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Monday, July 27, 2009

Profiled And Pontificated

I've hesitated posting anything about Prof. Henry Louis Gates and Barack Obama until I have read enough of the relevant data to make my decision.

While Obama's statements during what was intended to be his healthcare news conference, he was asked about the Gates arrest. His answer has gotten more coverage by the establishment press and talk radio than Gates himself.

The police acted supidly. And he's right.

However, it wasn't exactly what he should have said.

Sure, Barack Obama is going to have strong opinions on certain issues, but when you are the President, you have to temper your words, evaluate the situation, make sure that you are clear but not so divisive that you face backlash. All this has to be done within moments of specific things happening. Sometimes it's seconds, as in the case of being asked a quesiton at a presser. Well, there are those that claim that the reporter that asked that was a plant, but those same people think Sarah Palin is of giant intellect and is a formidable opponent for the Democrats in 2012 - but that's another issue.

So where does profiling come into the equation?

One has to but look at the "birther" movement to see that racism and nativism is just as strong as it was decades ago. The entire movement is predicated on a black man being in a position of power. So, how is Gates connected to this?

( From Stanley Fish with additional h/t to Dayvoe @ 2 Political Junkies )

As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town (owned previously by a movie director) and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.

The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?

It's easy to forget that while many of our parents were young a black man and woman couldn't drink from the same water fountain, use the same restroom, even dine in the same restaurant. Now, some short decades later, a black man is holding the highest office in the land.

Both Obama and Gates have been racially profiled. Would you have reacted simularly if you had been the subject of repeated police visits because you happened to not fit the description of everyone else living in your neighborhood? How would this mutate your view of law enforcement.

Of course, it doesn't help that the arresting officer fit so neatly into the stereotype of condecending twat. But what has caused him to become the man or the officer that he is today?

Both Gates and Obama reacted in a way that shows that racial profiling is not dead - and neither is racism as a whole. But another problem exists within this story - the very real fact that conservative media outlets ( whether on cable or radio ) are laboring under the assumption that racism is dead now that Obama is in office. So, to them, the only real reason that both Gates and Obama reacted in such fashion is that it is in fact THEY who are racists.

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