Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Reflections on Henry Louis Gates' Arrest: When Criminals Are Exalted The Innocent Will Also Be Guilty
So the arrest of Skip Gates has been dissected from most of its angles. Charges of racism have been levied. The immediate knee-jerk defense of any behavior by the police has been used by others. I have a slightly different take on things. We could ask why the neighbor made an assumption of criminal activity. They are sure to be embarrassed now that their name has been made public. We can investigate whether the arresting officer - who is white - violated Dr. Gates' rights in some way. We can discuss the history of race relations in the United States and how he got the short end of the stick. We could also ask why he allowed himself to be so outraged - or how he was justified given that poor history.
It seems many were expecting the officer to notice that Dr. Gates was the "right" kind of Negro and not a "thug" so the class difference should have been his shield. Well....it's not! Just like the obvious racism displayed against the Creative Steps participants blacks have to stop deluding themselves that the deteriorating behavior of the collective will be ignored. In order words, "certain" blacks are not going to get a pass. People think we're experiencing a time warp of sorts and on one hand we are. We're experiencing a backlash of sorts for the choice of a millions of whites to set aside their racism and misgivings to elect a black man for President.
Obama is beholden to their interests and will address them accordingly as they are the majority population. The blacks, specifically black women that represent his largest voting group seem willing to "wait" for him to "do right" by them. The same way those that actually put their lives and limbs on the line to get Civil Rights passed were expecting to be taken care of for their efforts. It didn't happen. Things are in fact much worse for the entire collective.
African-Americans are for the most part worse off than we were 40 years ago. I don't think the same racism lens is being viewed today than then. Why not? We weren't making role models and celebrities out of AA male (and some AA females) criminals. You know the rap music artists, sports figures and such. When you have these men bragging about how many times they'd been shot or "slangin' rock" or have rap sheets that represent crimes committed not music and it's not only tolerated BUT celebrated it is over for the "decent" folks left.
There was a time education was touted and people knew how to behave in public. There was a time when an R&B singer who'd made a sex tape of acts between him and a minor would have resulted in some public retaliation "behavior modification" incident. There was a time when the college attendance/graduation numbers for AA men were much higher. There was a time when a man aspired to be a husband and no job was beneath him in providing for a family.
The depraved has become the norm and warped the minds of so many. Far too many excuses are being made about racism, mediocrity, bad childhoods, hard times, etc. etc. Let's face it, life does suck for a lot of people. Yet other groups of people in this country and around the world are not elevating the gutter to the throne.
Also people are still viewing this from the "white people as oppressors" meme. We have the power to change this. We can have standards, accountability and consequences for those that violate us but NOT when we allow others to drag the entire collective in the gutter. You can't turn a blind eye to things and be surprised when there's blowback.
So when we look at situations like what occurred yesterday had this been a few decades ago Dr. Gates probably would not have gotten too familiar with the officers. Now had he suffered any bodily harm it would be a different story. Some say it's the indignity of being questioned that got to him. Perhaps it did. How is what he experienced any different than what so many of us have to endure on a daily basis? African-American women have to set aside their ego and outrage in so many ways and it's not from any confrontation with white law enforcement officers. If we can do it then so can he.
Keeping our heads on straight is very important right now. Being disciplined racially and focused is a non-negotiable right now. In much the same way blacks they could "overcome" just by showing up to the Integration Party it requires much more than that. People who think they are above having to account for themselves are going to be in for a rude awakening. I think it's a great thing because the more it happens some people will stop thinking of themselves as better or special. Then maybe they'll start thinking about how those "other blacks" behave and the message of tolerance and acceptance being bandied about. Perhaps their outrage will be such that they start discussing the need for policing those behaviors amongst other blacks so as to avoid the presence of the real police. Just a thought. Sometimes self-interest is the only thing that motivates.