Friday, July 24, 2009

Keeping racial divides intact

I tried to ignore this story for a long time. Since I haven't been writing as much as I used to, I thought maybe this article should be about Obama's shady health care pipe dream or the absurd Jeremy Mayfield saga out of NASCAR. However, the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Gates has really struck a nerve with me. And I'll say that I'm tackling a very difficult subject that no one can truly fully understand. I just think with common sense, and I think that's the best thing people can do in this world.

The short version of the story is that Gates, upon arriving from out of town, was having difficulty entering his home in Cambridge, Mass. and appeared to be breaking into the home. The police were called to investigate, and according to reports, Gates, who is black, immediately became irate with officers and began hurling charges of racism almost upon contact. He showed the officers his driver's license, but refused to cooperate or calm down. He was then arrested for disorderly conduct.

Where the real story begins, is when Mr. Gates began telling his story to his prominent friends-- Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and President Obama.

Despite hearing only their friend's account of the story, both men immediately issued public comments, decrying the treatment of their friend and jumping to conclusions.

"(This incident is) every black man's nightmare and a reality for many black men." Patrick said.

His buddy, the President, added that "The Cambridge police acted stupidly..."

Fair enough. I get it. You're sticking up for your friend. I don't blame Barack or Deval for that. I do however have a problem with them making this a racial issue.

What about the fact that this Officer Crowley, the arresting officer is a very respected member of the police force?

"Numerous police officers, including African-Americans, have spoken up on Crowley's behalf and portrayed him as a good and fair officer. Crowley, who is white, had once been chosen by a black police officer to teach a police academy course on ways to avoid racial profiling." (

That doesn't sound like a racist to me... Sounds like a stiff guy that goes by the book.

Henry Gates is a prominent genealogist and African-American scholar. He's into it... hardcore. He is also the Editor-In-Chief of , a black online newspaper owned by The Washington Post.

This is from The Root's "About Us" section:

The Root is a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today's news from a variety of black perspectives. The site also hosts an interactive genealogical section to trace one's ancestry through, a DNA testing site co-founded by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is also The Root's Editor-In-Chief. The Root aims to be an unprecedented departure from traditional American journalism, raising the profile of black voices in mainstream media and engaging anyone interested in black culture around the world.

I will not pretend to know what it is like to be an African-American, because I have no idea. All I can do is try to understand where they're coming from and base an opinion on what I do know.

What I do know is that there are racists throughout the world, but most people are not. Those involved in movements such as Gates are extremely passionate about their cause, but seem to utilize what I perceive to be as a blame game very regularly.

It's the reverse cycle trace.

Man X (who happens to be black) is arrested by police for a crime or lawful suspicion of a crime.

Now begins the reverse cycle trace.

He was arrested by racist white police because of his skin color, but it wasn't all his fault because he grew up in a bad neighborhood full of drugs and crime, and wasn't given any opportunities because of societal oppression... and so on... all the way back to the heinous abomination of slavery.

I'm not saying all of this is not partially legitimate. Unfortunately, Lord knows that it is. Those who grow up in those types of situations certainly haven't received the opportunities in life that I have... I get that.

But at some point, people must take responsibilities for their actions and their own lives.

Mr. Gates was detained because he was yelling and screaming absurd accusations at police officers who were simply trying to do their jobs. These guys see enough stuff on a day to day basis to not take any chances.

Gates reportedly yelled things at the officers like, "(You) have no idea who (you're) was 'messing' with!" And when asked to come outside the home, "I'll speak with your mama outside. And generally "...exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior."

I wasn't there, just like President Obama wasn't, so I cannot totally say what happened there that night. I can say however that Mr. Gates is probably not the biggest fan of white people.

The following are quotes from Mr. Gates from an interview with Jane Slaughter of The Progressive. It appears in vol. 62 in 1998.

Affirmative action to me is reparations for sexism, reparations for racism. But it's being dismantled. That's scary, and it's depressing. And the most depressing aspect is that a black man is the swing vote on these issues often--that's Clarence Thomas. It really pisses me off, and you can quote me. His attitude [toward the liberals, feminists, and black intellectuals who opposed his nomination] is, "You messed with me, and you didn't kill me. You should have killed me. Now I'm going to kick your ass forever."

What you want is a level playing field. Once you're in there, you want the same privileges, the same opportunities as the white boys.

He continues on:

"It's like [the white male elite] was hibernating for a few decades, and they woke up one day, they walked into a room, and they go, "God, how'd these women get in here, how'd these black people get in here? We're gonna shake the tree and all of y'all that can hold on to those branches, you're welcome to stay. But ain't no more of you gonna get in, and if you fall down, your ass is going back to where it was y'all came from."

If he said these things during Bill Clinton's presidency, imagine what he was saying during 8 years of Dubya and Cheney.

I have no problem with Gates and his black legitimacy movement. I actually encourage it. Our American society can only become stronger if the African-American community continues to improve.

I just don't like the methods. Promoting blame and making societal excuses and declarations is no way to empower people. If anything Gates is a proponent of dependency and reckless assumptions.

I like the Bill Cosby method myself:

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: "Why you ain't," "Where you is," "What he drive," "Where he stay," "Where he work," "Who you be." And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.

Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living.

People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids, $500 sneakers for what? And they won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'

I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? Or who is his father?

People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something? Or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body?

What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.

Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. People used to be ashamed. Today a woman has eight children with eight different 'husbands' -- or men, or whatever you call them now. We have millionaire football players who cannot read. We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs. We, as black folks, have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal-Mart with seven kids, you are hurting us. We have to start holding each other to a higher standard.

We cannot blame the white people any longer."
--Bill Cosby, 2004

Obviously, there is racism in our society. Everyone is guilty of passing judgment on someone because of their appearance at one time or another; it is simply human nature. It is what you do with those perceptions and actions that makes you a positive or negative force on this world. It is surely a complex issue that will never fully be worked out, but incidents like this are assisting in keeping racial divides intact.

And that, is just plain wrong.

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