Jul. 21st, 2009

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Of all of the comments I've read on the intertubes about the Gates arrest, this one more or less summarizes it:

there is a non-trivial possibility that the situation was not racist. [at the end of a six-paragraph comment where the author was trying their hardest to find evidence that arresting a black man for calling a cop a racist isn't racist]

You know, I don't think of myself as an exceptionally enlightened white man. But this is bullshit. And if you are more inclined to lecture the world in a calm, detached fashion about the proper way for a black man to interact with law enforcement (from your position of expertise as, say, a white West Coaster) than to feel outrage at how your country still enforces the second-class citizenship of black and brown people, then you are not my friend.
Updates:
  • The charges against Prof. Gates have been dropped; "This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department..."

  • Statement from Charles Ogletree, Gates's lawyer, about the incident.

  • Jimi Izrael says it way better than me:
    "The arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates Jr., at a minimum, quashes any talk of a post-racial America. It may not be the best example of racial injustice I've ever seen, but it's a great example of how life for black people is often complicated by class and race. If a mild-mannered, bespectacled Ivy League professor who walks with a cane can be pulled from his own home and arrested on a minor charge, the rest of us don't stand a chance.

    We all fit a description. We are all suspects."

    and

    "In most states, the parameters for disorderly conduct are set as 'any person who could cause inconvenience, alarm or annoyance to others.' Disorderly conduct could include anything from a ferocious cough, the use of profanity (at any volume, in any context) to break-dancing in your front yard or talking loudly to yourself. Normally, it's the kind of thing you get a ticket for, if that, because cops love donuts, but they hate paperwork. Mostly, you'll get a warning. But the rub is that it falls to the discretion of the responding officer to decide whether or not to throw you in the car. Depending on the officer's mood, you could get a warning, a ticket or a night in jail. According to the police officer's report, Gates 'exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.' That's a pretty subjective assessment, by any definition. But it never seems to take much provocation for the rollers to put a man of color in handcuffs, no matter who he is."
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Hello internets,

You should go see the movie "Humpday". It is like "Zack and Miri Make a Porno", with the following differences:
- it is funny
- it is intelligent
- it is not heteronormative
- (corollary:) boys kissing
- strap-ons

If you are like me, you will laugh a lot. And if you are not like me, you're a terrible person what.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Not long ago, I was given the advice (not particularly directed at me, but it justifiably could have been) that it's better to generate more light than heat. And I think that's true most of the time, except maybe when you're trying to burn something down.

When I was a first-year in Bates Hall at Wellesley College, one Friday night I was kept awake in my fourth-floor room by the pounding bass of music from a party that was going on in the basement. Wandering downstairs, I realized the noise was coming from the dining hall and that thus it was an official party. I didn't like being kept awake and I had to be up early the next day in order to leave on a trip, but I knew there wasn't really anything I could do about it because it was before 2:00 AM on a weekend night (the start of quiet hours). Complaining to anyone would have been pointless. In the lobby, there was a free-standing blackboard that people would write on sometimes, sometimes with a message-of-the-day, and so forth. So I wrote, "Does anyone else think that whoever was making that noise should be executed in front of a firing squad?", and went back to my room to try to go back to sleep.

One or two days later, I came back from my trip to find a discussion on the Bates forum on the campus electronic discussion system about what I had written on the board. I learned that the party that had been troubling me was sponsored by the campus chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Rather than copping to what I had done, I posted a snippy reply (as one does) saying that it was just silly for somebody to conclude that the comment on the board was racist given that nobody knew who had written it or what they were thinking, or even whether the writer had known the party was sponsored by a black student group. In hindsight, I'm sure this fooled no one, but if anyone did guess it was me, they never confronted me directly about it. And I never admitted to anyone that I was the writer.

Was it racist for me to write that on the blackboard? I don't think it was, because I didn't know who was sponsoring the party. It was certainly passive-aggressive and douchey of me. It's true, it's possible that I reacted differently to loud hip-hop than I would have to loud '80s pop, though at the time I really wasn't conversant with very much music that was produced after about 1970. Was it racist for me to read the replies online and conclude that their authors were just being silly and oversensitive? Yes. Yes, it was. I failed to appreciate the significance that my hastily chalked remark would have to someone who might have been labelled "loud and tumultuous" a few too many times, and even worse, I retreated into thoughts that would preserve my self-image as a tolerant person rather than really hearing what people who perceived things differently had to say.

I was 17 at the time, but I don't think that excuses my behavior, because I'm seeing people four times that age fall for the same fallacies. I won't give them a pass, nor do I give myself a pass.

That was eleven years ago. The last four, maybe five times I thought about the incident (in, probably, as many years), I thought that maybe my reaction really possibly could have been wrong, but pushed the thought away. This is the first time I'm admitting to myself that I really did something wrong; not by writing on the board (sure, it was pissy of me, but I didn't know), but by refusing to listen to what my dorm-mates said about it afterward and to admit to what I had done at the cost of possibly being (fairly or unfairly) characterized as racist.

I was getting frustrated over the past few days arguing with people online about the strange case of Professor Gates and the unfortunate Cambridge police officers, and how difficult it seems to be to convince some people to be more concerned about calling out racism where it exists than about being careful not to imply that a white person could be racist, until I realized: If it took me eleven years just to admit I'd made one mistake, how long will it take everyone else? How long will the next mistake take me? God help us all.

Profile

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
6 789 101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags