Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This is what happens to Black Men in America!!!

Well yeah, this type of shyt does happen *sometimes*, but not ALL THE TIME. What am I referring to? Nothing other than the shytuation revolving around the arrest of world-renowned professor and Director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Studies Henry Louis Gates Jr., affectionately known as "Skip" by friends.

Apparently the statement "This is what happens to black men in America" was uttered by Gates at least 2 or 3 times during his incident with the police in Cambridge, MA.

Well yes, it is what happens, sometimes. We [Black men] get stereotyped. Sometimes I wear my fitted cap backwards with a tilt and people look at me differently than they do when I have on slacks and a shirt. Sometimes the "wow, I'm shocked you went there" expression shows on people's faces when I tell them my alma mater. Sometimes, even though I smile and say hello women grab their children's hands and bring them closer if I have on "casual" clothing and I'm walking down a semi-darkly lit street at night. But sometimes none of these negatively stereotypical things happen to me. And this is why I think Gates' shytuation is so thought-provoking, sobering, and well REAL. The truth of the matter is that the election of a Black president don't mean much on the ground-level. On the macro level the shyt looks great. On the micro level, brothers still getting stereotyped. There is no such thing as post-racial people. Get that through your thick skulls.

Obama's election meant "yes we can" in more ways than one. You can call it the infinite entendre if you like.

Yes WE can move past prejudice and racial stereotyping.

Yes WE can be Black and achieve in a society where we are the minority.

Yes WE can help non-Blacks understand our past, present, and where we are headed in the future.

Yes WE can help show others that not all of us who dress a certain way ACT a certain way.

Yes WE, can.

Based on what I know of Henry Louis Gates I would suspect that he would not have said "this is what happens to black men in America" haphazardly. He wouldn't have said it to victimize himself unnecessarily or make the officer(s) uncomfortable. He would say it because that's how he truly felt. Henry Louis Gates is a highly educated man who surely understands how blurting out accusations of prejudice and racism can be more than just an accusation that makes the accused look bad. It can also make the accuser appear a racially hyper-sensitive, subconsciously self-victimizing, ignorant BLACK PERSON NI99ER. And the last thing we as a people need is one more of us looking ignorant. Especially not one that's as well educated and respected as Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The story goes that Gates was returning home from a trip to China and he was having trouble getting into the door of his home. How you have trouble getting into your own front door is beyond me but sometimes you've gotta "wrench around" and jiggle the lock the bit more so I'll assume he was just tired and somehow the door wouldn't open on the first try. A "white woman" phoned the police saying that a break-in was taking place.

Question #1: Do his neighbors not know who he is? I assume the white woman was his neighbor. I also assume that he is probably one of only a few (if not the only) Blacks that live in his neighborhood. And in case you don't know, in rich neighborhoods non-Blacks know EXACTLY who the Black people are and where they live. It's obvious to me that whoever called the police may have been profiling Gates moreso than the police did.

Gates made it into the foyer of his home by the time the police arrived and they asked him to step outside. He responded "No, I will not". This is where Gates took one step in the wrong direction (to "niggerdom"). I understand he was mad and he felt like he didn't have to deal with the bowlshyt but BLACK MEN, DO NOT get it twisted, one step towards acting like what "they" think a "nigger" acts like is a step toward a bad outcome for you.

Question #2: Why didn't Gates just step outside, show his identification, explain what happened, and (probably) avoid the situation altogether? My guess is that he was pissed because he was just getting home and caught off-guard for some reason he was not remotely aware of. AND, because he didn't want to step outside of his own home. Yet-and-still, are those reason enough to start off your conversation with the police on an insubordinate tip? And I know some of you will be upset at the use of the term inSUBordinate and I don't really like it now that I re-read it but it is what it is.

Gates them demanded to know who the police officer was and his badge number. This one is a bit tricky because I am pretty sure citizens have the right to do this but depending on how you are saying it, it could definitely come across as belligerent. I'm going to guess that Gates came off with a smidgeon of confrontation. Just a guess. Oddly enough, the officer told him who he was and asked him to step outside again and Gates then goes "Why? Because I'm a Black man in America!?!"

Question #3: Seriously, why did he have to pull the race card. Up to this point it appears the officer was not doing anything wrong but yet-and-still if you're a white officer and you're dealing with a Black "suspect" you get the race card pulled avec le quickness. It's not always fair to the officer. I'm not taking up for the litany of white police officers who are effed the eff up and racially profile or are straight up racist. I'm just saying that some of these white officers out here are just looking to protect and serve all people.

Gates then refused to show his ID but eventually gave in. In the end, Gates ended up blurting the " man in America" line a couple more times and eventually arrested for taking a 3rd step into niggerdom disorderly conduct.

In the end, the charges were droppped and we all know he should have never been arrested. Ray Charles could see that. But he also should have drank a hot cup of STFU at a couple points during the shytuation and it would have saved some drama. Or perhaps Gates decided at some point during all this that he wanted to be a martyr (of sorts) and bring some attention to the issue of racial profiling by policemen. A highly-respected Black man being arrested in a liberal town for breaking into his own home??? Why not bring some MUCH-NEEDED attention to the issue of racial profiling and injustice? Perhaps this is what Gates was thinking, I'm not sure. This incident will bring light to the situation as we can all see by our President addressing the situation and contacting both Gates and the police officer involved. And at this point, someone in Gates's position probably should speak out during situations like that because there are many young Black men in the less wealthy neighborhoods of this country that have no voice at all when it comes to situations like this. The more light the better.

I read this article on the Inside Higher Education website and I walked away with several quotes that stuck in my head and I'd like to share:
"Odd, isn’t it? Here we are in the age of Obama, and some things haven’t changed. Blackness is associated in the public mind with wrongdoing; if we are spotted in an unexpected locale, we must be up to something." - Stephen L. Carter, Yale University Law Professor

"When incidents like this occur it lets the greater population become aware of something that most black men are aware of simply by nature of having been black in America" -- Michael Cuyjet, acting associate provost for student life and associate professor of education at the University of Louisville

"[Jack] Levin, who is white, said the take-away from the incident is that Gates and other black men live in a world where racism is prevalent enough that Gates would reasonably conclude he was targeted because he’s black." -- Jack Stripling
The comments on the Inside Higher Education article are rather interesting as well.

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