Rewiring the System


Moms Mabley, Gates, Institutional Aspects of Racism

Posted in Uncategorized by rewiringangel on July 31, 2009
Tags: , , , , ,

http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=110455632759&h=jAbAL&u=4H2FV&ref=nf

Girl do you smell burning?  One of us is walking too fast!

I still have my knickers in a knot about the police arresting a black man on the porch of his own house in a town where he lives these many years.

It is a sign pointing toward the truth of the police state we are enmeshed with now and in our future. Are we going to wake up to this FACT!

What Obama said originally, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly is right as far as I see it.  We must be vigilant. Write to Obama and tell him that his first instinct is right and that going toward the insignificant right wing of politics is a bad idea.  If this can happen to Gates, which one of us is next?  We each must live in the realization that it is not good, not now, to meet any police today, tomorrow or ever.

How were the Cambridge police keeping the peace by arresting  Gates own house porch? Don’t we each have the right to ask questions of an officer and have that officer answer directly?  I know all sorts of spiritual upstanding black men who are mistreated daily by the police. Are we going to join in the injury with all sorts of thoughtless people?

Published on Thursday, July 30, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

Right Wing Media, Strategists Seize Upon Gates Arrest and Controversy

by Mark Weisbrot

The controversy over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and President Obama’s remark that the police “acted stupidly” has taken up a lot of newspaper and broadcast space in the past week, and brought some attention to the problem of racial profiling and indeed the problems of even having a public discussion of race issues in the United States.

But the fact that President Obama had to backtrack from his remarks says more about certain institutional aspects of racism in the United States than it does about individual attitudes among the electorate or among police officers. That is what is generally missing from the discussion that takes place in the major media.

It is known that no Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of the white vote since 1964. Indeed, that is the main reason why President Obama’s race was not so much of a handicap in the last election: most people who would not vote for an African-American would not vote for a Democrat in any case.  This partisan divide over race issues goes back to Richard Nixon and the Republican party’s “Southern Strategy,” which – using coded racial appeals and other methods — helped keep the White House in Republican hands for 32 of the ensuing  44 years.

All this is significant because, although individual attitudes obviously matter and are influenced by deep historical factors such as slavery and segregation, the persistence of such prejudices over time can be substantially strengthened by certain political institutions and strategies. As the Gates case illustrates, in today’s context this means the Republican party and the right-wing media – which overlap considerably.

Gates, a well-known author, scholar, and professor at Harvard University, was arrested by Cambridge police officer James Crowley for “disorderly conduct” on July 16. Crowley had responded to a 911 call from a neighbor who reported that two men were possibly breaking in to a house. It turned out that Gates was pushing open a jammed door to his own house, assisted by a driver who had dropped him off. After Obama criticized the police actions, the right went into attack mode.

Obama came under fire for saying that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” by arresting Gates. For his part, President Obama has undoubtedly had experiences similar to those of Gates and has talked about his past difficulties, for example, in hailing a cab. As Stanley Fish pointed out, he has now also had the experience of being “President While Black.”

But Obama was being generous to Crowley; a better description would have been “acted maliciously.” Even if we accept Crowley’s own police report as a completely accurate version of events, there was no excuse for putting Professor Gates in handcuffs and dragging him down to the police station. (Gates gave a more credible account of what happened that contradicts Crowley on several key points; Crowley’s account is accepted here only for the sake of argument).

According to the police report, at the time of the arrest Gates had been positively identified as the owner of the home. There is no allegation that he had threatened or was threatening Crowley or anyone else. The “disorderly conduct” charge was, according to the police report, based on Gates allegedly yelling at the police officer from in front of his house.

Police sometimes abuse their authority, and this is a prime example. There is probably not one chance in a thousand that a Cambridge jury would have convicted Gates on these or any other criminal charges. But Crowley knew that the case would never go to trial. He may have arrested Gates out of spite and to demonstrate his authority; or he may have done it to protect himself from any complaint that might have been lodged against his own behavior prior to the arrest. As anyone who is familiar with police practices in the United States knows, it is common for police to arrest the victim when they commit an abuse. For example, when police beat people they sometimes charge them with assault so that they can drop the charges in exchange for the victim agreeing not to file a complaint. This is the most generous interpretation that one can give to Crowley’s decision to arrest Gates. But, either way, the arrest itself was unethical, unprofessional, and an outrage.

Of course, the issue of police abusing their authority is not the same as racial profiling.  But there is enough overlap – people who don’t think racial profiling is a problem are also more likely to back the police, especially against an African-American man who is claiming that the police acted in a racist manner. So the Republicans grabbed an opportunity to rally their base, and the right-wing media sprung into action.

With the rich getting richer and the middle class becoming poor, the police are going to misbehave more and more. People beware.  Who will be the current Moms Mabley to light the path of change toward respect for one another?  Moms was a steam vent to release the hostility of separate but equal.

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