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U.S. | Racial Justice

Gates in Cambridge: First the Outrage of Arrest, Then The Outrage of Denial
by Mike Eli/kasama
Monday Jul 27th, 2009 2:30 PM
It is an outrage that a Black man can be arrested in his own house — first suspected of being a burglar, then manhandled merely for speaking up for himself, in his own living room.
It is an outrage that a cop demands that Gates “step outside,” while six cop cars pull in.

It is an outrage that Gates is accused of disorderly conduct (inside his own house? with speech? completely sober? without a crowd?) Isn’t the real crime here asserting ordinary rights, protesting the cop’s assumption of criminal behavior from a Black man, asking to see his ID? What is the deference demanded by the cops, and what is the living significance of that for Black people?

It is an outrage that t the policeman’s association insists that everything was done by the book. Doesn’t THAT claim confirm that such harassment is routine and occur daily, hourly, minute-by-minute in this country?

It is outrageous that the whole rightwing of America rises up to mock any mention of racism and to argue (over and over in the most sneering and patronizing ways) that Black men (including one “so educated”) should just know show more deference when facing cops. Post-racial? Pu-leeez.

Gates forced to do the perp walk, photographed by a neighbor

It is an outrage that rightwing pundits dare invent some phony “class issue” and claim to recoil from some alleged celebrity elitism toward a “blue collar” cops.

It is an outrage that this cop claims he was just doing his job, and whole sections of the media and political establishment agree. And what exactly is that job then?

It is an outrage that this public case of harassment and insult isn’t instantly and universally connected to racism and racial profiling (when it so obviously was) — and that s hellfire of public condemnation doesn’t rain down to make sure it never happens again to any Black kid or adult.

And it is an outrage, that EVEN A BLACK PRESIDENT can’t publicly say that the cops were stupid (which they obviously were) — without being forced into cowardly retreat under fire.

It is an outrage that EVEN A BLACK PRESIDENT is forced to back down within 24 hours, and praise that cop, and offer him a beer, and say he himself had gone too far — and say that the issue is reconciliation (not justice?!)

What does it mean that even a Black president can’t simply call out the situation for what it is?

Why can’t it be openly and clearly discussed that African American women are terrified to see their sons walking out of the house — because of what these police might do, at any time, without any warning or cause? Why is that wrapped in silence? Why aren’t their voices on every channel (instead of lying police whining about being typecast!)

What does it mean that a whole body politics denies, mocks and silences reality, while 66% of young African American men say they have personally been stopped for no reason other than their color?

What exactly was the pressure (built into this system and into that Oval Office) that Obama was buckling to when he took the rare never-seen step — a president who charges he had rashly become part of the problem? Where does this pressure and consensus arise from? Who does it serve? What keeps it alive? How was it enforced, so that even an Obama had to back down so shamefully and quickly?

There is much to learn from examining that larger dynamic played out on a national stage– to zoom away (for a moment) from the infuriating Cambridge confrontation (which most of us here understand pretty well), and look at that dynamic that defined how such things may be discussed by even a president, and even now, the police are shielded from the public condemnation of their relentless, unrepentant racist arrogance wherever they go.

What does it say about what the most powerful “deciders” actually value and encourage among their cops? A thin blue line? For what exactly?