Two Three Four Five Five And A Half Six And A Half Quick Thoughts On Gates – Crowley

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.

Say What? (5)

  1. dchamil July 25, 2009 at 10:50 am | | Reply

    Perhaps Obama is wise to offer only beer. Gates when sober seems pretty mouthy, who knows how he’d act with a bit of liquor in him!

  2. meep July 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm | | Reply
  3. revisionist July 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm | | Reply

    Officers on the scene were one Black, one Hispanic, and one White (Crowley.) The accusations of racial profiling are ridiculous based on this fact alone. But is Crowley really “white”, at least in 1960’s terms? Looking at some of his pictures, I wonder if he is “passing” (e.g. Roth’s “Human Stain”), or being “passed” by the media? I certainly have noticed that the definition of “white” has been expanding since my childhood in the 60s to include everyone from Iran to Iceland, instead of just “wasps”.

  4. Cobra July 27, 2009 at 11:38 pm | | Reply

    John Rosenberg writes:

    “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.”

    What would Harrison had been arrested for? Criticizing a police officer? Shouting in his own home in broad daylight?

    I would think that the civil libertarian in you would acknowlege that these are NOT “criminal offenses.”

    In my opinion, this was about EGO from BOTH men at the scene. Gates let his pride and the historical baggage that comes with being a 60 year old Black man who’s lived life in America get himself goaded into a situation with Crowley that, at least temporarily, he had no way of winning.

    Crowley, who KNEW–after Gate’s ID was presented, lived at the home–there wasn’t any crime being committed, didn’t back away, and IMHO, refused to allow a 5’8″, 160lb old White collar Black man “loud-talk” him in front of the fellow officers under him.

    Ego, pure and simple.

    What also needs to get discussed is how in Sgt. Crowley’s Official Police Report, he quotes Lucia Whalen, the witness as saying:

    “…she went on to tell me that she observed two black males with back packs on the porch…”


    “Attorney Wendy Murphy, who represents the 911 caller, Lucia Whalen, said her client never spoke with arresting officer Sgt. James Crowley at the scene.

    Let me be clear: She never had a conversation with Sgt. Crowley at the scene,” Murphy said, according to CNN. “And she never said to any police officer or to anybody ‘two black men.’ She never used the word ‘black.’ Period.”

    She added, according to the network’s report: “I’m not sure what the police explanation will be. Frankly, I don’t care. Her only goal is to make it clear she never described them as black. She never saw their race. … All she reported was behavior, not skin color.”

    This is NOT a minor factual descrepancy. You either TALKED to somebody, or you did NOT.

    Somebody is LYING. Either Sgt. Crowley lied on the report he filed and signed, or the key witness, Lucia Whalen is lying, and therefore would be impeachable. One of the two injected RACE into this report.

    Place your bets, folks.


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