bowing and scraping, all the tugging of forelocks citizens can muster–on pain of being carted off to jail if it is not produced–is not consistent with the idea of a free society. As a native of southern California, I have seen police abuse all too frequently (and, quite honestly, I have seen it here in Georgia too). The belief that cops exist to somehow keep citizens in line, rather than to protect them, is what makes such abuse all too commonplace.

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