Barack Obama and Henry Gates literally invented an artificial racial profiling incident. This is now obvious. The CNN interview by Don Lemon with two black Cambridge officers, Leon Lashley and Kelly King, who is also female, was remarkable--CNN's Don Lemon Does Amazing Interview With Cambridge Police . The officers seemed so modern, enlightened, even futuristic, versus Gates' and Obama's backward looking stereotypes. The two officers' primary identification was with their fellow officers and their Department, not with their race or ethnicity. Ironically, my previous essay, posted on Big Hollywood, The Tragi-Comedy of Sonya Sotomayor, references the TV police show "The Closer". I made the point that one of the subliminal cultural messages in many police based television shows is its implied melting pot ideal. This is to be contrasted with the ethnic identity ideal espoused by Sotomayor, and seemingly a large portion of the left. Obama and Gates continue to be mired in the past, looking to exploit potential racial slights at every turn. Does anyone even remember Reverend Wright? Or is that still impolite to bring up in public?
Rather than folding up his tent and moving on, the president just cannot let this go. He will insist on making this a "teachable moment", the effect of which will be to move back in time, not forward. He will do everything in his power to prove that while he may have been "uncalibrated" on the specifics, his larger point of racism in America, particularly whites against blacks, still holds. He will use Gates and Crowley as props. But this particular case has nothing to do with any "larger point" about racism in America. As Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R) of Michigan has proposed (McCotter Introduces Resolution), Obama still needs to apologize. The only guy who brought race into the police incident was Gates himself, supported in the most biased and foolish way by Obama. Obama will try to chuckle and joke his way out of it over "a beer" if he can con both men to meet in the White House. That should be fun.
I guarantee you, if I acted exactly that way in my town, I would have been treated the same way as Gates. My wife, one of Obama's "Latinos" who apparently get profiled too, had a similar incident at our house last week. Our house alarm went off and a policeman unfamiliar with my wife came to investigate. We have lived in our town 25 years and my wife has developed a good rapport with the police, having had occasion to help out from time to time. He had many questions, as my 17 year old nephew was also there in the middle of the action. We both later imagined the insanity of her pulling a "don't you know who I am?" stunt. "This is my house; are you doing this because I am a Latina in America?" The sorry fact is she probably could have "pulled the race card out", if she was looking for some notoriety, as Gates clearly was. That is the tragedy of race in this country still. (It turns out the officer worked in the "Township" and we live in the "Borough", so he did not know her--like Officer Crowley, he was closest to the house, so he responded). I realize some people do not have a problem with aggravated verbal attacks--of the sort Gates committed--against police for just exercising their sworn duty. But I do. It can only create confusion and chaos, thus increasing the likelihood of a real incident. Gates acted like a spoiled adolescent, which apparently is what guaranteed lifetime employment at Harvard produces.
This is so bad and revealing on several levels. First, Obama prepared for this question on Gates. This was a question he knew would be asked and was not an off the cuff remark. What did Obama think he was accomplishing? He had to know some of the actual details, even as he said he did not. The incident had happened one week prior. How can the president of the United States, aggressively and assertively, and in a biased manner on behalf of a friend, think that his comments would not potentially create racial tension in the country? Clearly, Obama's intent was to intimidate police officers nationwide and impugn the Cambridge police. This is what he thinks a president's role should be?
The "teachable moment" was loud and clear. If a white officer arrests a black man, yell "racism". Even as public opinion is against Obama on this one, it is impossible for his comments to not have some impact. What police officer wants to get hauled before a nation and have your name be linked to racism, even if you get a free beer at the White House for your troubles? Obama just happened to stupidly pick on the wrong guy in Crowley. Worse, his friends aren't so hot either. Gates could not be a worse symbol or a less sympathetic character. Like false rape accusers, Gates' accusation against Crowley makes real cases of racial bias that much less likely to be believed. Further, it could also make police hesitant about responding to calls in minority neighborhoods.
But I have a hunch that Cambridge officers Crowley, King and Lashley are becoming more the norm in this country, not the exception. The Civil Rights movement really has led to better education in schools and better training by public officials. Plus, our culture actually is becoming increasingly race neutral, despite people like Barbara Boxer, Henry Gates, Jeremiah Wright, and now Barack Obama, who seem to pine for a Retro-world of non stop racial and ethnic grievance.The two Cambridge police officers, Kelly King and Leon Lashley are straight talkers and profoundly intelligent people. King, in particular, landed a one-two punch on Obama and Governor Patrick, saying she could never vote for either again as a function of each's comments.
Obama may yet worm his way out of this. Gates will have his arm twisted, Crowley will be polite and quiet, and Obama will spin a tale about what we can all learn from this. Meanwhile, he is the guy who rolled the grenade into the tent. But in comparison to Crowley, King and Lashley, he seems suddenly older and more calcified in his ways. I don't think that is something he can change.