I’m sure you heard about the famous Harvard Professor and author Henry Louis Gates Jr. being arrested in his own home in Cambridge.
And maybe you read the posts throughout the web, like this one on Huffington that point out what many see as the obvious racism involved, since Gates is African-American and the cop was white.
No doubt the policeman’s behavior was wrong.
Once he arrived and could see that Professor Gates is an elderly man who needs a cane to walk he could have figured out he wasn’t a cat burgler, even if his “accomplice” was a younger man, Gates’s friend and driver, another African-American.
And once Gates showed proof that this was indeed his house and that he had simply misplaced his door keys after a trip to and long flight back from China, the cop should have just apologized for bothering him and left, even if Gates was cursing him out and calling him a racist for responding to a neighbor’s 911 call when she thought she saw a burglary in process.
And my heart goes out to Gates for having to go through something like this at his age and after a grueling flight etc.
And this may be misinterpreted but I’ll say it anyway—BUT, I have experienced similar things, as have several of my white male friends, at the hands of cops, both white and black.
Once driving in Los Angeles at night two young white cops stopped me for speeding and when one came around to the driver side window where he could see I was a middle-aged white man alone in a Volvo, because I didn’t respond quickly enough, he pulled open the door and ordered me to get out and put my hands on the hood and spread my legs while his partner, gun drawn, aimed at me from his position on the sidewalk.
I did exactly as they said and was eventually let off with a ticket. But why the cowboy stuff? It wasn’t racism, since we were all white, nor was I any kind of threat obviously, but whatever was bugging them that night I got part of the brunt of.
If I had been black, and especially if I had been black and protested too much, they may have cuffed me and taken me in. But then again…
Once a friend of mine, a younger man was leaving his gym in Manhattan after a workout and when he reached his car parked out front the meter was just running out and a parking cop was already there getting his ticket book out.
My friend tried to reason with him, humorously. Also pointing out that he had a special badge from the New York police because he had operated on a policeman after the cop was shot a few years before. An operation he had let me take part in, as a spectator, since I was staying in his apartment at the time, visiting from L.A. (He gave me an extra pair of his scrubs and I got to see firsthand how poorly the Kings County Hospital was run at that time.)
So there it was, identification showing he was a doctor and supposedly the beneficiary of special police consideration. But when a squad car pulled up and asked the traffic cop if my friend was causing any trouble and the traffic cop nodded, the two cops in the police car emerged and did the hands on the hood, spread your legs, then hands behind back routine and cuffed my young doctor friend and took him into the precinct and put him in a cell until bail could be raised.
Just for questioning a meter cop.
I don’t remember anymore if he told me if the cops in the car were white or black or Asian or whatever other false categories we use to divide ourselves, but I know my young doctor friend is a white man and he was treated way unfairly by the cops for basically no reason other than objecting to a last minute parking ticket.
Sometimes the power cops have just goes to their heads, whether the victim of that is white or black. Or as Freud supposedly said, sometimes a cigar is merely a cigar.
[PS: This is not to say the cop wasn't an out-and-out racist, I'm just saying there's other possibilities.]
[And PPS: I've had plenty of black friends who have faced similar situations that definitely involved true racism.]