Monday, July 20, 2009

I Know How This Movie Ends

When I talk to a friend of mine, we always comment on the fact that as we get older it seems like we can predict the future.

Not for ourselves, but for others. Whether it be the young girl with the overdeveloped body and the undeveloped mind, or the young brother who thinks that respect is something that other people control. It might be the older sister who loves to talk about her independence, or the old head who thinks the club is still a great place to visit on the weekend. Too often it's like we're trapped in a bad movie that we already know the end of, but that we're forced to watch over and over again.

I guess you could say hell looks a lot like Groundhog Day.

Well, this story gave me the same feeling.

I've written about this too many times to remember. Racial profiling, the relationship between black folks and the police, just black life in America in general. These are all frequent discussion points on this blog, and at times I feel like I've lost the ability to write anything new about the topics.

Yet, I still must press on. In fact, when a renowned Harvard professor like Henry Louis Gates is a victim of racial profiling, we must say something. These things must be documented and discussed. We must ask questions about why a college professor was arrested at his home for allegedly breaking into that home. We must question why the police can arrest anybody for being "tumultuous."

One man's tumultuous is another man's righteous indignation. I know that if the cops decided to arrest me at my home for breaking into that home, despite me showing identification and other paperwork, well I might be a little tumultuous. Matter of fact, I'd be royally pissed that I was being disrespected by the police and my neighbors who reported me as a suspicious person.

Yet, when you're a black man in America you're expected to have an amazing tolerance for slights like these. You're expected to eschew anger in favor of patience and reconciliation. You're supposed to be a bloodless automaton who reacts perfectly to every situation no matter what the cost.

I've seen that movie and I don't like it. Those expectations are an unbearable weight that contributes to the fact that most black men don't live past 67. We are forced to assume positions and roles that would cripple lesser men, and then we are reamed out for failing to live up to these lofty requirements.

The comments beneath the story show the true expectations of a certain segment of the American public. They want black men, rather black people, to shut up about discrimination and racism. They want us to stop playing the victims even as we are victimized. In truth, they want us to know our roles, and shut our mouths.

It's a crazy life.

Pretty predictable as well.



Mr. Noface said...

I saw the title of the article and I knew it was another case of a man arrested while being black after 5pm. My outrage fizzled into resignation as I read the article. It's like the reruns from one of your favorite sitcoms. You know the jokes so well that you can say the punch lines before the actual characters do.

Deacon Blue said...

Saw one comment on Facebook about this that we need a new term to add onto the pile now...

Residing While Black.

All I know is that I was swearing and going on while trying to get my defective key to work, no one would call the police on me. Hell, no one calls the police when the neighbors have a class five hurricane level verbal altercation in the wee hours that can be heard all the way down the street.

Big Man said...

The two accounts of what happened, one by the police, the other by gates, are very different. I don't know for sure who is lying and who is telling hte truth, but I do know that the assumption that the police automatically are telling the truth is not based in reality.

Jazzy said...

I smell a lawsuit!

Deacon Blue said...

Frankly, I'm still wondering how the neighbor who called the police was so surprised to see an old black guy over there...she never noticed him before? Especially given that, if I understand correctly, she does fundraising for Harvard and in part of the Harvard Magazine staff.

Frankly, with the supposed report that two black men with backpacks were breaking in (????), finding a single older black man with ID showing that he belonged there should have meant police leaving scene, no matter how crotchety Gates might have been in refusing to step out on his porch or whatever else the police have claimed so far.

Whitney B. said...

I just heard that the Cambridge pigs dropped the charges. The reason being, of course, that Mr. Gates got one of his powered Negro buddies to lawyer-up for him and they began a quakin' in their little black booties.

Damn, too bad. Hope he sues 'em for defamation of character. I would bet this man does not appreciate all the press this is generating.

Man, the bigots (racists) are having a field day with this one, almost as bad as Michael Jackson. I worry that the Supremists are planning some type of race war in one of the major metro areas.

Big Man said...


I wouldn't be too worried. said...

Hi there!

Are black men surprised that they are criminalized? Really are they? If they aren't surprised by it then why are they still acting outraged when it happens??

Clearly they haven't read my post about "The Annihilation of Black Men".... {yawn}

The arrest-a-brotha-for-being-black game is just psychological warfare for sport...


Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!


temple3 said...

I had a discussion with a friend last night about this. His position was that he wouldn't have done anything to antagonize the police because his priority would have been to remain out of jail.

I simply said that you can't look at this through the lens of a young man who rents. You have to look at this thru the lens of an older man who owns -- and who just got off a long, tiring flight from half way around the world.

With all that has been said and that hasn't been said, it seems to me that this EVENT turned on the question of respect. In fact, I don't see this as a pure case of racial profiling. In other words, the police didn't respond to the call because Gates is black. The call wasn't placed because Gates is black. The call was placed because he was actually breaking into his home. He was observed by someone who could not be expected to prioritize seeing his face or even recognizing him.

The police came and didn't enter with guns blazing. But here is where it turns.

Gates clearly wanted the ID of the police officer because the officer said or did something that Gates deemed to be over the line. I believe the officer must have known he crossed the line and therefore declined to properly identify himself. Police are required to identify themselves -- and he consciously chose not to do so.

Gates was not arrested for B&E. He was essentially arrested for embarassing a police officer in front of his peers. That's not "racial profiling." That's an abuse of power that police routinely subject people to.
Police certainly take more shit from people whom they deem to be their bosses -- ie., "true citizens" who pay taxes -- not pseudo or federal citizens created by an amendment to the Constitution (that means you/us negroes).

So, the CPD dropped the charges because they were bullshit charges. And, it's likely they'll have to pay. Arresting someone because you're pissed off that they demand you do what the law requires you to do is a problem. Ogletree can bring the hammer if he so chooses.

We'll see how it plays out. Nonetheless, from where I'm sitting, the "profiling" isn't the issue so much as it is the fact that police will take shit from white folks (talking back, fighting, etc.) that they absolutely will not take from black folks. These are power dynamics that occur not because of our PROFILE but because of their insecurity/identity issues.

Big Man said...


I agree wholeheartedly with your point about the insecurity/identity issues.

temple3 said...

Man, you're ICON is really, really ANGRY and REALLY, REALLY BLACK!!


Raving Black Lunatic