Is there still racism in America? The simple answer is yes. However, the vast majority of us are not racists. As a nation, we have made tremendous strides. Unfortunately, recent events involving Henry Louis Gates, Jr. show that too many people are clinging to the past:
Gates had trouble getting into his home because of a damaged door.
Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley was dispatched on a possible break-in. He found Gates there and asked for identification.
Police say Gates initially refused, became angry and accused the officer of racism. Gates was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, which was dropped.
In response to a question at a news conference, Obama said Gates was a friend and said he didn’t know all the facts, but that the police acted “stupidly” in making the arrest.
Personally, I wouldn’t be offended if a police officer asked me for identification while I struggled to enter my home. In fact, I would be grateful that they were so responsive to policing the community and protecting my property. Based on what I’ve read and heard, it seems to me that Professor Gates is the one with the problem here.
I actually had something like this happen to me once. When I was much younger and living in Los Angeles, I was driving a $500 car with a broken backseat window. I had broken the window myself because the locks didn’t work on the car and the way for me to let myself into the car was from the inside. Well, while driving around, I was pulled over one day by a police officer.
He flat out told me that he pulled me over to check and see if I had stolen the car. At the time, I was in my early twenties. It was summer so I was pretty dark and sporting a mustache and goatee, which my wife always thought made me look like a gang member. Probably a pretty accurate assessment since I actually landed a role in a low budget film as a gang member with that look.
Did I take offense that the police officer pulled me over? Did I become belligerent and argumentative? No, he was doing his job. If Professor Gates had assumed the same instead of jumping to a conclusion that officer’s actions were motivated by racism, this all would have been a non-issue.
Of course, the real problem here is that the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, felt the need to chime in on the incident. Moreover, he did so in a way that assumes racist motivation on the part of the police officer. That’s wrong. Of all the things the President should be focused on, this just doesn’t rank.