The teachable moment

My brother came up from Nampa, Idaho for a class reunion. That being done he spent some time prepared to visit with my mother.  More than once, she brought up the Professor Gates case, the Harvard scolar arrested by Officer Crowley at his own home.  The second time, while we were having a parting breakfast with my sister and her friend at JB’s who had also come up for a visit.  Of course, my oldest brother was all for passing judgment on the President of the U.S., Barack H. Obama for even daring to speak out about what he thought had gone wrong with that arrest of Prof. Gates.  And pitying the poor woman who called 9/11 as being labeled a “racist.”  But then, my brother had only the day before labeled the Christian Obama as a “Muslim,” as in “What can you expect anyway from a Muslim President?”  Speaking of bigot…

So, let me be clear here as to what ought to be a “teachable moment.”  A white Republican president gets word that a white GOP pal out of Harvard gets arrested by an African-American arresting officer.  Seems the GOP prof having traveled abroad and only recently returned from his trip to China is unloading his luggage and trying to get into the front door of his home, finds his door jammed, and trying to get inside soon after faces a visit from the officer in question.  Waxing belligerent at the officer and getting arrested for “disorderly conduct,” as soon as the GOP prof finds the charges dropped against him; cries about his “treatment” to no less than the white GOP prez.

How would the news media react if the Prez said that the arresting officer “behaved stupidly?”  How would the fellow police officers react if the white prez said of the African-American officer that he (or she) “behaved stupidly?”  How might Fox News react?  While I did not go to such in-depth statements with my brother as we left JB’s this morning; I did say to him that if a white man had said exactly what Obama had, that the reaction would be different.  I have no doubts that the reaction would be different.  Just different enough that it ought to tell this country in general, the news media more specifically and finally the thin blue line that is quick to declare where their allegiance may truly lie when any one of their fellow officers might get caught in a wrongful situation.  So yes, it would not surprise me that Crowley’s backup would defend her fellow officer under the circumstances.  Just as it would not surprise me that in a great many questionable situations that Leonard Pitts, jr. has affirmed, very rarely do police officers caught in a serious situation  pay the price.  But the African-American reaching for his wallet and shot numerous times by trigger happy police officers; well, Prof Gates would be as aware of that history without a doubt as Pitts himself.  And Gates over-reacting to a visit from the police, would be highly understandable too.  But then, my brother wouldn’t know all that would he?  He reads “The Drudge Report.”  Until you are on the receiving end of “police behaving stupidly,” you really wouldn’t know what it is like.

Ask Shonto Pete out of Washington state.  A cop behaving stupidly sat at the bar after he was off-duty and got drunk.  That wouldn’t be so bad but he came into the bar armed with his service weapon.  And then used it on Mr. Pete with an after the fact claim that Pete was trying to “steal his truck.”  Not proven.  Or Otto Zehm who finally died as a consequence of police behaving stupidly.  A 9/11 call presuming that Mr. Zehm, a mentally challenged janitor was “behaving suspiciously” around an ATM.  From, “behaving suspiciously” trying to get himself a snack and a drink at the local convenience store and getting thoroughly beaten up in the process and ultimately dying because of it.  Some better than two years later, only now is at least one arresting officer actually facing a federal indictment.

It isn’t wrong to question the ethics and practices of bad apples who carry a badge.  But it would seem that if you are a bi-racial Democratic president with the name of Obama, thou shalt not!!!  Or meet the wrath of the talking heads who want to fan the flames of hatred because the same president made an honest statement about a very questionable situation.  Why shouldn’t he?  Why shouldn’t anyone?  We have blogs where many people can come on board and discuss at length the cops who behave stupidly, even former cops can weigh in.  We can discuss cops behaving stupidly, we can videotape cops behaving stupidly, but the President of the U.S. must be forbidden expressing that sentiment.  Why?  Must be because of his dad’s race.  Which begs the question of just how much this country may have advanced; make that grown up; since the slave owning days.  We advanced enough to put an African-American in the White House, but we seem not to have advanced enough to not hold him in contempt for even opening his mouth and saying something.

Would I say that all parties over-reacted?  Of course.  Would I label the woman who made the 911 call “racist?”  No.  Would I argue that Obama in trying to bring two “warring parties” to the White House and having them talk things over brought closure to this issue?  I’d love to but for those “Muslim hating” crackpots who are highly uncomfortable with the idea that anyone but a White Man ought to occupy the White House.  Or that the White Man ought to be anyone but a Republican.

Seems to me that the news media ought to feel some sense of shame here.  They only did report the many instances in which “cops behaving stupidly” killed the innocent while in pursuit of the bad guy.  If a white president said of the situation above that the arresting officer had “behaved stupidly” in even pushing this sorry situation even further, escalating the incident so that he (or she) could make an arrest, even though the individual stood on his own property and showed all proper ID; would a white president get the kind of strident attacks that Obama had received?  Would a white president even find it necessary to “apologize” for his remarks?  Would the news media raise a racket because of what the white president did?  I am not in a position to answer such questions, but perhaps my readers will.

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