Overheard on cable news just now: “This could be a teachable moment, with a Gates/Crowley dialogue” — Jesse Jackson
Consider this an open thread around class and race, law and order, freedom and community and government in America, as electrified by professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates being handcuffed in his own home for arguing with an armed government employee who came to his door and challenged him as a citizen to present his papers, prove his innocence of wrong-doing.
Is the citizen (or the police officer) the victim, or the offender? Are both both, or perhaps both are neither?
Is it really about race and class problems, or is this case primarily a clash between private individual rights and public government power? My own experience, in which everyone was white and everyone was wearing orange and blue, and both the police officer and myself were female, informs how I see this case — as not about race or class or color and minorities, not even testosterone, but rather the same way I’ve seen schoolfolk self-justifying their institutional job (to the point sometimes, of dismissing the reality that actual individuals are hurt rather than helped.)
All in all, it was a transformative moment for me, the quintessential teacher’s pet and media spokesperson, grievance hearing officer and pourer of oil on troubled waters. . .
Personal rage and alienation caused by social injustice was a new feeling for me, and it came literally out of the blue. I was just enjoying the day and my life, with my family and friends in a place I’d felt completely comfortable, safe and loved for my whole life, when WHAM!
And what if it were instead a CPS worker backed up by an armed sheriff’s deputy, in the south, say, at your door investigating a similarly misinformed neighbor’s complaint, coming to challenge you as a homeschooling parent in your own home, such an obviously unfounded complaint that you get outraged and say so loudly, hoping the neighbor will hear you and feel ashamed?
Now do you feel the same sympathies and concerns in the Gates case as you did before, or does your stomach suddenly flip-flop along with a 180-degree change of heart?
And please note, unlike my anonymous encounter with the police on game day, or any ordinary homeschool parent’s with the CPS, these principal characters were both well-known, mature, professional role models colliding in one of America’s most historic, educated and enlightened communities. White versus black, town versus gown, hate mail and a hot summer, a media feeding frenzy — here is Bill Cosby’s take — and one of them even knows the President of the United States personally! (Have you read Bonfire of the Vanities?)
The suspect was a black expert on racial profiling, while the white police officer who arrested him was a racial profiling trainer — if they can’t treat each other in an educated and enlightened manner, who can or will??
Some of the positions being publicly taken are by race and class rather than individual, themselves a form of profiling if you will — all police officers are racist (or not racist) etc. Considering what’s also in the news, about these “diversity-trained” TX police and our black president, this isn’t smart even if it’s an honest mistake on his part, yet white male Sgt. Crowley is saying it anyway as if it proved his own purity of motive, much as the white male Republicans insist the CIA would never lie to Congress!. . .
GRAND PRAIRIE — Four Grand Prairie police officers and a dispatcher are on paid administrative leave after a racist e-mail about President Barack Obama was circulated, and the local NAACP chapter is asking whether a recent round of diversity training was for naught. . .
So what does this all mean for third-millennium culture and our own progressive power of story going forward? ARE we going forward at all?