tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
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."
miang: Miang Hawwa (with Opiomorph), Xenogears: May God's love be with you (and there's nothing I can do). (citan - music is a mysterious thing)
From: [personal profile] miang
...but just in case, I'm prefacing it with: unquestionably this was a racist incident and I am in no way justifying or coming to the defense of the cops involved.

Rather, I want to (maybe) come to the (partial) defense of (some of) the commenters/reactionaries by saying: why attribute to ill intent what can easily be attributed to ignorance?

I went and read the Boston Herald story, and when that wasn't really super fulfilling I read a couple other sources to get a more complete picture. Some? most? other people, though, see snippets and smatterings of the story online, and their perhaps logical if egregiously ill-informed opinion, becomes: "A neighbor called after witnessing a guy busting into a home with his shoulder, when the cops showed up he yelled at them and refused to ID himself, and this is supposed to be racist? Are you fucking kidding me?"

I dunno, maybe one can read racism into people deciding clearly there's no racism here and of course it's not worth digging deeper to see why people are upset. Seeing this pattern of behavior regarding nearly every topic that makes for a tasty sound bite, though, I'm still a little reluctant to attribute it to racism when to me it screams of the same superficial, low-attention-span, Twitterverse thinking that poisons most discourse on the Internet. </kids_these_days>
miang: Lenneth Valkyrie, Valkyrie Profile: Sad valkyrie in snow. (lenneth - angst)
From: [personal profile] miang
Good question. I had been editing my comment before you replied, in the hopes of removing an errant comma but also to add: I don't hold (most of) the journalists covering the story blameless, either. By writing from a perspective that identifies more with the police and the woman who called them than Prof. Gates, they do lead their readers to one particular conclusion.

But that's exactly what makes the fault issue so messy -- do you blame people for fully nonconscious biases? For being defensive when a belief in their own success at being egalitarian is challenged? For reading an already biased media through the lens of their own additional preexisting biases?

Social psychology draws a very clear distinction between overt racism and aversive racism, the latter practiced by people who, consciously at least, value equality and don't think or understand that they can hold racist beliefs and behave in a racist manner anyway. I'm not sure anyone's arrived at a good idea of how to remedy aversive racism, but I can't help but think that encouraging people to get their basic facts right before arguing is a necessary start. (And yeah, when any Fox News-watchers start subscribing to that philosophy, I will let you know.)

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

December 2014

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