Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama, Gatesgate & Acting Stupidly

So as the entire world knows, thanks to the last question in Wednesday's Presidential presser, that even though he knew literally next to nothing about the incident, Obama thinks that Cambridge police officers "acted stupidly" when they arrested the noted Harvard professor H.L. Gates, Jr., for disorderly conduct. Today, Press Secretary Robert Gates (no relation) reframed Obama's words to mean "cooler heads should have prevailed on both sides".

In my opinion, Obama would have been better off with a "no comment". To blatantly throw down the race card without knowing all the facts (especially that the police officer is a training specialist in stopping racial profiling) was irresponsible. Read Boyce Watkins' article on Black Voices for his take.

Having had to break into my own house and car several times pre-cell phone days, I sympathize with Dr. Gates; however, I have to say I'd never think of speaking to any policeman in the way Dr. Gates did. I take the approach that John Hawkins of Right Wing News did. Respect the police. They're not arresting you for being black. You're screaming at the officer in public. It's called "disorderly conduct".

In the interest of fairness, however, click here to read Dr. Gates' attorney's statement on his client's version of what happened, and click here for the complete police reports (one by Sgt. Crowley, the arresting officer, and one by Officer Figueroa).

It should be noted that in a press conference by the Cambridge Police Department that they said they had responded to a burglary at Dr. Gates' house a few weeks before this incident. The police were also following a simple tenet: if a burglary call comes in, and someone is in the house, that person is always asked to come out of the house so the officers can check the rest of the house to make sure a burglar hasn't gotten in and is hiding. When the officers arrived, they had no idea if Dr. Gates was already in the house when the people seen shouldering the door were outside. They had reason to fear for his safety - home invasions anyone? Could it be they wanted to get him safely out of the house, quickly and quietly, in case the reported intruder was hiding elsewhere in the house?

Larry Elder over at has coined a new term, a variation on DWB (driving while Black): HWB, or home while Black. Read his take here.

Could cooler heads have prevailed? Sure. In the pithy words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"