Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Racism, Still

The Gates story is inflating beyond control. For anyone who doesn't know, it seems that a distinguished Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct during a confrontation with a Cambridge, MA police officer investigating a reported break-in attempt at Gates' home.

From the newspaper account and the police report it would appear that Mr. Gates became outraged that a police officer would question him about the alleged break-in.

On the other hand the police office was indeed called by someone who witnessed two black men on the front porch apparently trying to break into the home on Ware St. in Cambridge.

Mr. Gates allegedly yelled at the police that the only reason he was questioned was that he "was a black man in America". In my view Mr. Gates was overly sensitive to his race as the precipitating factor in the officer's behavior which angered the officer.

On the other hand the police office should have used more common sense, and as soon as Prof. Gates' identity was confirmed he should have simply apologized for the misunderstanding and left the premises.

My take is that they both were guilty of feeling insulted and not accorded the respect to which each felt entitled.

All in all, a petty and provocative reaction by a Harvard professor and an over reaction by the police officer. In any case the latest news is that the charges have been dropped. Good.

There is plenty of real racism against which to fight without diluting and trivializing what in my opinion, is still the biggest problem facing this country, true racism.

The President didn't help either. He should have taken the opportunity to encourage dialogue on this most important issue facing the nation. Instead he took sides after saying he didn't know all the facts in the case. A missed opportunity, in my view.