Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gates Incident "Just one of those things."

NPR is all over the story of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s arrest for disorderly conduct in his own home. Police were called to the scene when someone reported two black men were breaking into the home. Actually, Gates had come home from a trip, found the door stuck, and opened it with a tool. The police found him inside, asked for identification and perhaps checked it out. At some point during this process Gates became angry and was arrested. Now the black community is up in arms and every story of police overstepping their bounds is coming out. Sorry. I don't buy it. The incident is just one of those things.

Years ago I came home late at night when I was not expected. My wife did not answer the door bell, so I fumbled around to find a hidden key and let myself in. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, I heard my wife crying and looked into the bedroom. She was on the phone with the police! Her next words were, "O damn! It's my husband!"

Although the Good Witch tried to cancel the cops, a cop showed up in just a minute or two. I opened the door and let him in. He was not friendly. In fact, despite my wife's attestations, I had to prove I lived there and she had to talk to him separately and convince him that I was not holding any threat over her. The officer was very, very careful to make sure I was on the level before he would leave our home. In fact, his conduct seemed really intrusive at the time. By the next day, however, I realized that everything he did was aimed at making sure the Good Witch was safe. (However, I wasn't safe from her for a few days!)

From what I heard, Gates went through roughly the same experience I went through. It was pretty exasperating for me to have to prove myself in my own home, but I put up with it. Gates, who claimed he was very tired after a long trip, did not put up with it. I feel badly for him, but the incident was "just one of those things" - a cop trying to do his job right, and a citizen getting upset about it.

I'd be the last person to deny that black citizens get mistreated or hustled by cops. I'd also not deny that cops get a lot of crap from some black citizens. I just don't think that this incident was mistreatment. It was just one of those crazy things that happens once in awhile.


Anonymous said...

I kind of got the impression that this all happened because two jackasses ended up in the same room together.

Dave said...

Before my comment, Tom, I think you are wrong by half.

I just got done talking about this incident with my friend the Atlanta cop who I'd not seen since this started hitting the news.

My words: "He was an academic asshole." As we dissected, I said something along the lines of you don't push people with guns, you don't give a cop a hard time, until the right time, even if you're right.

There are people, black and white that have an edge to them, the "victim" here is one of them. He did nothing wrong other than looking for a confrontation which he got.

A side story, my friend the cop has to work a side job or two or three to stay above the lower middle-class. He told me a story of him working a concert last week. A baby boomer upper middle class woman who wanted to leave the venue for a minute was giving a private security guy a hard time (no return policy) and my guy wandered over. He listened to her berate the guy for awhile and then started to try to talk her down. She was having none of it. Was he a Gestapo officer, did he have some sort of agenda against peaceful people that just wanted to exercise their Constitutional rights (not that any were in question)?

There was more to the story. He perhaps had a bit more Southern charm in his dealings with the asshole Southern Belle, she stalked away muttering about him.

Same situation - I know this is three assholes in one comment - same people on the wrong side of simple problem.