A minor but diverting controversy occurred when Prof. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. of Harvard University was arrested on July 16 while trying to break into his rented home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At least, that is how it was originally reported. He was actually arrested for disorderly conduct. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research at the university, is a kind of intellectual Rev. Jeremiah Wright of “God damn America” notoriety. I have read several different conflicting accounts of what happened (Gates verbally accosted Sergeant James Crowley from inside his house, on the porch of the house, Crowley was about to walk away from Gates’ loud, confrontational behavior so he could call in resolution of the investigation of a break-in until he could take it no longer, and so on), but I have concluded that if blame for the incident is to be assigned to anyone, Gates earned the full portion. He behaved like hooligan, employing street language against a man who had badge, gun, handcuffs, and authority. A rather foolish action regardless of the race of either party.
And the race of either man is immaterial. Suppose the race roles were reversed? Imagine the confrontation if a black police sergeant had to deal with a white supremacist professor in the same circumstances (this person being director of the David Ernest Duke Institute for Aryan Race and Culture Studies at Harvard). Or with a white liberal professor (chair of any department at Harvard, it won‘t matter which). The supremacist’s remarks would be unrepeatable here. The white liberal would have ranted something like, “After all I’ve done for you people, this is the thanks I get?? How dare you harass me??” You take it from there. Would you blame the sergeant for cuffing either man? Hardly.
In the first hypothetical instance, the news media would have lavished the cop with praise and excoriated the white supremacist. The second instance would have left the Fourth Estate scratching its collective head. What to do? Whom do we blame? There’s no room for bias here!
Gates did not behave like a respected university professor. Not that he should be respected. What rational person could respect a person who has made a career of exacerbating -- and even inventing -- racial conflict, and an academic career, at that? The incident could have ended if Gates had kept his mouth shut and let it go, regardless of his “feelings” of victimization. But he chose to act like a thug. He let his emotions get the best of him. He was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was shortly thereafter dropped at the apparent behest of Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, and Denise Simmons, mayor of Cambridge City, both blacks.
What makes this incident interesting are two things: President Barack Obama feeling a compulsion to say something about it, and saying something that cast aspersions on Sgt. Crowley without having the facts on hand (in tune with his advocating socialized medicine, for example, but then facts are irrelevant to him); and the news media’s treatment of the incident. Almost without exception, journalists and columnists are siding with Gates, and the siding crosses racial and gender lines. And almost without exception, while they let Gates off with a list of irrelevant or circumstantial excuses for his behavior (he’d just returned from a trip to China, he’d misplaced his keys and was upset, etc.), Crowley is subjected to psychoanalytical examination and no excuses are made for him.
Obama initially accused Crowley and the Cambridge police department of “acting stupidly” (and later back-pedaled without any gears meshing to remove himself from the imbroglio). What exactly did he mean by “acting stupidly”? It is certain that he did not mean that Crowley acted illogically or irrationally. Knowing Obama’s rhetorical sleights-of-hand, he had to have meant that it was not politically and socially pragmatic of Crowley to arrest a black man, especially not one of Gates‘ alleged importance. After all, it virtually guaranteed a bad press, regardless of the legitimacy of the arrest, and he, Obama, would need to take the side of his friend, Gates. Just how practical was that, Sergeant? You could have acted, well, uh, smartly.
(For evidence of how Obama cannot think on his feet, and cannot speak extemporaneously and make any sense without the aid of a teleprompter or excruciatingly prepared texts, see the Patriot Post here for excerpts from his remarks about Crowley and Gates.)
Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post devotes nearly a whole article, “Redemption on Tap,” to dissecting Crowley’s possible motives for arresting Gates. Late in the article, she states, “We weren’t there. We’re not mind readers.” But mind-reading was the theme of her article, and Crowley was her principal subject. Gates is exonerated with a narrative of rationalizations for his conduct.
Christopher Hitchens, writing for Slate, overlooks the whole character of the incident in “A Man’s Home is His Constitutional Castle,” and suggests that Gates should have barraged Crowley with a recitation of the Bill of Rights. This, to a man who derogates the Bill of Rights and any individual rights, and encourages racial collectivism? The Bill of Rights, after all, does not protect asinine behavior, such as verbally assaulting an officer of the law who is leaving you alone after ensuring that your property rights had not been violated by a genuine burglar.
Professor Gates: Just how dumb can you get?
It would be interesting to take this a step further and contrast the approaches of two black columnists, Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Eugene Robinson, of The Washington Post, and a Pulitzer Prize winner (for his coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign).
In his column, “Pique and the Professor” of July 28, Robinson sides with Gates, and forgives Obama for his impolitic choice of words about Crowley and the Cambridge police department. Robinson also stoops to citing irrelevancies about Gates’ behavior.
“Gates is 58, stands maybe 5-feet-7 and weighs about 150 pounds. He has a disability and walks with a cane….Crowley could see that the professor posed no threat to him.”
That was probably true, that Crowley saw no threat in Gates. But it was Gates who posed a potential threat to Crowley with his unprovoked, vitriolic outburst - which Robinson dismisses as a “fit of pique.” But then, with more assuredness than Kathleen Parker, Robinson proceeds to psychoanalyze Crowley, not Gates.
“Apparently, there was something about the power relationship involved -- uppity, jet-setting black professor vs. regular-guy, working-class white cop -- that Crowley couldn’t abide.”
This is unsupportable, and unforgivable speculation about Crowley and his motives. One supposes that the Cambridge police department maintains psychological profiles on all its personnel, but, to paraphrase Robinson, one could put money on the likelihood that Robinson had no access to it and probably would not have liked what he read in Crowley’s profile anyway. So he indulged in creative journalism. Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize ought to be recalled. But, if this is the caliber of journalism that earned Robinson the recognition, it is no wonder journalism is in the pathetic state it is in.
Thomas Sowell will never win a Pulitzer Prize. He is too objective, intellectually honest, and deep. In his nationally syndicated column of July 27, “A Post-Racial President?” he gets right to the heart of the matter, one raised by Gates himself, racial profiling. But he turns the tables on the issue and broaches the matter of what one could call “reverse racial profiling,” that is, he scores Obama, and indirectly Gates, for his past affiliations with groups that exploited race to acquire political power and influence. For Sowell, the important issue is not Gates, but the impropriety of a president uttering some stupid words about an event of whose circumstances he was ignorant.
But Sowell describes just how logical it was for Obama to intrude on the matter.
“As a state senator, Obama pushed the ’racial profiling’ issue, so it is hardly surprising that he jumped to the conclusion that a policeman was racial profiling when in fact the cop was investigating a report from a neighbor that someone [race indeterminate] seemed to be breaking into the house that Professor Gates was renting in Cambridge.”
Obama, writes Sowell, has made a career of being a “community organizer,” from his days in Chicago through the Illinois senate right up to the Oval Office. He is our Community-Organizer-in-Chief.
“What does a community organizer do? What he does not do is organize a community. What he organizes are the resentments and paranoia within a community, directing those feelings against other communities, from whom either benefits or revenge are to be gotten, using whatever rhetoric or tactics will accomplish that purpose.”
Was this not the theme of Obama’s presidential campaign? Is this not the leitmotif of his administration in every particular, from his cabinet appointments to TARP, executive pay, bank and industry takeovers, to his co-opting of a friendly news media, and socialized health care? He ought to be thanked for so obviously showing his hand -- if the preceding were not enough evidence of his malice and method-- in siding with Professor Gates, who also has made a career of organizing resentments and paranoia.