Scott Tibbs

Racial profiling or race baiting? (Part II)

By Scott Tibbs, July 27, 2009

The Henry Louis Gates case continues to generate controversy, even though Gates himself (perhaps realizing how badly this controversy is making him look in the court of public opinion) said that he thinks it is time to "move on" from the controversy he created. The controversy has generated ridiculous comments like Gates was "accused of burglarizing his own home because he was black."

That is just stupid. Gates was suspected of burglarizing the home because a woman saw him forcing his way into the home. The debacle took place at his house, where the door was malfunctioning. He made a decision to take matters into his own hands rather than call a locksmith. I imagine someone returning from a trip to Asia would be tired and wanting to get into his home as soon as possible. No crime was committed. But was it suspicious?

Of course it was suspicious. Professor Gates had been out of the country and a woman observes two men forcing their way into his home, so she calls the police. Regardless of the police officer's actions after he arrived, responding to the call is to be commended. It should be commended by Gates himself, because someone was watching out for him while he was gone and the police came to check it out. Instead, the "distinguished" Harvard professor decided to play the race card and manufacture victim status for himself.

Here is what is amusing. The police report states that after Gates was arrested and the police asked him about securing the front door, Gates told them that the door was unsecurable due to a previous break attempt at the residence. It is fascinating that Gates not only did not consider that his actions (not his race) could raise suspicions, but the fact his home had been targeted in the past could lead to extra vigilance? The next time the professor is out of the country, how enthusiastic do you think the police are going to be to respond to a report of a burglary? I certainly would not be excited about rushing to the scene.

There is no reason the situation should have escalated as much as it did. While it is reasonable for anyone to be irritated when confronted by police in their own home, Gates should have shown respect for the officer's authority rather than berating, threatening and personally attacking him. Had Gates acted like a man instead of a child, calmly explaining the situation and providing identification rather than throwing a temper tantrum, he would not have been arrested. While he may have a persecution complex, Gates is no victim.

The idea that this fiasco is a "teaching moment" is absurd. We can find hundreds of other instances of racial profiling (which does exist and is a problem) that can be used as a teaching moment and would be much more appropriate than an elitist from academia who has a problem with authority. It is clear to anyone who knows the facts - including Gates - that this case has nothing to do with racial profiling. It reminds me of the claims that the Duke lacrosse "rape" case could be used as a "teaching moment" despite the fact that Crystal Gail Mangum fabricated the whole story.

This case took another shameful turn when President Barack Obama publicly rebuked the arresting officer at a press conference. Obama should have known better. As the most powerful elected official in the world, his words carry a lot of weight and making incendiary remarks when he admits he does not have all of the facts is shameful. Obama's remarks seriously undermine the credibility of claims he made about healing racial tensions and nurturing a more civil public discourse and raise serious questions about whether his promises were ever genuine. On to Obama's remarks themselves, and his rapid backpedaling when he was criticized:
The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.
Obama admitted he did not have all the facts, and it really shows in this ignorant comment. Gates was not arrested for suspicion of burglary. Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. What is "stupid" is for the President of the United States to insult law enforcement based on an assumption that has nothing to do with the facts.
There is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.
Of course, it is more than clear by now that racial profiling has nothing to do with this case, despite the spin that race hustlers like Gates and Al Sharpton wish to put on it. The President of the United States smeared a law enforcement officer with a false allegation after admitting that he did not have all the facts. Again, if Obama is looking for something that is "stupid", this qualifies.
So, to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.
So why not apologize?
I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically -- and I could have calibrated those words differently.
Simply admitting you were wrong is a good first step, President Obama, but it is not good enough. What you need to do is apologize to Mr. Crowley for your incendiary rhetoric and uncalled for smears. If you truly believe your rhetoric about healing racial divisions, working toward a post-partisan era and nurturing a more civil public discourse, you should apologize for your words. An apology is not an easy thing to do. It takes a man to stand admit a mistake and apologize for it. As the President of the United States, you can set an example for everyone in this country by acting properly and atoning for your smears. Are you enough of a man to apologize, President Obama?

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