Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not Just Any Black Guy

Henry Louis Gates is the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard and, with the possible exception of Cornell West, is the preeminent African American Studies scholar in the world. No one is more qualified to discuss the issues race and racial profiling in America today. Gates was arrested last Thursday afternoon after breaking into his own home, according to a story in the AP. He had returned from a trip to China. The door to his house had been jammed so he entered through the back and then went onto the porch and forced the front door open. Somebody had called the cops saying there were two black men (Gates and his driver) breaking into a house. Gates was inside his own home. He showed the officers his identification. They arrested him anyway.

Of course race had something to do with his arrest. Anybody who suggest otherwise has never lived in a city where suspicion for most crimes falls first on black people. Every black adult in America has been profiled as a possible criminal, and every white adult in America has looked at a black person and and worried that he might mug him. It is the way we live. Is it right? No. Is it excusable? No. The fact is that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites. Of course, blacks are also more likely to be the victim of crime than whites. According to the justice department, in 2007, of the 7.4 million people arrested in the United States more that 3.3 million were black. This doesn't in itself prove that blacks commit more crime, only that they are arrested more often. Of course, on TV, closer to 90% of crimes are committed by blacks. We are programed to be scared. And apparently, the police in Cambridge MA are programmed to be suspicious.

Of course, 57% of the bozos responding to the stupid AOL poll on the story believed race had nothing to do with the arrest, but the people who take those polls are notorious for having an ax to grind.

Regardless, I would not want to be the arresting officer, who for the next fifty years is going to be branded a racist in African American studies textbooks all over the country.


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