I suppose I would be pretty pissed if the cops came to my home without a search warrant and demanded to see proof that I was allowed to be here. Especially if I was already inside and had to answer the door when they rang the bell. If I was a crook, would I do that? Would I answer the door and be all, like, “Yes chaps, can I help you?”
Or would I bolt out the back door and over the fence and into the high school parking lot behind my house? The reasonable man would conclude that if I weren’t supposed to be there, I’d be on the lam, and fast. But cops aren’t always reasonable.
And so a couple of days ago when the cops in Massachusetts town of Cambridge knocked on the door of a townhouse, a black man answered. He was Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and he happened to be a professor at nearby Harvard University. We can assume that he was dressed as a Harvard professor might dress – that is, it’s safe to say he wasn’t in shabby, torn clothes, smelling like Thunderbird wine and reeking of weed. You know, like a professor from UCLA Berkley, say.
As a black man in white America, Professor Gates probably took severe umbrage at being asked if he was supposed to be in his own home. I can fully understand that. Racism still exists in America, no matter how much we white people try to deny it.
Now, the cops had their suspicions. Earliler, when Gates and his driver arrived home in the middle of the day, he inexplicably found the front door “jammed.” In their attempts to open the door, a neighbor obviously thought they were trying to break in and (presumably in a racist panic) called the police. Thus, when the cops showed up they didn’t know what to expect. They rang the bell and a black man answered.
Then things got weird. Gates got mad, got loud. Probably over-reacted. We can imagine him thinking, I don’t have to take this shit! He followed them out of his house and into the street, reportedly hurling epithets the whole way. The cops, being cops, and probably deciding that neither were they going to take any shit from some irate black guy who maybe shouldn’t be in that house in the first place, ended up hauling Gates off in handcuffs.
Did this all have to happen? Nope. Embarrassing? Yep. Stupid? Yep, on both sides!
Gates could have easily provided identification that proved he was indeed allowed to be in his own home. Reportedly he did, showing his driver’s license and Harvard ID. But why should he have to? What is this, Nazi Germany, where the police can come to your door and demand identification? And if you don’t provide it you get hauled off to jail? Sorry, but that’s not a country I want to live in.
I suspect that this whole situation would have been handled differently if Gates had been a white man. The cops would have been less defensive, more solicitous. And the white man answering the door might have been less defensive than the perhaps overly-sensitive professor of African-American studies at Harvard. Sadly, we know how this case turned out.
Then, as we all know now, it got even weirder. President Obama just had to weigh-in, calling the actions of the police officer “stupid.”
Now people who dislike Obama are calling for him to apologize. Not me! At least, not to the police. I think the actions of the cops were stupid! I just don’t think Obama went far enough. I think he ought to call the actions of Professor Gates stupid too. Can you imagine? “This was a stupid situation in which both parties acted stupidly. Professor Gates is just as much at fault for escalating things as were the police. The only thing I’m sorry about is having opened my big, fat mouth in the first place. That was stupid, too.”
Now THAT is something I’d like to hear the President say. However, I’m not holding my breath.