Stupid cops and scholars
a dumb SUIT column by Chris Jungle
There's a fine line between what's important and what's interesting, and we need to look no further than our own president. He's been on the stump and congressional battleground for weeks for his attempt to revamp the health care system. This is very important because one way or another, this health care thing is going to change. In one week's time, that topic was trumped by a bit of racial profiling and grandstanding in the Harvard-town of Cambridge.
In case you didn't know, a Harvard scholar and friend of the president, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested for breaking into his own house, but really, he was arrested for being a horse's ass about it to a cop. The president said the cop acted "stupidly" for arresting the black man who had trouble getting into his own home after a trip. After getting a tip that there was a break in, the cop, Sergeant James Crowley of the Cambridge Police, arrested Gates, and the charges were later dropped.
People are screaming racial prejudice and profiling, and others are defending the police and their duty to protect and serve. Black vs. White! Scholar vs. Police! Rich vs. Working class! We want apologies! We want somebody's job! We want justice!
Okay, I don't know what really happened, and everyone has their own story. Here's my hack-eyed guess. Black guy can't get in his house and has to jimmy the door. Neighbors don't know who their neighbors really are and call the police screaming that Black men are breaking into a house. Black man has gotten into the house by the time the police arrive. Police act tough and demand black man to step out of house with hands up. Black man get defensive and abusive toward cop. Cop responds in kind. Cop arrests Black man for being abusive toward a cop (not burglary). Black man raises ruckus after charges are dropped. President comments. Media comments. Everybody comments.
Who's right? No one. Who's wrong? The white cop and the Black scholar. Who's now famous? Both of them.
Was there racial profiling? Yes, but not by the cop. Whoever called in the break in obviously didn't know who lived there, and any time you see a Black man fooling with a locked door, you know what they're up to, right?
The police were just responding to a call. Of course, the police say Crowley is an expert on the issue of racial profiling. Whatever. How hard is it to be an expert on an issue? Heck, I'm probably an expert on racial profiling, considering how many ethnicities I deal with in the cab. Whether he is an expert or not, he handled the situation pretty stupidly. Oops, did I say that? Oh wait, I'm not the president. I can say whatever I want.
Of course, the other person to handle the situation stupidly was the Black scholar. Instead of diffusing the situation with the skill and grace of a Harvard man, he took it as a personal offense that the cops would accuse him of breaking into his own house, which in fact, he did. I'm sure he berated the cop and accused him of racial profiling with a less than civil tone, causing the cop to respond in kind. Cops hate it when they are berated by the public. I know the feeling. I don't like it when people tell me how to do my job either.
What should have happened was that the scholar should have understood the situation. He did break into his house. Instead of berating the cop when they got tough, he could have nicely proven he was the resident of the address and explained what happened with the door. The cop should have realized the situation and attempted to diffuse rather than escalate the tension. They could have even laughed off the whole ordeal and gone about their lives. Of course, this would only happen in a civil country, not the freaking suburbs of Boston. FYI, there are a ton of jackasses in Boston. Here are only two.
It turns out the president was only half right. The cops did act stupidly, but so did the scholar. It just proves you can have all the brains and talent and expertise in the world, but you don't know what you'll do until you're in an actual situation. We're all pretty stupid at times.
The president wants this to be a learning experience, but I already knew that people can be stupid. They can be racist. They can be irrational. I don't want any apologies from anyone. I don't want a documentary to be made about it (like Gates claims he will do). I don't care if they get to drink beer with the president. These guys acted stupidly for a simple case of misunderstanding, and now, they get their fifteen minutes. The clock is ticking.
Chew on this: If the cop was black and the scholar was white, would it have gone different? Who knows?
Chris Jungle is not fond of Harvard scholars or the police.
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