Dear White People,
You've all heard about the Harvard scholar who got arrested in his own home, right? If you haven't, you've been living under a rock, particularly since President Obama was asked about it yesterday in a televised press conference.
So here's the story: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a black man, was apparently trying to shimmy his door open in an affluent neighborhood, a neighbor called the police, the police arrived after Dr. Gates was in his home, Dr. Gates showed ID, heated words were exchanged and Dr. Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.
I keep hearing some of y'all defending the Cambridge police officer. I've heard, "they always cry racism" and "if he had just complied with the officer's instructions there wouldn't have been a problem."
Let's talk about racism first, even though this is a touchy subject for us "white folks," particularly since we're supposed to have all this liberal angst and guilt over having been born white. But let's forget all about that and just grab on to that third rail of polite society.
Have I been accused of being a racist before? Yep. Sure have. When I was in college I worked in a beauty supply store. A customer (black) came in and was looking through our hair accessories. Being the nice shop girl that I was, I checked to see if she needed help and then returned to some paperwork at the counter, occasionally looking up to see if any customers looked lost or needed help. You know, doing my job? Damn work ethic.
The customer in hair accessories then came over, asked to see my manager, and proceeded to rail about how I was constantly watching her because she was black and I must have thought she was going to shoplift. Well, this little white girl was shocked. And then I cried because someone automatically assumed I was a horrible person. And then I got pissed off. And then I doubted myself. Had I been watching her more closely because of her skin color? Eventually I realized that my customer's reaction, while extreme, was almost certainly a product of treatment she'd received in the past. And I got the hell over myself.
So I guess what I'm saying is, yeah, having been accused of racism before, it's easy to get defensive and just dismiss it out of hand. But that doesn't mean that racism isn't alive and well in the gold old U.S. of A. A defensive stance should not be our automatic response. If it is, nothing will ever change.
Next, let's talk about how Dr. Gates "should have obeyed the police officer." Well, hell, none of us know exactly what happened. But what we do know was that Dr. Gates was in his house, heated words were exchanged and Dr. Gates showed ID proving that he lived in the home.
Now, I don't care what the hell Dr. Gates said to that police officer. He should not have been arrested. He wasn't standing on the street. He wasn't brandishing a weapon. He wasn't resisting arrest for some other crime. He showed the officer that he lived in the house. Then he probably told the officer to get the hell out. I'm sure he was pissed that someone assumed a black man trying to get into a house in the neighborhood was breaking in. Hell, I'd be pissed about that too.
But after he showed ID, the officer should have backed the hell off and gotten the hell out of there. As a police officer, you don't get to use your handcuffs just because you're pissed off at someone or feeling a little defensive because you've just been called a racist. As President Obama said, the Cambridge police acted "stupidly." What that officer did was abuse his power, something we're supposed to abhor in this nation.
Any one of you would be furious if arrested for disorderly conduct in your own home. If you can't be disorderly in your own home; if you can't speak your mind in your own home, then where can you?
So, white people, shut the hell up. Dr. Gates was right to be pissed. You'd be pissed too. Don't defend that cop just because you're feeling defensive about your own white skin. It's time to change our gut reactions and to change our behavior.
Just Another White Girl
I had a lot of people comment on this post on Facebook, so I've added their comments below: