Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Identity Struggles in the Oval Office

First of all, I really annoyed at the reporter who asked Obama about his opinions regarding the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr. by the Cambridge Police Department. Here we are at a press conference about HEALTHCARE REFORM. All the other reporters asked relevant questions about Obama's proposed policies that they felt really concerned the American public. In the final question, she brings up an otherwise dwindling topic provoking the President to choose between his black and white identity.

She was MESSY for instigating the controversy and would have not dared mention this topic if it had been a white president's press conference. So in that moment, she made Obama the spokesperson for the entire black community, a position that we have all encountered at some point or another in our lives to inquiring Caucasian minds.... Let's not forget that Obama shortened his answers for the sake of time, just so that he could get to every reporter--not knowing that his last response would send the media into a sensationalist FRENZY.

That's right, sensationalist. Sensationalist because the media conveniently discarded the preface of Obama's comments that the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly.

Here's a that portion of the transcript:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay? All right. I tried to make that short so that Lynn Sweet would get her -- the last question in.

QUESTION FROM LYNN SWEET: Thank you, Mr. President. Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I -- I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.

I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house; there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place.

So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so -- (laughter) -- it probably wouldn't happen.

(Chuckling.) But let's say my old house in Chicago -- (laughter) -- here I'd get shot. (Laughter.) But so far, so good. They're -- they're -- they're reporting. The police are doing what they should. There's a call. They go investigate. What happens?

My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I'm sure there's some exchange of words. But my understanding is -- is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped.

Now, I've -- I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

And number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportionately. That's just a fact.

As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society.

That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us.

And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently, and oftentime for no cause, casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody's going to be.

There! Obama plainly states that:
1. He's biased because Prof. Gates is his good friend. (I guess all the Black Harvard alum are pretty tight, it's not that many of them!)
2. He doesn't know the facts of the case, he's merely going off of the media reports (which have already made this into a black-white issue anyway!)
3. America has a history of disporportional arrests of minorities.

So why did everyone flip out?

Honestly, I don't think this situation is as big of a deal as everyone is making it. I actually think that we're making this into more of a racial issue than it actually is. I think the situation would have been the same if both people were of the same race.

*Before you jump down my throat, let me remind you that I'm a Ghanaian-American, from the same Ghana whose shores were the main hubs for the transatlantic slave trade. Also, I'm a student at Fisk, a historically black private university. I went down to Jena, Louisiana to protest the injustices of the Jena 6. AND I have natural hair. So I'm pretty Afrocentric, dare I say radical is some peoples' eyes.

Anywho, I digress. Professor gates admits taht he was thankful that the police arrived to investigate a report of a burgulary in his home. In my opinion, Prof. Gates flipped out before even knowing why the police were there in the first place and continued to flip out, provoking his arrest. I also think that the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, could have done a better job of explaining why he was there first instead of immediately accusing someone of burgulary. And was this immediate accusation because Prof. Gates was black, and therefore, racial profiling? Yes. But is that so wrong?

Let's think about it. As a Cambridge police officer, how many blacks do you really encounter that live in homes in the neighborhood that Prof. Gates resides? And according to statistics and experiences, if someone were really to break in Prof. Gates home, of what race are they most likely to be? Racial profiling happens every day. If we hear somebody was arrested for robbing the liquor store on 24th, we'll be disappointed that black folks keep messin' it up for all of us! And if we hear that somebody was arrested for embezzlement and fraud at the Bank of America headquarters downtown, we'll assume that it's white people conducting white collar crimes, again. That's racial profiling. It goes both ways, people. Let's face it, everyone sees color.

So in that sense, I think Prof. Gates racially profiled Sgt. Crowley. If that had been the black officer, he probaly would've been like, "Alright, 'preciate that bruh. Good lookin' out." Instead, he saw a white officer, and like most black men, became intimidated (for good reason, the name Rodney King ring a bell?), but because of his education, power, and prestige became very defensive--so defensive that Sgt. Crowley felt that his authority was being challenged. The situation: two grown men on a serious egotrip.

So I really don't see what Obama has to do with any of this. Yeah, he made the comments, but not without being asked his opinion. Why does he have to be the mediator? He's the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Those two grown men should've handled the situation as such, without using the media to recriminate each other. That's just dumb. If Prof. Gates is so offended and wants to file a lawsuit, let him utilize the channels of the system just like everybody else. Why he gotta call Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton 'nem? I'm actually wondering if the black community has as much sympathy on Prof. Gates, since he's a part of a elite class that some blacks consider to be sell outs.... But that's another conversation for another day. FYI, I don't think he's a sellout, and I have high aspirations to one day be apart of the black bourgeoisie too. Except, I'll still be down to Earth, still shop at Wal-Mart, and still volunteer. As I was saying, I think Obama has bigger issues to solve. Like bipartisan healthcare reform. Or the War in Iraq. Not treating two grown men acting like fighting children to beer and making them apologize and shake hands.

President Bush offended a lot of people, but you didn't see him inviting all the Hurricane Katrina victims to the White House for a cup o' tea. I wish Obama would just keep it professional because right now it just looks like he's trying to please everybody, which will never happen. It also looks like he's allowing the media to challenge his authority to do and say as he pleases. And damn that reporter for putting him in this position in the first place.

Finally, I think its really unfair for such negative attention to be cast upon Harvard University and the Cambridge Police Department. They were also plunged into the situation for doing what they thought was the right thing. Before this came to light, everybody should've considered the repercussions upon Obama's alma mater as far as diversity admissions. Right before school starts, this situation screams to minority students that "MINORITIES ARE NOT WELCOME AT HARVARD OR IN CAMBRIDGE, AND EVEN IF YOU DO GRADUATE FROM HERE, YOU'RE STILL PERCEIVED AS A THREAT TO SOCIETY". (Not that I have TOO much sympathy for Harvard, since its endowment is like a hundred times the endowment of all 104 HBCUs combined....) But this message completely contradicts the election of Barack Obama.

I hope Professor Gates is tenured. But then again, Harvard wouldn't dare fire a professor for soliciting negative attention to the univerisity, in society's eyes, he would only be fired 'cause he's BLACK. Riiiiiiiight.

1 comment:

  1. This is great, it really is. I agree with this (well the analysis of what happened). No one except those two gentlemen know what happened. There probably was some racial profiling (not racism per say, but semantics!) on both sides tbh. I think this thinking happens all the time to everyone (can't speak for everyone of course, but that's my opinion) and it's really something you can't help. Stereotypes are inherent in society, this and others, and they are put into our heads from all angles, unless you live in a cave.

    However, with police, it comes to the top. If they act a certain way it can change lives, and in this case, can be made known to the national media. Call me out if I sound bad, but Prof Gates is a minority in the community. Therefore, race most definitely at least crossed his mind. However, whether that is the reason for him going to the extent to arresting Dr. Gates, I am dubious about, but it's possible.

    Hmm.. I need to make a blog post about this now that I've read a bunch of others' posts. We'll see..