Henry Louis Gates, confirmer of racial stereotypes
At VFR it never rains but it pours. Earlier today I wrote about a young white woman, interviewed in Craig Bodeker’s remarkable film, A Conversation about Race, who said that her negative association of blacks with loudness was a symptom of the “white culture … the white racist culture” in which she had been raised and which had taught her that loudness was objectionable. As I put it, what she was really saying was that “because she objects to loudness, and because blacks tend to be loud, the dislike of loudness is a racist feeling and must be eliminated.”
It would have been most interesting to see how this exemplary young lady would have reacted had she, instead of Police Sergeant James Crowley, been called to Black Studies Professor Henry Louis Gates’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts last Thursday to investigate a reported break-in. A white woman in the neighborhood had called the police when she saw two young black men apparently forcing their way through the front door of the house. As soon as Officer Crowley arrived and got to the front door, he encountered, standing inside the door, none other than Gates, who instantly began yelling at him in an extremely loud voice that he was a “racist police officer.” Instead of defusing the situation by cooperating with the officer, who was, after all, only doing his job, instead of simply explaining politely that he lived in the house and that his house had not been broken into (though it’s still not clear who the two young men were), Gates continued his “tumultuous,” threatening (“you don’t know who I am, you’ll be sorry for messing with me”), and extremely insulting behavior for a long time, first inside the house, where his voice was so loud that the officer could not conduct a conversation over his police radio, then outside the house, alarming passersby, until, after warning Gates twice that he was behaving disorderly, Crowley arrested him. And during the whole time Gates kept bellowing that Crowley was a “racist police officer.”
Also, from early on in the incident, Officer Crowley repeatedly began to leave Gates’s house, but Gates stopped him, insisting that Crowley first tell him his name. But each time Crowley gave his name, Gates kept shouting so loudly that he couldn’t hear the officer’s answer. And when Crowley would again start to leave the house, Gates would again demand his name.
Gates’s behavior, in short, was a hyped up version—hyped up by his supreme sense of self-importance—of the behavior of low-level blacks, like the one I saw get arrested once on Broadway in my neighborhood. The fellow had started hassling two police officers who were standing by their car, getting in their faces and bothering them, refusing to stop when they told him to. This went on for several minutes until the officers finally put cuffs on him. And what happened next? The man began crying in an aggrieved voice that the police were arresting him because he was black.
See Officer Crowley’s detailed, objective, clearly written report, in pdf. There’s a good deal more in it than I’ve told you. [Note: The document I originally linked was removed from the Boston Globe site, as discussed here. Fortunately, readers have found another copy of the document stored at the Globe site which apparently the Globe’s thought police failed to expunge. I’ve saved a permanent copy of the document here.]
And now see the way today’s Boston Globe plays the story:
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.The article continues on in that vein, alluding only in the briefest manner to Gates’s actual behavior that got him arrested. In the comments section below the article, outraged commenters repeatedly state that to arrest a man in his own home for disorderly conduct, to “drag him out of his house in handcuffs,” as one commenter puts it, showed obvious police racism. In fact, Gates was arrested outside his home.
This is what it’s like living in a society with a chronically enraged black population. Inevitably in life there are misunderstandings. Rational people behave rationally and fix them up. Irrational blacks with permanent chips on their shoulders against “racist white society” begin screaming “racist police” and create a situation where there was none.
But maybe it’s Officer Crowley’s fault after all for finding Gates’s behavior so intolerable that he finally arrested him. If Crowley had understood the lesson given by the girl in Craig Bodeker’s film, that it’s the white culture in which he, Crowley, grew up that views disorderly behavior as objectionable and has laws against it, thus producing a disparate arrest impact on blacks, he would have had the wisdom to overcome his anti-disorderly behavior stereotype and refrain from arresting Gates, and all would have been well.
Roland D. writes:
“But maybe it’s Officer Crowley’s fault after all for finding Gates’s behavior so intolerable that he finally arrested him.”LA replies:
As I remember (I don’t have the pdf with the police report open at the moment), the suspected breakers-in were described as two young black men wearing back packs. So it wasn’t Gates breaking in. But the breakers-in are not referred to again in the report, so we don’t know who they were.Taffy writes:
Gates is, and always has been, a particularly disgusting specimen. And BO has emboldened them all.“As I remember (I don’t have the pdf with the police report open at the moment), the suspected breakers-in were described as two young black men wearing back packs. So it wasn’t Gates breaking in. But the breakers-in are not referred to again in the report, so we don’t know who they were.”
This makes me even more certain the event was staged. Gates’ neighbors would presumably have recognized him, or at least given an older man alone more benefit of the doubt—but seeing two young men whom they’d never before seen apparently attempting to break into a house in the neighborhood, they were much more likely to call the police.
My guess is that Gates enlisted the two younger men to create a provocation, and then had them skedaddle, once he was certain that someone had noticed and called the police. He was then all set to begin his ‘racism’ shuck.
“Also, Roland described himself as a ‘Caucasian male.’ I used my editorial prerogative to change it to ‘Caucasian man.’”
A fair point. ;
That’s a very interesting theory. At first glance it seems implausible, but the strange appearance/disappearance of the two young men makes it more plausible. Also, the instantaneity of Gates’s rage—he began accusing the officer of singling him out as a “black man in America” before the officer had done or said anything, while he still standing outside Gates’s front door—would seem to support the scam theory. At the same time, however, the rage seems so overwrought and extreme that it’s hard to imagine that it was manufactured. But Gates is a very unpleasant character, a man with a huge, barely concealed racial chip on his shoulder, and I wouldn’t put anything past him.LA continues:
But according to the AP, “Gates had forced his way through the front door because it was jammed, his lawyer said.” This would make the set-up theory less likely. But the woman said it wsa two young men with knapsacks, and Gates apparently is disabled, needing a cane to walk. So, if the thing was a set-up, the lawyer’s story about Gates being the one who broke in would be part of it.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 20, 2009 11:27 PM | Send