Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breaking and Entering While Black

My 18 year old daughter gets stopped all the time by the police. She's used to it by now as is her boyfriend who really feels as though he is harassed. As a result he has many tickets (some warranted, some not). This happens all the time to African Americans (and other people of color). Many years ago I was told about an incident that resulted in the murder of a college acquaintance who was subsequently stopped because he was driving a car the police thought he stole. The car was expensive--owned by his NFL cousin--so therefore, that meant that it had to be stolen since the driver was a young black male. What occurred during that stop is anyone's guess but the result was the death of the young man at the hands of the officers that stopped him. My own brother also has many tales of being stopped for no reason except for the fact that he is black. For many years he felt that buying certain vehicles would cause random stops and searches. While house hunting, my husband was driving around the neighborhood trying to see if parking on the street was an issue. He was stopped by an officer because he looked 'lost'. Gee, what a nice guy worrying that a motorist is 'lost'. The ultimate problem for these individuals is simply put: Driving While Black. A DWB.

This brings me to the recent incident where Dr. Gates, a Harvard Professor, was arrested for disorderly conduct, when someone thought he was breaking into his house. In that respect, President Obama is correct in his analysis when asked about the Gates arrest in his own home. The president indicated that the police acted stupidly in arresting this man after proper ID was provided and proof given that the man had a reason to be in his own home. The police officer should have left after Mr. Gates presented his ID and an apology given for the intrusion. The man was tired from a long trip, he's educated and older...that means no patience for that kind of nonsense. Furthermore, when proof of identity was presented, there should be no reason this older gentleman would have been required to subsequently step out of his own home!! After all, we have all been taught that words cannot physically hurt anyone. Therefore, it didn't matter what Gates said to express his displeasure at the treatment he was getting by the officer. The really scary thing is that had this been in a worse part of the city, Mr. Gates may be dead after a beating or shooting by the police because they 'mistook the cane for a gun'. One question his neighbors not know who he is and did they not notice the cane???

I suspect that those who jump on anything stated by our president with which they do not agree are going to be having a lot of fun claiming that the president is calling the police stupid and being soft on crime. I am sure some people will point out something (if not now, during the next presidential race) stated by Dr. Gates as being controversial as they did the minister. I suspect that much of his comments surrounding the 'stupidly' word will be taken out of context as I have already seen. Already the media is stating simply that Obama said the police acted stupidly without adding the rest of the sentence. Once again, an important issue will turn into a political game...I am sure the 'clarification' has already been prepared by the White House and will soon be out...let's wait and see.