Nice piece in this morning’s Times about the unfortunate Henry Louis Gates incident in Cambridge. Let’s stipulate, as President Obama did during last week’s news conference (and probably wished he’d stopped right there, though he would have been castigated just as loudly if he had) that I wasn’t there and have no idea what really happened. I can guess, like everybody else, but that’s all it would be: a guess. The Times story gives great credence to the notion that two decent people just ran afoul of one another. Yes, it’s ridiculous that Professor Gates was handcuffed and schlepped down to the station. But it’s also curious that an officer responding to a break-in call in an area that had recently suffered more than twenty — several of them in broad daylight — would find himself anything less than welcome, especially since the professor has always been regarded as a soft-spoken uniter, far from the hair-trigger personality of a, say, Al Sharpton. There’s definitely something we don’t know, and may never know. It might be as simple as this: the professor was jet-lagged, pissed that his door was jammed, suffering from a cold he caught in China, and maybe even a little disappointed that the officer didn’t recognize him from his Harvard ID card, which some reports have said did not include his street address. How dare a townie cop give me grief in my own home? To Sgt. James Crowley, I’m investigating a break-in and I see people inside the house. What happened next is in dispute, but if the professor did indeed feel he was being racially profiled and let fly verbally, well, I’m a white man, and I’d never do that to a uniformed cop of any ethnicity. That’s Stopped For Speeding In College 101: it’s “sir” this and “officer” that, and you don’t need to be part of a minority to understand. I was very disappointed in Bill Maher on REAL TIME last Friday for riffing on this incident exclusively from Prof. Gates’s point of view, without one scintilla of empathy for Officer Crowley; to Maher it was a knee-jerk police foulup (as I’ve already said, the arrest was a huge mistake), end of story. Well, I have my doubts. Maybe it will turn out to be a “teaching moment,” as the president suggested. I just don’t want to see the record of someone who is by all accounts a good cop unfairly besmirched, any more than I want to see an elderly man with a cane trundled into the Cambridge pokey. Ugh. Two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time, and every chattering ninny on tv has $.02 more to pay.
The Gates Of Wrath