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.

  • http://nonbreakingspace.com howard

    I was prone to withhold judgment too, but I can’t stomach the lack of critical thought that’s overtaken the media analysis of this situation.

    Instead of judging, I’ve been asking questions in my head, like “what exactly did the professor do to warrant an arrest?” The answer, it seems (especially given the fact that the charges were dropped) is that he did nothing to warrant an arrest.

    I’ve heard the allegations of what was said, but I haven’t yet heard anything that substantiates the action taken by police. And while I can allow that the professor may have acted inappropriately, the police officer (not the professor) was the one who was bound to act like a professional in the situation. I just haven’t heard anything that logically suggests the officers shouldn’t have been held to a higher standard than the citizen in his own home.
    .

    I’d like to add that there’s nothing necessarily racist even if the police acted “stupidly.” I grew up as lilly white as you could be, and me and my friends repeatedly encountered police officers who seemed bent on showing people who was in charge. It’s unprofessional, and it’s wrong to abuse one’s power. Obama probably should have apologized, but only for commenting on an local police matter, not necessarily because his conclusion was wrong.-= howard´s last blog ..wasted guilt =-.

  • Spencer

    I am so tired of writing about race – but I have a responsibility to do so. So here again tomorrow I’ll be writing about race. Sad in this day and age.

    My point exactly on Obama – he has bigger fish to fry. This was being handled adequately by the media, the blogosphere, and locally. No need for the leader of the free world to become distracted by it. I guarantee it’s a lesson he’s learned.

    As for the police – again, I’m have a post coming about them – but distrust of the police is well earned. Many of them have entered the profession because it was a place for them to exert pressure on the rest of us.