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Posted by on Jul 23, 2009 in Society | 18 comments

Would A Webcam At Gates’ Home Have Changed Anything?

I’m guessing it would have…

Interesting that this tops the news this morning. I was in the middle of my post last night when Obama made his comments. Still, some part of me felt I should have been giving health care its due. Not so the traditional media. A ratings bonanza!

I noticed the police report had been taken down both by the Boston Globe and the NY Daily News. Hard to take things down on the Internet. It can be found here. We all want to talk race. But it could happen to any of us. Let’s talk police:

Henry Louis Gates was arrested for engaging in “tumultuous” behavior. Only in Cambridge would the complaint use the word “tumultuous”. But many a man forced from his castle upon the command of a police officer who refused to accept that he was at home would have been outraged. Tumult seems an appropriate way to act. The crime was Gates’ hurling words at Sgt. Crowley at a time when the sergeant commanded him to be obsequious and compliant. Gates would not calm down. There is no law that requires him to be calm because a police officer ordered him to do so. Other than the expectation that we do what an officer tells us to do, no matter what.

It may well be that what happened to Henry Louis Gates reflects, as he is accused of screaming at Sgt. Crowley, “what happens to a black man in America.” Because the black man happens to be the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, perhaps the pre-eminent black scholar, it will open a discussion that we still need to have, black president notwithstanding.

It is also possible, however, that what happened to Henry Louis Gates is the outgrowth of the conflict between law and order, order represented by police who have been empowered, in our post 9/11 age, to believe that their every command is the law, that our blind obedience is mandatory. Other than a few old-timers on the Supreme Court who live in a fantasy world where ordinary people can assert their rights and refuse to comply with the command of a police officer with impunity, this encounter between a distinguished scholar, within his own home, and a police sergeant who believes that his command is sufficient to create the divide between citizen and criminal, may offer the chance to question who commands whom in our society.

James Joyner:

This isn’t a Rodney King situation where we have video. Further, Obama is eliding some steps in the incident; I guarantee Gates wasn’t charged with disorderly conduct for simply showing ID.

Come on James. Guarantee? You already said you don’t know the facts. This I can agree with:

As I’ve written numerous times before, police, especially in urban areas, have adopted a militaristic attitude toward their jobs, viewing the citizenry as hostiles to be pacified rather than as the community they’ve pledged to serve. It’s a dangerous and lamentable development.

Yes. And that’s a BIG problem!