Okay, I know I haven’t had a lot to say lately, or what I have had to say didn’t seem worth blogging about. But this “headline” (Black scholar’s arrest raises profiling questions) caught my eye, in part because I live near Boston and have actually met Gates, and in part because it made my stomach turn and my eyes roll.
Gates has done a lot of amazing work on racial relations, and he hosted an amazing documentary about slavery in which he examined the role of African tribal leaders in the slave trade. He also knows Oprah. He is highly respected, and should be (um, not for knowing Oprah).
However (you knew there was a “but” coming, right?), this makes zero sense to me. If I were locked out of my apartment and someone called the police, and I was inside when they got here, I would not begin screaming that they are profiling me because I am a woman. I would be grateful that they responded promptly and explain that I had locked myself out; I would then produce whatever documentation they required to prove that I was who I am and that I do indeed live here. The last thing that would occur to me is that they thought I were guilty of some crime, particularly as I know I am not. So I’d give them i.d., produce a utility bill with my name and address on it, and answer whatever questions they asked. Why on earth wouldn’t you? And why on earth would you take it as a racial affront that the police have to check into a call about a potential break-in?
Okay, I don’t have any experience being a black person in America, and I’m the first to tell you this. But I do have experience as a citizen, and I do know that the police will check out calls like this . . . whether to lurker is black, white, or whatever. I think that this is yet another example of someone playing the “race card” with no basis whatsoever. It has gotten to the point that the police can’t even do their jobs without being accused of racism, and this is a real problem.
Certainly, this country has a long and embarrassing history of racism and of white officers and “good ole boys” persecuting black people, but to jump to the conclusion that this is going on in every instance in which an officer must question a black person is the truer (or at least more currently relevant) offense. Gates himself refused to talk to the police because he is black; they weren’t doing anything but responding to a call about a possible break-in. From what I can tell in the article, they didn’t know he was black because he refused to open the door or speak to them! Who does that?