Being black in the ‘post-racial’ age
The discipline of humanities, especially as it is practiced in the U.S., frequently talks about trauma, the ‘traumatic event,’ histories of trauma, and so on. You know what I found traumatizing? The police mug shots of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., arrested to humiliate him for lack of subordination to the arresting officer.
I don’t know Dr. Gates personally. I’ve anecdotally heard him described as conservative, Republican, etc. It doesn’t matter to me what his political convictions are: overnight in the city of Cambridge he became an automatic bandit.
Here is a letter from a former campus policeman in Utah on the incident itself. The only issue I take is with the last line, which focuses on cops as ‘non-biased’ people, rather than focusing on the system that produces cops in the first place.
‘Okay, I’d like to say first of all that I worked for the police department of a small college town for seven years. So usually I’m on the side of the cops against the arrogant “Do you know who I am?” types of professors.
‘But this is absolutely unacceptable under any possible explanation of police conduct. Dr. Gates has the right to tell the cops not to come into his home, and to leave his home. He has the right to ask the officer for his name and his badge number, his supervisor’s name, and the police department’s phone number. He even has the right to say, “I pay your salary!” although I wouldn’t recommend it. Once he’s shown his ID to the officer, the officer should apologize, do the PR song-and-dance, and get out. No other course of action is acceptable. Arresting Dr. Gates or anyone else on disorderly conduct charges when all that’s happened is that he’s expressed displeasure with police behavior and wanted to make a complaint — well, that’s so out of line, I can hardly believe it.
‘Just because Gates calls racism out a lot doesn’t mean that the people he calls out aren’t racist. I hope he sues the police department and costs that officer his job. I know it must suck to be embarrassed at one’s home, to have a huge stink made in the papers, and all the rest. But I’m glad that this officer chose to pick on someone with the resources to make it never happen again, instead of spending a career happily harassing the powerless because he can.
‘The majority of cops are good, non-biased people. But frankly, none of them would have done this.’
(Updated: photo from Mr. Bone.)