Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

National Guard Mobilized, Joint Session of Congress Called, President Obama Declares National Emercency as the Henry Louis Gates Jr Crisis Spins Out of Control

with 7 comments


At this point I think the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest has gotten about a trillion times as much media attention as it deserves. In fact I honestly can’t think of a situation where the media attention was so disproportionate to the topic at hand. And I’m not talking about racism, which is an important topic. I’m talking about a trivial altercation between a cop and a professor, and altercation where everyone involved from the President on down could have handled better.

So I’ll start with the president. He’s already back-tracked on his regrettable first reaction to the situation, calling the cops “stupid.” It’s nice to see Obama is human, everyone occasionally says off-the-cuff things that they regret the second the words have left their mouth. What really angered me though was this bit of Presidential wisdom about the professor’s encounter: “But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; … ” First of all, some of us do not get angry when confronted by a policeman who is doing his job. I’ve been confronted by the police on numerous occaisions, some of them completely unjustified, and I have never felt particularly angry about it. Secondly, and more importantly, so fucking what? Because the professor was angry it justifies him acting like a jerk? I’m sorry, but “I was angry” isn’t a defence in any situation. Grown-ups are supposed to act mature in difficult situations, not have hissy fits. Granted sometimes people do act stupid when they are angry, but it’s not a defence. That the president has given credence to one of the most abused rationalizations for bad behaviour ever is at best pathetic.

Then we come to the two jokers who started this mess. Yes, two jokers. It seems very clear to me that if either the cop or the professor had acted in a  calm, professional, and diplomatic manner … this incident would have been defused in no time and that would have been that. Instead, one confrontational jerk met another, and the whole situation snowballed out of control. And the reason I know both of them are confrontational jerks is simple, neither of them has given an inch afterwards. I’m sorry, but when one gets involved in a stupid situation like this, a grown-up is at least prepared to admit partial responsibility for the role they played in the mess. Instead we have a cop who refuses to apologize, and a professor who carried on like he was some victim of horrible injustice. No, he had a stupid confrontation with a cop and got arrested, it happens every day, racism had nothing to do with it.

I even took the trouble to ask a black friend what he thought. His thoughts echoed my own, he thought both parties involved acted badly. If either party had been more diplomatic and non-confrontational, the situation would have been dealt with in no time. He added that a lot of his black friends do indeed get hostile and confrontational when dealing with cops … and have a lot of problems as a result. He just found it hard to believe that someone as old and educated as the professor could do the same thing. I mean, if a black person acts like every cop they meet is the living embodiment of white oppression, they are going to have problems with the police. People are human, if you give them attitude, most of them will give it back.

In closing, at least the President is now doing what adults do in situations like this, he’s insisting the two parties shake hands and make up. Good, that’s  how immature  playground fights should be handled. If there’s any lesson to be learnt in this situation, it’s my favourite old adage: “It takes two fools to have a fight.”

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s a low-resolution version of the original image, it’s an historically important image, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Stanley Forman for The Boston Herald American. It’s titled “The Soiling of Old Glory” and is a 1977 Pulitzer Prize winning photo of an incident during a protest against court ordered busing. I chose it because it’s kind of an intense image, it shows a race riot, and to illustrate how un-American this sort of dispute really is. And in closing, if I angered anyone with this post, good. If I offended anyone, it was not intentional, and I apologize.)


Written by unitedcats

July 25, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Crime, Obama, Politics

7 Responses

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  1. Have you ever been accosted by police in your own home? I think you are correct that everyone could have handled themselves better, but to suggest that the primary fault was Prof. Gates when he was arrested AFTER producing proof of his identity and there was no question as to his ownership of the property, and he was asked to step outside and talk. He made a rude comment at that point, which he probably should not have made, but it was not disorderly conduct and the arrest was therefore completely unjustified. Police are supposed to be professional, and if they cannot handle a little bit of verbal abuse when they are inside someone’s house who doesn’t want them there, without making false arrests, there is a problem. There is no law that requires you to be polite.

    Mike Goldman

    July 25, 2009 at 9:06 pm

  2. Granted, I haven’t had a cop accost me in my home, but if I did, I would be polite and cooperative.

    However, in this situation, the cop was simply doing his job to accost the professor in his home. I man, the cop literally was there to protect the professor’s property. Why be rude and hostile to a cop who is there on your behalf? I mean, isn’t it a citizen’s job to cooperate with law enforcement when they are carrying out their duties?

    In any event, I completely agree, the arrest was unjustified. I did not mean to imply that the professor was “primarily at fault.” If forced to assign blame, I’d say the cop was 60% at fault.

    Nonetheless I maintain that both parties share some responsibility for this imbroglio.


    July 25, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  3. It’s easy to say how polite and cooperative you would be in a situation you haven’t encountered, and without the context of being a black man who is constantly treated as suspicious by police on account of your skin color. Race is a factor here, no doubt about it. Relations are not what they could be, and I am glad that Barack Obama has extended an offer to host the two of them for a beer and a chat.

    Mike Goldman

    July 25, 2009 at 10:27 pm

  4. The Cop’s have a major attitude problem these days. The US is militarizing the domestic police force, and the attitude against civilians is that of an occupied land.

    Wake up and smell the coffee folks. This is NOT a blacks vs white issue AT ALL! Blacks and whites need to work TOGETHER to stop this. Do not let this get disguised by Big brother as a racial event.

    The cops are getting military equipment too, to back up their ‘occupier’ attitude. Every cop in America has a machine gun in their car now… are you any ‘safer’ ?



    July 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

  5. “There is no law that requires you to be polite”
    -True, but their are such things as human decency, morality and self control.

    “being a black man who is constantly treated as suspicious by police”
    -that’s not a little bit paranoid.

    “The US is militarizing the domestic police force, and the attitude against civilians is that of an occupied land”
    -uh, maybe you should visit an “occupied land” and see what its really like, maybe take a nice vacation to a militarized country in Africa or spend a few days in in the west bank, gain a little perspective.

    So Doug writes a post on how to behave like an adult, use self restraint and basically not act like a complete ass, and these are the responses he generates? Doug, thanks for at least trying to analyze the issue with some common sense and decency.

    Josh V.

    July 26, 2009 at 9:21 am

  6. Josh, what should the penalty be when a black man disrespects a white police officer in his home? Do you believe he deserved to be arrested? He was asked to step outside to talk, and told the officer, apparently, “I’ll talk to your mother outside.” I bet his mother’s heard all about this case by now.

    But maybe a false arrest and imprisonment for several hours wasn’t enough for you? Maybe a lynching would be your preference?

    Mike Goldman

    July 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

  7. Josh, nobody should be dragged out of their home for having an ‘attitude’ (its called free speech)..

    I guess a good demeaning ‘booking’ was in order for this homeowner, right? That will teach ’em, right?


    July 26, 2009 at 12:19 pm

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