Friday, July 24, 2009

Media, right-wing, police fan racial flames on Gates arrest

Who is fanning the flames on race and police in the wake of the arrest of esteemed historian and professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr.? To read all the headlines and hear all the bloviators -- its President Obama, its Gates himself or its Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. But it's never the media, never the Rush Limbaughs and never the police.

There was a lot of righteous outrage when Harvard's Gates was arrested -- and then relief when subsequently the charges were dropped. But even in the early hours of the news of Gates' arrest the media -- quoting the arresting officers report -- portrayed Mr. Gates as out of control and yelling.

Who wouldn't be just a wee bit upset after a long flight from China to come home and find your door unopenable. And then police showing up on your steps -- and perhaps -- rude themselves.

"Skip" Gates -- IMHO -- is a brilliant man who has dedicated his life to bringing to life the American experience as experienced by Black Americans. he is the WEB Du Bois of our times. A people's scholar and intellectual. Anyone who has seen his PBS shows tracking the geneaology of famous African Americans as a doorway for us all to walk through and understand history and its real time impact knows what an American treasure this person is.

Yet -- its anyone who agrees or raises their voice to the possibility of racial profiling and the link of this esteemed professor to the everyday occurance of thousands of African Americans -- and others -- in the hands of those who think they ARE the law, instead of just color-blindly enforcing the law who are stirring the racial pot. Not anyone who may be perpetrating racism. No.

Some police officer association spokesperson took offense not at President Obama's use of the word "stupidly" but at his linking the Gates outrageous arrest to the history of racial profiling! He demanded an apology for that! Come on. It's like the proverbial -- give em an inch they take a mile. Ok maybe stupidly wasn't the best word -- but you cannot fault the president for bringing up facts of life.

It's the opponents of the president -- and of equality and justice -- that have seized the moment to frame this discussion. It's past time to reframe it with truth.

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