How flabbergasting that President Obama felt compelled last week to publicly blast a police officer who arrested Harvard teacher Henry Louis Gates Jr.
With every challenge our nation is facing, Obama decided to use his bully pullpit to attack officer James Crowley for acting “stupidly” in arresting Gates while investigating the report of a break-in at Gates’ house.
According to police reports, Crowley was called to Gates’ house after a passerby noticed two men apparently forcing their way through the front door. (This passerby had no way of knowing one of the men was Gates, or that his front door was jammed — she’s a good Samaritan, just looking out for the neighborhood). Crowley reports that when he arrived, he saw Gates inside the foyer, and asked him to step outside. Gates refused, asking “Why? Because I’m a black man in America?”
Obviously this transaction didn’t start off well.
Gates demanded to see Crowley’s identification, and got on the phone, demanding to speak with the police chief and warning Crowley he had “no idea who he was dealing with.” He accused Crowley of being a racist cop several times.
The situation escalated. Crowley warned Gates several times, according to the report, before cuffing him, consulting with other officers on the scene and bringing him downtown.
According to Obama, Crowley’s the one to blame here. The officer’s been accused of racism and racial profiling, while Gates is seen as the victim. Obama has backed down from his original stance, but has stopped short of apologizing, or pointing out it was Gates who acted stupidly.
Gates didn’t have any reason to believe he was being targeted. In fact, if he’d come to the door and said “What can I help you with?,” he and the officer probably would have shared a laugh about the busted door and the good Samaritan. He probably would have gone to bed that night feeling glad he lived in a neighborhood where people look out for each other.
Truth is, Gates attacked Crowley because Crowley is a white cop. If Gates did his homework, he’d have found Crowley’s exemplary record — along with the fact that Crowley taught a class on racial profiling. He’d know just how wrong he was. Gates would be able to better point the accusations of racism at himself.
Gates and Obama are guilty of the same thing: Applying some Rodney King-like scenario to a situation where it’s not warranted. In the process, they widen the gap in race relations. Should a white cop be scared to do his job? Should he indeed treat a black man differently than he would a white man?
Obama said that perhaps he was quick to judge the situation because he knows Gates. But his reaction dredges up memories of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was notorious for his racist rants. And it took extreme public pressure for Obama to distance himself from Wright.
In Gates, we see a scholar, who is working on a PBS documentary about racial profiling, who, rather than regretting his own actions, continues to assert that he’s the victim:
“If my experience leads to the lessening of the occurrence of racial profiling, then I would find that enormously gratifying,” Gates wrote. “Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which ‘equal justice before law’ is a lived reality.”
Gates, and his friend Obama, need to realize that Gates is living the reality of “equal justice before law.” Because any person — white or black — who is as beligerent as he was deserves to be arrested.
And Americans deserve better than the thoughtless recriminations and condemnations of a thoughtless president.