Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harvard Professor Does American's a Disservice by Playing "Race Card"

By William Morgan

“First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Social Democrats, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Social Democrat. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” - Pastor Martin Neimoller

When prominent African American Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in his own home after police responded to an alleged report of a break-in, cries of racial profiling could immediately be heard ringing from coast to coast. The Cambridge police department then scrambled to prove Sergeant James M. Crowley was no racist.

It’s no real surprise that even President Obama tried to make this about race saying “what I think we know separate and apart from this incident - is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact." Either President Obama is incredibly naive or is purposefully redirecting the focus of this incident. This arrest of a man in his own home, even after providing proof he had a right to be there, had nothing to do with race at all. Henry Louis Gates was guilty of a far worse offense than being a black man in America. His crime? Challenging the authority of the police. Henry Louis Gates wasn’t arrested for breaking and entering, he wasn’t arrested for being black, he was arrested for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to the police report.

Apparently, the professor was forced to break into his home at about one in the afternoon (broad daylight) when the lock on his front door had jammed. When police arrived, Gates was forced to provide identification while standing in his own home, something he was more than a little miffed about. In the report Officer Crowley filed, he wrote “"While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me.” Really, you’re surprised that he was upset by the fact you’re harassing him in his own home for doing absolutely nothing wrong?

S. Allen Counter, a Harvard Medical School professor who spoke with Gates about the incident said “He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence.” Yes, this is exactly as it would and does play out every day in this country to citizens of every color who decide to stand up for themselves. By calling this a crime of racial bias Professor Gates, President Obama, and the media fail to address the real injustice in this country, which is the ever increasing authoritarian use of force on innocent citizens. One needs only to look at the countless cases of tasering on the very young and very old simply to force them to comply. Most will remember Kathryn Winkfein the 72 year old great-grandmother who was tasered after arguing with a police officer, who was at least twice her size and half her age, over a traffic stop. The officer claimed he felt threatened. There are also cases of children as young as six being tasered. Clearly, the use of force is no longer confined to self-protection. The abuse of tasers by police needs serious investigation and reform.

However the underlying problem is the change of policy of our police departments from “to protect and serve” to one of “to oppress and enslave”. We as Americans must define what role police are to have in this society. Do they work for us or against us? We must decide and then hold them to that role. As law enforcement’s power to use force to make citizens comply increases, our liberty and security to be free from unwarranted intrusions and injuries decreases. If the role of the police is to keep us safe, who will keep us safe from them? I can only implore that when your civil liberties are infringed by law enforcement officers or others, do not lose sight of the real injustice, the slow decay of this once great beacon of freedom into a draconian police state where all are subject to the whims and threats of a badge welding minority.

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