Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boston Cop on Gates Arrest: I Would Have Pepper Sprayed the "Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey"

Boston cop Justin Barrett does not believe that Henry Louis Gates received enough punishment for criticizing James Crowley, the Cambridge police officer who arrested the Harvard University professor after mistakenly believing Gates was burglarizing his own home. Barrett says that the outcome of the incident would have differed had he been on the scene:

[I]f I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [oleoresin caseinate aka pepper gas] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.

Barrett made his comments in a very angry email he sent to Yvonne Abraham, a Boston Globe columnist who wrote an article that criticizes the arrest of Gates. The concluding language of Barrett's email states that Abraham's article should be called: "CONDUCT UNBECOMING A JUNGLE MONKEY –BACK TO ONE'S ROOTS."

In Complete Denial
Despite his blatantly racist rant, Barrett denied being a racist in the email and in a formal statement he released today after the Boston police commissioner suspended him. Apparently, Barrett could lose his job.
Barrett's attorney, Peter Marano, is apparently in deeper denial than his client. Marano says that critics have taken Barrett's comments out of context and that Barrett did not call Gates a "banana-eating jungle mon,ey." Marano says that Barrett only criticized Gates for acting like a "banana-eating jungle monkey." Thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding.

Question I: How many times has Barrett used this type of language to describe the behavior of whites?

Questions II and III: Imagine that Barrett never sent the email or made similar statements publicly. Under those circumstances, if Barrett had used pepper spray on an innocent black man who protested his treatment by officers without violence, would many people have believed that racism influenced his behavior? How would that situation differ from the Gates incident (other than the use of pepper spray)?


gcotharn said...

1. Pepper spray: what is the argument in favor of using pepper spray? A 12 year old could apprehend Skip Gates w/o using pepper spray(which is no knock on Skip Gates, I hope to live long enough to one day be so easily apprehendable). OTOH, there is an argument to be made that Gates was disturbing the peace.

2. Officers on scene - including a black officer and a Hispanic officer - might not have backed the use of pepper spray as proper for the circumstance, as such officers did back Sgt. Crowley.

3. Officers of color might not have attested to the pepper spraying officer's history of excellence as a police officer and as a human being, as such officers have publicly attested to for Sgt. Crowley.

4. Pepper spraying officer never taught classes in how to avoid unfair racial profiling, as Sgt. Crowley did.

Here's what would not be different: Pres. Obama still would have said "I don't know the facts", then proceeded to make a rash racial accusation.

Here's what would not be different: America would care more about Pres. Obama's rash unreasonableness; America would care more about Pres. Obama's unmasking as someone who lied to voters via representing himself as a circumspect post-racial "bargainer" (in Steele's conception); America would still not care much about a local dog bites man story, i.e. black man is arrested and shouts racial injustice.

Here's something which would not change: WHY would America care so little about black man is arrested and shouts racial injustice? There have been too many cries of "wolf", too many cries of wolf which have been supported by public personalities who ought to know better. The inevitable result is that actual instances of racism, and actual injustices which inevitably flow from same, are devalued.

Nell said...

Sometimes fellow lawyers just embarrass me.

Barrett's lawyer claiming that Barrett didn't call Gates a "banana-eating jungle monkey," he just said he acted like one, is akin to Obama claiming that he didn't call the Cambridge cops stupid, they just acted "stupidly."

Cambridge officer Crowley made a very bad judgment call in arresting Gates, but by all accounts he is a good cop. Barrett, on the other hand, is a bad cop who should have no place on the Boston police force. The disciplinary process will take its course and Barrett will, IMO, lose his job. (Btw, in the email he sent to Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham, he claims to a former English teacher--I don't know what's worse, giving this guy a badge and a gun, or giving him access to our kids.)

FWIW, I practice in the same county where James Crowley is a police officer. I've spent more hours than I care to count in the Cambridge court house. Members of the criminal defense bar (not my area of practice) have nothing but respect for his professionalism.

Race taints all interactions between blacks and whites, just as gender taints all interactions between men and women. There is no escaping either institutional racism or patriarchy.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks, Nell. I have stated several times that Crowley is probably a good cop. But racism and sexism and other isms are not about being "mean" and ugly. Until we learn to accept this, we will never get beyond these issues.

gcotharn said...

If we stipulate that racism is not about being mean, you are still arguing that Sgt. Crowley's actions were motivated by racism (as opposed to being motivated by good police procedure), and you still don't have reasonable evidence to back your argument.

Have you seen this video of Cambridge officers publicly supporting Crowley? Have you seen Officer King as she "burns with the slow fire of the knowledge that she’s telling the truth"?

You are profiling Sgt. Crowley in unwise, unskillful fashion. You are not shrewdly considering the best weights for various circumstances and data.

Nell said...

Darren, I'm not sure I understand your "mean and ugly" comment. Who was being mean and ugly? Barrett (for sure), but what about Crowley, Gates, Obama?

While I would never deny that race played a part in the interactions between Crowley and Gates, the opinion of this white woman is that the confrontation between them was more about the clash of two chest-thumping, testosterone-fueled male egos than it was about race.

Nell said...

To clarify, while Barrett falls into the "mean and ugly" category, I don't think Crowley, Gates or Obama warrants that label.

Although Gates crossed a line when he went on national TV and called Crowley a "rogue cop." Up until that point, Gates had my complete support.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

So, because Barrett is white and a cop and he is a racist this proves something nasty about other white cops and Crowley in particular? How so?

And do you really think the use of pepper spray in your hypothetical situation is a trivial detail? It's actually quite a significant difference.

How is your argument not racial profiling?

If some black man has threatened a police officer with violence can we reasonably say, "how is that different from the Gates case "apart from the threat of violence?".

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Nell: I read your comment as embracing the idea that race mattered in the Gates incident, but I felt that you wanted to distinguish him from Barrett - who seems very hostile. I accept that distinction, but I have also said that discrimination does not make a person mean, hostile, nasty etc. So many people have argued that Crowley is a "good" cop as a way of negating the operation of race. I don't buy the dichotomy. I also agree - and have argued - that gender was a factor too.

Headmistress: You are misreading my analysis - and I encourage you to read my other posts on the issue. I have expressed my argument about Crowley in several posts. I reached a conclusion regarding him long before hearing about Barrett.

I believe that most people would have argued that Barrett was simply protecting himself from an out-of-control individual had he used pepper spray. People were so quick to condemn Gates for criticizing a cop; they would also quickly assume that he acted violently if a cop used force against him.

The Rodney King situation was captured ON TAPE. The California jury still acquitted the officers on the excessive force charge. So to answer you questiion: That case, along with the results in many self-defense cases, gives me a reasonable basis to ask my question.

In addition, people notoriously credit and defend police officers. Tons of empirical data support this analysis. Barrett would have aruged that it was self-defense. Not too many people would have doubted the claim. Making these arguments is not "racial profiling." My position is grounded in research on this subject.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcothern: Thanks for your posts. Obama did not accuse Crowley of racism. Please see my earlier post on this issue.

Also, a much older pattern of "crying wolf" involves whites denying that racism exists or that it harms blacks (if it does exist). This argument started during slavery and has lasted throughout American history. From your perspective, blacks "cry wolf." From an historical perspective, whites say that the attacking wolf does not exist or that his bites do not hurt. See: Racial Exhaustion

Nell said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Darren. I wholeheartedly agree that racism (or sexism or homobigotry or any other prejudice) doesn't need an overtly mean and ugly face in order to manifest itself. In fact, subtle forms of bigotry are often more insidious than the mean and ugly variety. And in no way did I intend to draw a dichotomy that would suggest Barrett=bad and Crowley=good.

One of the reasons I'm willing to cut Crowley some slack is that I expect he is one of those generally good white folks (like me!) who has consciously made an effort to get beyond racism and believes he has succeeded. After all, the man was chosen by his AA superior to teach police recruits about the dangers of racial profiling. So when he arrived on Gates's front doorstep in response to a possible burglary in progress only to be immediately confronted with charges of racial bias, he was shocked and offended, probably more so than your average cop on the beat who hasn't made the same effort to combat racism both on a personal level and within the community at large. As a professional, however, Crowley should not have allowed his personal offense at Gates's accusations to influence his actions, and that's where my sympathy for Crowley ends.

But I can relate. During the past year or so, I've been called a racist by fellow Democrats, even some members of own family, because of my refusal to support the candidacy of Barack Obama. And I can tell you, it hurts -- a lot. The sad truth is, though, there is no getting past race, not completely anyway. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Headmistress: You are misreading my analysis - and I encourage you to read my other posts on the issue. I have expressed my argument about Crowley in several posts. I reached a conclusion regarding him long before hearing about Barrett.

Professor, I have read your other posts. I read pretty much all of your posts. I know you reached a conclusion long before hearing about Barrett, but your conclusion was devoid of evidence then and Barrett's behavior certainly proves nothing at all about Crowley's, unless you wish to suggest all whites are the same. Do they all look alike to you, too? That's the level of argument you are making here.

And are you seriously arguing that no blacks anywhere EVER have been mistaken in seeing racism where it isn't? That is just as ludicrous as claiming racism doesn't exist or that blacks aren't hurt by it (this second claim I am unfamiliar with, but you say it has been made).
We have seen blacks 'crying wolf' (and whites as well) in the recent election where we were told the ONLY reason anybody could have for not voting for Obama was racism.

The fact that Crowley was white and arrested the black professor Gates is all the proof you needed to conclude the arrest was racially motivated. And you know the white dude was racially motivated because he arrested Gates, and oh, yeah, some other white cops have been racist, ergo, all white cops are racists and every time they arrest a black man it's racially motivated.

That's profiling if I ever saw it, and circular reasoning to boot.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Nell: Thanks for the follow up. I see your points more clearly. On the "race" charge, I am willing to accept it in the police case (given the history of policing and the facts of the case), but the Barack v Clinton racism/sexism wars gave me a headache. Fortunately, I was able to work through that headache by publishing a book chapter that will appear in a collection of new feminist theory (published by Routledge). Look out for it. It's called: Resistance in the Afterlife of Identity (well, that's my chapter's title).

Headmistress: You say I offered "no" evidence to prove my point, but that's the problem with analysis of race today. No one will have direct evidence that shows "specific intent" -- say, in the form of Barrett's comments. Instead, most cases of racial (and gender) discrimination are proved with circumstantial evidence. That's exactly what I offered.

Also, I tend to think that some discussions of race are overblown, in the sense that the issue is trivial (Don Imus), rather than believing that the allegations are simply false (although some of those exist too). But you certainly have not struggled with the reality that from slavery and beyond, American culture has contained a very powerful rhetoric that denies the existence of racism (or denies that it is injurious). This is far more dangerous than a false allegation of racism.

Finally, if you know anything about this blog, you should also know that I believe claims that not voting for Obama was an act of racism were pretty bogus. I advocated for Hillary Clinton more often than not!

gcotharn said...


I hope that someday you will think of your blogposts and comments about this incident and be ashamed.

What does macro historical racism have to do with a specific decision to arrest Skip Gates for disturbing the peace? Which specific incident is what Mistress Zoo, for instance, is talking about.

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. I can barely contain my revulsion at your use of a macro generalization to make a specific accusation against Sgt. Crowley. Here's something which is macro: black students who suck at academic excellence. How about I take that generalization and blithely use it to make some specific accusations which are not backed by specific evidence? Here's something which is macro: black men commit crime at a vastly higher rate than men of other races. How about I take that generalization and blithely use it to make a specific accusation which is not backed by specific evidence?

You are not thinking clearly about this. If ever an instance existed for you to counsel caution about leveling a race charge, this is it. If you do not counsel caution in this instance, I don't see when you EVER would.

continued below

gcotharn said...

Re specifics

Mistress Zoo is slightly off. You have ONE bit of evidence, and ONE bit of evidence only: Sgt. Crowley wrote on the report that witnesses told him black men broke into the house.

If Sgt. Crowley was trying to legitimize the case for having strongly interrogated Gates, does this really indicate racism on Sgt. Crowley's part? Not necessarily. It could indicate dishonesty without also indicating racism. Sgt. Crowley might routinely shine up his reports around the edges, and this might have nothing to do with racism. When you say this indicates racism, you and much of the left are making an unsupportable leap. This is a data point to be considered. There is far more data which indicates Sgt. Crowley is not racist.

Also, it's fully possible Sgt. Crowley is misremembering. His adrenaline would have been up before he went to Gates' door. Memory can play tricks.

Also, it's possible another witness said "black men".

My point being, Gates police report that witnesses alleged "black men" could have several explanations - including that Gates was covering up his own racist leanings, including that Gates was being untruthful for reason which had nothing to do with race - and we do not have strong reason to be confident about what this data point indicates.


Finally, you dismiss my comments by saying "Obama did not accuse Crowley of racism." Of this you ought also someday be ashamed.

First: Obama blatantly mentioned race; Obama blatantly said Cambridge Police were stupid. Who (?) is "Cambridge Police"? Sgt. Crowley is Cambridge Police. Obama then lectured America about race. WHOever and WHATever could Obama have been alluding to?

Second: forget, Obama. You, Darren, said Sgt. Crowley made racial assumption.

I don't know why your thinking is so muddled about this incident, but it is, and you ought try to think more clearly.

gcotharn said...

in that last comment, I said "Gates police report" when I ought to have said "Crowley's police report" and "Crowley was covering up his racist leanings" and "Crowley was being untruthful for reason which had nothing to do with race".

gcotharn said...

Also, now it turns out that Gates exhibited less than optimal cooperation when receiving a ticket 15 or 20 years ago. How significant is that to 2009? Not very. It is a data point, and yet Gates may have had danged good reason to be less than cooperative way back then, and therefore it's not a significant data point. Similary, Sgt. Crowley's alleged misinformation on his police report, if it truly is misinformation, and based on what we know of it at this time, is not a significant enough data point to justify an public accusation of race motivated action by Sgt. Crowley.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: You asked what the relevance of "macro" racism was to the Gates arrest. Although I believe my post explains it -- here goes. Because the only evidence of "race" in cases that lack bigoted rants is circumstantial evidence, this makes the context of race and policing relevant. It does not make it outcome determinative have some people have twisted my words to mean, but I do not believe you can simply dismiss them as irrelevant. I could ask the same question of you and Headmistress who believe that "false allegations" of racism are relevant to this situation. If those are relevant, then so are incidents of racism in similar contexts.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: I nelgected to respond to your horrified reaction to my statement that Obama never said that Crowley was racist. Well, he didn't. Saying and alluding are two different things. Perhaps the president wanted to imply the possiblity or even reality that Crowley acted on racial impulses, but he would not risk political capital doing so. I argued this in a previous post. It is another example of Obama dancing around the issue. Because I have grounded my analysis in his actual words, I do not understand why I should regret making it.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: I nelgected to respond to your horrified reaction to my statement that Obama never said that Crowley was racist. Well, he didn't. Saying and alluding are two different things. Perhaps the president wanted to imply the possiblity or even reality that Crowley acted on racial impulses, but he would not risk political capital doing so. I argued this in a previous post. It is another example of Obama dancing around the issue. Because I have grounded my analysis in his actual words, I do not understand why I should regret making it.

Also, on the "macro" point- I should also point out that I argued that the FACTS of the case plus the broader context suggest race. So, to the extent that you contend that my analysis is based solely on the actions of others (not Crowley), you are wrong.

PS: The point that Crowley's report did not match the 911 call was not my "evidence." I reached a conclusion on this case in previous essays. Feel free to review them.

gcotharn said...

False claims of racism are irrelevant to the question of Crowley's guilt or innocence in this specific instance, and I never said differently. I only mentioned false claims of racism in the context of asserting that America is more interested in Obama's rash racial assumption, and is less interested in Gates' dog-bites-man racial accusation.


It's one thing for you to be offended that a man could be arrested for mouthing off to police. However, such does not indicate racism on Crowley's part. Crowley might easily have been enforcing Cambridge law as he understands it, and in fact as Cambridge law exists at this time. That you disagree with Cambridge law, or that you disagree with Crowley's (mis?)interpretation of Cambridge law, does not indicate that Crowley made a racial assumption during his enforcement of Cambridge law as he understands it.

Everyone who comes to this blog understands that Crowley might have had racial motive, and might have been racially motivated in his actions re Skip Gates.

You are arguing that racists are clever (I agree), and therefore it is legitimate to utilize historic circumstantial evidence about white people in order to indict Sgt. Crowley.

I am arguing that your argument is foolish, unreasonable, and in fact demonstrates bigotry against Sgt. Crowley and against all white people, including me. Your argument is blatantly offensive.

You have the free speech right to make your argument, and I have the free speech right to say you are making a bigoted argument which ought embarrass you. I hope, someday, you will reflect upon it and be embarrassed.

gcotharn said...

btw, re your not asserting "outcome determinative"

Who are you trying to kid? Reread your own posts and comments. I already have.

Inspector Clouseau said...

Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof. Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society. We should "Never Underestimate the Power of Laughter."

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: Several points. I have said that the arrest was improper FROM MY PERSPECTIVE due to the First Amendment issues and the equal protection issues. Pick your poison.

The prolonged effort to contest a racial interpretation of the arrest obscures the bigger point: that the arrest was invalid and, in fact, stupid.

I am actually surprised by all the energy that people use to disprove racism when "some" evidence of wrongdoing exists (like a First Amendment violation). It reminds me of the Bush response to Katrina. There was a vehement effort to wash race out of the equation, which meant that Bush was simply inept and unprepared rather than racist. Cool.

The only reason why my arguments could possibly offend you is that you either are misunderstanding them or because you believe that simply questioning whether or arguing that racism exists harms white people. Either option is an unsound basis for your conclusion. Anyone who has read my views, rather than inventing my views knows that I have defended whites against charges of racism - even when the vast majority of people of color and the media felt otherwise. See, e.g.,
Obama Allows Two "Racists" to Campaign for Him: Why?

Will Wonders Ever Cease! Bill Clinton and Barack Obama on the Campaign Circuit

Unlike most people (including you, perhaps), I do not believe that racism makes someone an evil, moronic [fill in the blanks with more ugly adjectives]. Instead, as I have said on here before, biases related to race, sex, sexual orientation are often unconscious. This is not meant as an indictment of you or any other white person. Instead, it is an invitation to all readers to think more critically about "our" surroundings, rather than to retreat into kneejerk defensiveness and accusatory behavior. By contrast, if the cop simply arrested Gates because he was "offended," then this is an intentional violation of the First Amendment. Why is this less offensive than an allegation (right or wrong) of racism?

gcotharn said...

You continue to believe I misunderstand you. So, I will fine tooth comb your Gates/Crowley posts, to ensure that I do not misunderstand, and to provide you opportunity to understand me.

Part 1 - your post:

Conservatives react to Obama, Gates, and Race

A major assertion is that Obama did not accuse Sgt. Crowley of racism. Look at these words of Obama's:

"Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact."

Me: How do you not see the bolded parts as racial accusation against Sgt. Crowley? Excepting you (and excepting persons paid to defend Barack), virtually the entire nation interpreted it as racial accusation.

"As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society."

Me: How do you not see these bolded parts as racial accusation against Sgt. Crowley? Excepting you, virtually the entire nation interpreted it as racial accusation.

"That doesn’t lessen the incredible [racial] progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that’s been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this [race] still haunts us."

Me: How do you not see this as racial accusation against Sgt. Crowley? Excepting you, virtually the entire nation interpreted it as racial accusation.

"And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause casts suspicion even when there is good cause."

Me: Why is Barack bringing this up if he is not accusing Sgt. Crowley of racial motivation? Excepting you, virtually the entire nation interpreted this as racial accusation.

"And that’s why I think the more that we’re working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we’re eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody is going to be."

Think of what Barack is asserting: police racial bias is so pervasive that the federal government must intervene. Why is Barack bringing this up if he is not accusing Sgt. Crowley of racial motivation? Excepting you, virtually the entire nation interpreted this as racial accusation. Virtually the entire nation heard a rash racial assumption which demonstrated rash behavior, unreasonable behavior, and racial agenda. If Barack didn't know the facts, why would he assume Sgt. Crowley had racial motive and acted stupidly? The rash racial assumption was what grabbed America's attention.

(Continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Part 2 - still on your post:

Conservatives react to Obama, Gates, and Race

More of your assertions:

You acted as if "regrettable and unfortunate" was a meaningful statement (it was standard PR pap) which could only apply to Crowley and could not apply to Gates.

You acted as if the DA's dropping the case indicated Crowley acted stupidly. Dropping this case indicated no such thing.

You say citizens ought be able to loudly protest 1) being arrested or 2) being treated with bias. That's a fine opinion, yet it does not match Cambridge law about disturbing the peace. There is every indication Crowley acted according to his understanding of Cambridge law.

Therefore, re your 2): where is the evidence Crowley acted with bias? It doesn't exist. Acting in accordance with Cambridge law is not an indication of racially motivated action.

Aside: if Crowley did break the law via dishonestly lying in his police report recounting of witness statements, such dishonesty could have been motivated by a factor other than race: Crowley could have dishonestly desired to shine up the police report irregardless of the race of the arrested person. Also, in fairness, it's possible Crowley had a legitimate memory lapse. It happens.

More about your 1) above: Gates was not loud b/c he was being arrested. He was arrested b/c he was loud. If Gates actually was arrested for verbally protesting (to my knowledge, he was not arrested for protesting, but rather for being loud), he was nevertheless arrested in accordance with Crowley's understanding of Cambridge law about disturbing the peace.

You say Gates ought be allowed to request information (badge numbers, names, et al). No one disagrees. The only person claiming Gates was arrested for requesting information is, maybe, Gates. And you. And, who knows: Obama? Other officers on the scene have not supported this allegation. So, it's he said/they said, which indicates exactly zero.

To my knowledge, no one except you has suggested Gates was arrested for bad mouthing or criticizing cops. Crowley's inclusion of "your mama" in the police report is an example of giving a thorough description, and is not an assertion that Gates was arrested for invective. To my knowlege, Gates was arrested for volume.

You said: " I doubt that many whites have been suspected of burglarizing their own homes." You are 100% wrong about that. I confidently assert that many whites have been suspected of burglarizing their own homes. If Gates had been white, he would likely have been suspected in exactly the same fashion, would likely have been questioned in hostile and challenging fashion, would likely have been asked to step outside (in case he was being pressured by a hidden gunman in the house). In this circumstance, you (and Barack) are not fully cognizant of police procedure, are not fully considering of the danger which might be present inside a house: how will that danger be discovered? how will a liar be tripped up and revealed? how will a hidden gunman be discovered and neutralized?

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Part 3 - still on your post:

Conservatives react to Obama, Gates, and Race

My story has nothing to do with a house, but I was once suspected of being a potential sex criminal for walking around a high school track in a pair of gym shorts, a t-shirt, and Nikes. My circling of the track brought me - each time I passed around one end zone - into proximity to high school girls. This was enough to prompt hostile questioning from police officers who were patrolling the area on motorcycles: "What are you doing here!?" They wanted to know. "I'm walking around this track" somehow didn't strike them as plausible.

In a separate incident, I was suspected of being a burglar b/c I was walking through my own neighborhood. I was questioned in hostile fashion. I have more stories about encounters with police, as many Americans do.

In the comments to this post, when a commenter is upset that you accused Crowley of being influenced by race, you respond (my paraphrase): don't be upset; when I say someone is racially influenced, I am not accusing them of being a bad person, but am merely encouraging all of us to open our eyes to the truth.

First, I fully believe this is your intention. However, you are out of step with a mainstream American culture which mercilessly punishes racist action. Therefore, ethic of reciprocity (in Christianity: the Golden Rule) demands that you spend a lifetime issuing disclaimers before oh-so-mildly accusing someone of being racially influenced.

Your fate is similar to the current fate of white persons. We are forced to issue disclaimers before criticizing black persons, i.e. some variation of: I'm not racist (insert long speech about your personally tolerant beliefs here), but (insert name of black person) is acting like a fool. And I'm not making this next part up: this disclaimer + perfectly rational criticism is sometimes followed by effective shocked gasps + advice to: Do not dare say this again, to anyone, or you might be fired/suspended/ostracized/reputation ruined/career damaged/forced into tolerance class. Which can only prompt this assessment: white people are acting like fools about race. And that's part of the atmosphere into which you lob your casual assessments about racial influence amongst decent persons in our society. And certainly you ought to be able to lob casual assessments. But, in our cultural moment, reciprocity demands continual disclaimers from you. Welcome to the disclaimer team. Being on this team sucks.

Second, your casualness does not excuse unfair/inaccurate accusation and characterization; does not excuse poor reasoning; does not excuse lack of reasonable and appropriate evidence to back an assertion. Other commenters may be upset over potential repercussions to Crowley. I'm upset over your sloppy accusation, sloppy characterization, faulty reasoning, and lack of reasonable evidence to back your oh-so-mild accusations of racially influenced behavior. You are flatly wrong that white people in their own home would not be suspected of being burglars. That has to be the main factor in your unreasonable assessment of Gates/Crowley.

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Part 4 - on the next post of yours:

Obama and Gates: Two Unlikely "Race Men"

You repeat that Gates was arrested for protesting his treatment. To my knowledge, Gates was not arrested for protesting, but rather for volume.

Crowley did not say he acted responsibly b/c the 911 caller/witness said "black man". Crowley says he acted responsibly b/c he followed Cambridge law about what constitutes disturbing the peace. Now, whether or not Cambridge law is constitutional - according to either the U.S. or the the state of Massachusetts, is irrelevant to Crowley's claim of responsibility. Crowley was acting in accordance with Cambridge law as he understands it. Therefore, in his mind, he was acting responsibly. [and Crowley, obviously, might have been acting from racism. I'm not claiming to know the inner workings of Crowley's mind. I am saying you mischaracterized Crowley's professed motivation and reasoning.]

No one who teaches in a race studies program shies away from controversial and socially damning commentary. The very act of teaching race studies is controversial and necessitates socially damning commentary.

[Begin Gleeful Speculation]When an old black man who has been teaching race studies sees the police invading his home and property, he is the happiest old black man in America. (O Happy Day!) Personal validation! (When Jesus comes!) Gravitas! (He washes my cares away!) A story to tell in future classes! (O Happy Day!) Even if Gates is atheist, he was thanking Jesus for this fortunate event. [End Gleeful Speculation]

Can I prove this? Nah. Is it fair to publicly accuse Skip Gates in this way? Nah. It is not fair. Still, it is awfully fun - especially since you teach Critical Race Theory - and it is plausible. So let me make an oh-so-mild and even wilder speculation: it's not impossible that Skip Gates, somewhere deep in the recesses of his consciousness, was hoping to be arrested and was forcing the issue. If he was convinced he was being racially profiled, then being arrested would further validate his victimization. If he wasn't arrested, he would be like a golfer who made a hole in one and didn't have a witness. Being arrested would be like creating an instant witness. I'm waaay off in speculation land now. This speculation is maybe very unlikely. But, my human instinct tells me it's not out of the question. And it might have had little to do with race. We humans like added attention and added status and added respect from our peers. Gates motivation might not have been so much racial as human and universal. But I'm off topic. Back to you.

Re the remainder of your comments in this post: my responses are already covered above.

Boston Cop on Gates Arrest: I Would Have Pepper Sprayed the "Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey"

In your latest comment, you say: "the arrest was invalid and, in fact, stupid."

The arrest was not invalid and stupid according to Sgt. Crowley's interpretation of Cambridge law. He ought not be accused, by either you or Pres. Obama, for following existing Cambridge law.

How does a First Amendment violation tie into racism? Aren't you making an assumptive leap?

The End.

Please correct - anywhere above - any instance in which I have misinterpreted you.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: Thanks for taking the time to parse through my prior essays -- and reach the exact same conclusion. I suppose this means your dissertation will serve as the "final" leg of our debate. Thanks for reading.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I know this discussion has pretty much ended, but I wanted to explain:

Finally, if you know anything about this blog, you should also know that I believe claims that not voting for Obama was an act of racism were pretty bogus. I advocated for Hillary Clinton more often than not!

I do know that, and respect that- that's why I used it as an example of crying wolf. I thought you would recognize it as a true example of false accusations of race.

But you certainly have not struggled with the reality that from slavery and beyond, American culture has contained a very powerful rhetoric that denies the existence of racism (or denies that it is injurious). This is far more dangerous than a false allegation of racism.

I am certain I have not struggled with it to the point and at the level that you have, but I don't know how you could know what I have and have not struggled with in regards to racial issues and in what context.
I could give you a list, but that seems pointless.
I agree that there is a culture which denies the existence of racism. I have heard such arguments and debated them when confronted with them. I do not disagree with you that there is a culture which denies that it is harmful, I am merely unfamiliar with that particularly claim.

I disagree with you about how harmful false allegations of racism are. They can be devastating to the target of them, they have a chilling effect on speech in other areas, and, like the original wolf story, they make people who would otherwise be sympathetic or at least open to reason more prone to deny racism exists rather than less, as false allegations serve to confirm that ugly accusations of racism are made by powerful blacks in situations where such a claim is clearly false (especially ones like this one, where it is obvious to any white person who has ever interacted with the police that Gates behaved in a fashion they could not expect to duplicate with impunity).

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