NOTE: No. 2 has been UPDATED
1. Of all the things that reasonable people can say about the confrontation between Sgt. Crowley and Prof. Gates, racial profiling is not one of them. The police responded to a report of a break-in at Prof. Gates’ home; no profiling was involved. It’s possible that Sgt. Crowley did not treat Prof. Gates with the respect he believed he deserved, and it’s conceivable that this disrespect (if it occurred) was based on racist attitudes. But it’s not as though the police got a report of disorderly conduct by a black man and went looking for someone matching that profile to arrest.
2. In his back-pedaling news briefing appearance yesterday President Obama announced that he’d invited Sgt. Crowley to come to the White House for a beer. Why a beer? Do cops drink only beer? Does Obama often invite people in for a beer? If/when he invites Prof. Gates to the White House, do you think it’ll be for a beer? Gates strikes me as more of an expensive chardonnay sort of man.
Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, “friend and confidante to Obama” and Prof. Gates’ lawyer, said “I don’t think Skip drinks beer….”
But Crowley, Obama probably thought, is just a working class white guy and probably even Irish. Somebody on his staff may well have researched the matter and told the president that those people, when they’re not bitterly clinging to their religion and guns, drink beer
3. Writing in the New York Times, Charles M. Blow announces ponderously that “t]his week, the fog of racial profiling hung heavy over Harvard Square.” Apparently that fog has now wafted all the way down the editorial offices of the Times, since there was no profiling in Gates’ arrest. If Sgt. Crowley would not have arrested a white man who engaged in identical Gates-like behavior, then Gates’ arrest was racist. But even if it was racist, there was no profiling.
4. I’ve never seen anything worthwhile from Mary Mitchell, the Chicago Sun Times race columnist, and said so a couple of times. But, perhaps like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day, she understands that Gates isn’t the face of racial profiling
Cops didn’t follow his car to his home and pounce on him, and they didn’t stop him on his doorstep and ask for ID.
They were called to the home by a woman who obviously thought she was being a good neighbor….
I’m sorry. Gates isn’t the face of racial profiling.
5. Obama may be articulate, but he and apologies are not on speaking terms. He simply can’t bring himself to admit that he (make that He) ever made a mistake. Listen to this attempt to back away from his comment that Sgt. Crowley and the Cambridge police “acted stupidly”:
I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically — and I could have calibrated those words differently.
So, calling Crowley and the Cambridge police stupid he wasn’t really maligning them; he only “gave the impression” that he was maligning them. His mistake, then, was only in unfortunately allowing for this misunderstanding by his poor choice of words, “words that [he] could have calibrated … differently.”
Calibrated differently? If he had calibrated “acting stupidly” differently, what would Obama have said? Maybe that Crowley was not stupid but merely learning impaired, unaware, as he said later, “that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African Americans are sensitive to these issues.” Of course all Americans “are sensitive” to being called stupid, but never mind.
I think the lesson here is that if you never simply say what you believe but instead are always “calibrating” everything you say, you’re bound to miscalibrate from time to time.
6. More babble. Today the Washington Post has an article on Cambridge’s Gates-induced soul-searching, with many worthy and worried residents professing (some of whom do that as a profession) the need for more “talk.” Example:
Merritt Harrison, a 75-year-old white man who lives around the corner from Gates, said that he understands why the police feel defensive, but that he probably would have had the same reaction as Gates if a police officer had showed up at his home and suspected him of being a burglar.
“I’m white, so I probably wouldn’t have been arrested,” said the part-time Episcopalian pastor, real-estate agent and counselor who has called the community home for 25 years. “I don’t know. Was it racial profiling? I don’t think anyone will ever know. But plenty of people think it was. The thing to do is to use it as an occasion to look at the issue. People need to talk.”
First it’s not true no one “will ever know” if this was racial profiling. The article also quotes Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, who said that
what happened to Gates was not a case of racial profiling because Crowley received a call of a possible crime in progress. “It’s not like he was walking through the neighborhood, saw Gates and demanded to see his identification. That’s racial profiling.”
Now, let’s assume that Mr. Harrison “would have had the same reaction as Gates if a police officer had showed up at his home and suspected him of being a burglar.” That is, let’s assume that Harrison would have acted exactly the same way Gates acted. Would he have been arrested? What if the arresting officer were black; would that arrest have been “racial profiling”? I believe Harrison would have been arrested if he had acted the same way, and that “racial profiling” had nothing to do with either the real or my fictional arrest.