Racial profiling vs. the benefit of the doubt

gatesyell_01As much as I want to side with Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his case against the Cambridge police, from what has been released, it seems as if he had as much to do with the escalation of events that occurred. Putting myself in the shoes of Sgt. James Crowley, he was called to the site of a potential breaking and entering. Walking into that situation must be tense. Crowley walked into an additional hornets nest of race. Black men in America are not used to getting the benefit of the doubt.  That is the big difference between how this was handled if Gates was a white professor from Harvard. Getting the benefit of the doubt is the difference. Think of it this way – think if Crowley walked in on a pretty blonde trying to get into her house; he probably would help her. Gates probably assumed he wasn’t going the get that benefit. I understand why he might feel that way, but it doesn’t help matters. Racial profiling works both ways – assuming the white cop is out to get you is not going to get you very far. I hate to say it, but a lot of cops are about power and respect – yes sirs go a long way.

That said…

Once it was determined that Gates did live there, why didn’t Crowley eat crow, apologize for the mistake and get out? “Loud and tumultuous behavior in a public place” doesn’t seem like something you get arrested for. The arrest was made to make a point; to reinforce who was in charge. You have to wonder why you can’t be “loud and tumultuous” in your own home? Would the white professor have been allowed to be more “loud and tumultuous”?

Based on any account you read, it appears that there were plenty of mistakes on both sides. A fact that should have lead President Obama to steer clear of this controversy instead of picking sides. I appreciate his honesty, but even I waited until I had a little more information.

One more thing – the woman that called the “burglary” in must be feeling horrible. She did the right thing, but she has to wonder if there were two white men, would she have called the police?

Or would she have given them the benefit of the doubt?

BTW – before the police start getting too high and mighty – I’ll point them to the case in Philadelphia getting a lot of press where a police officer harrassed a woman, putting a gun to her neck, after the officer’s son hit the woman’s car in a car accident. The lack of trust on the behalf of the public towards the police is well earned. A history of abusing the considerable power they have over you and I has made it a “them versus us” relationship not withstanding all they do for the public.

69 year-old mother dies leaving her sons motherless

That headline wouldn’t be so horrible until you find out the mother gave birth a few months prior to her 67th birthday. The woman, Maria del Carmen Bousada of Spain, lied to physicians in Los Angeles about her age. She told them she was 55 (as if that’s not too old). She died recently of cancer leaving these children without their only parent.

If only we could choose our parents.

I guess people grow up without parents all the time – maybe these kids are better off; clearly their mother was a moron.

PNC’s bad lessons in customer service

Note to PNC – don’t ask a question you don’t want an answer to.

Today I called PNC because my wife received a debit card with her maiden name on it. They could see that a mistake was made, but I was told she has the call (I was hoping to save her from having to). They could see they sent the wrong card, but wouldn’t do anything about it – even though we’re on the same account, even though I answered all the security questions. So at the very end of the call the customer service rep asked me “are you satisfied with the results of the call?” Of course I said no, to which she said “sorry” and hung up.

Question – why ask me if you’re not prepared to do something about anyone who says no?

Memo to Valley Swim Club members: racism is seen in action more than words

A week after showing up to protest the Valley Swim Club’s seemingly racist policies – things have cooled down a bit. The club offered to have the camp back, the camp said no, and the story will soon fade from memory. Before that happens I want to have one last say.

One thing I’ve come to believe is that words can’t obscure racism. Since the Creative Steps day camp was booted from its agreement with the Valley Club, we’ve heard that the president’s comments about the kids changing the “complexion and atmosphere” of the club were foolish, stupid, or taken out of context. What they weren’t, according to the members,  were racist – the whole event had nothing to do with race and everything to do with space.

To that I say bullshit.

It’s very convenient when you’re caught with your pants down, to try and straighten things out by saying you’re misunderstood. The facts are this – regardless of how many other camps had their contract terminated, the action to cancel the contract took place the very next day after the camp full of blacks and hispanics made the mistake of showing up and expecting to be welcome. The very next day. The booting of the other clubs then appears to be a move to save face. The members who are saying it’s all about space should ask themselves what would have happened if the 65 kids that showed up were white instead of black and hispanic? Would they even have noticed?

The statement that the club released mentioned a diverse membership, but member John Flynn told CNN that they have one black member. Which is it? Or are they counting the grounds keepers as members? Plus isn’t one of the first things someone says when they’ve been caught in a racist moment: “but I have black friends!”?

Let me make this point: you may think you are not racist, but until the moment when that belief is put to the test, you really don’t know. Racism is seen best in what you do. And often, no matter what your words say or what you truly want to believe, your actions tell a different story. So to everyone who has told me that these people weren’t racist – I can’t believe that until I see their actions proving otherwise.

Getting good music without reading reviews

album-fat-cityBack when I first started buying CDs, prior to the internet, I ended up with some stinkers. I bought many an album based on the cover art alone. Sometimes it worked (Shawn Colvin looking cute on the cover of Fat City), sometimes it didn’t (4 Non-blondes were non-talented).  With all the music I listen to, I never get a bad one – and it has nothing to do with reviews. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t trust them.

I’ve seen a few bad reviews over the past few months of albums I’ve ultimately thought were pretty decent. One that comes to mind is Ida Maria’s album Fortress ‘Round My Heart. I’ve also seen some middling reviews on Wilco’s new album Wilco [The Album]. Let me say that both deserve better, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

idea_mariaWith all the resources available to people, the purpose of a review seems rather dated. Wilco streamed their new album for a month prior to release; Ida Maria was all over Myspace prior to breaking it big. With all the access to free, legal ways to sample music – relying on reviews doesn’t make sense.

I’ve already written about the virtues of Daytrotter – but I can’t say it enough – they provide great access to some of the best up and coming (and some already there) musicians. And it’s all free. Speaking of free; often going to a band’s website will get you access to free music.

Finally I’ve used Metacritic for years; like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic provides a rating based on averaging a broad number of publications. That way you’re not basing it the opinion of one. If you insist on reviews, this is a great way to go.

I’m not saying that reviews don’t have a purpose. They often point me in a direction. What I am saying is to use the resources available to make your experience better.

Valley Swim club backtracking

It seems as if the Valley Swim club has realized the errors of its ways and decided to go back on their decision to remove the three day camps from their clubs. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer – the club has decided to invite the day camps back to their club as soon as they figure out how to deal with their safety issues.

“Safety issues.”

I still don’t believe the safety issue excuse and I don’t believe race wasn’t an issue. First off : Timing. I don’t think the banning of the children a day after they showed up for the first time is a coincidence. Second: if safety was an issue, the quote about the the “complexion and atmosphere” made by club president John Duesler don’t make sense whatsoever. Finally, even though it’s only hearsay, it’s hard to dismiss the reported racist comments from the parents.

The club is making strides, and I really hope this situation has led to some soul searching – but I hope they are being more honest with themselves than they are with the public – otherwise nothing will change.