Patterico's Pontifications

7/22/2009

The Joys of a National Conversation on Race

Filed under: General,Race — Patterico @ 11:52 pm

Here’s why having a “national conversation on race” is a stupid idea: because the liberals are eager to twist anything you say and call it racist. For example, in my post this morning on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, I noted that in his police report, the arresting officer wrote:

Gates then turned to me and told me that I had no idea who I was ‘messing’ with and that I had not heard the last of it.

Based on this and similar comments by Gates, I described Gates as “a high-on-himself Harvard professor.”

When you read that, did you instantly know that I am a racist? If so, then you must be a liberal!

Me, I think “high-on-himself Harvard professor” is an indisputably accurate description of a man who attempts to intimidate a police officer with his exalted status as a Harvard professor. But at Scott Eric Kaufman’s blog, I was quickly set straight. Far from giving an accurate description, I was told, I was simply using “code words” for the deep dark racist thoughts that the clairvoyants over their know I harbor in my ugly racist soul.

As one chuckle-headed commenter named “Rich Puchalsky” said to my commenter JD:

You’re a racist, and so is Patterico, and your reflexive defense of a bad arrest under coded racism disguised as populism is just par for the course.

Never mind that I didn’t defend the arrest, nor did JD — we criticized it. But facts don’t matter to a fella like that. What matters is that Rich Puchalsky just knows that we’re RACISTS!!!!1!!!1! and that he has the courage to call us on it.

Now, you might be thinking: so someone on the Internet is a lunatic. What else is new?

The problem is this: attitudes like this are unfortunately symptomatic of the views held by a distressingly large segment of the self-styled elite. (Many of them, curiously enough, are professors, molding young minds into thinking this kind of crap.) If Rich Puchalsky were just some lunatic popping off on the Internet (OK, he is, but I’m making a point here), that would be one thing. But we had to listen to Barack Obama go on about the Gates arrest, making it sound as if it had been motivated by racism. And if you believe that, it’s a small step to calling bloggers racists because they accurately describe people as high on their own perceived importance in the world.

So can we please continue the national discussion on race? Pretty please? If it’s all like this, I think it will be very productive.

Obama: I’m Not Taking Sides on the Gates Arrest — But Man, Did the Black Man Get Screwed Yet AGAIN!

Filed under: General,Race — Patterico @ 11:24 pm

Obama spoke out about the Henry Louis Gates arrest tonight. He pretended not to take sides . . . and then proceeded to take sides.

Obama swallows the Gates line whole: Gates just showed his ID and then got arrested for seemingly no reason. If it happened to us, Obama said, “any of us would be pretty angry.”

Oh, really? Gates was “angry” because a police officer had come to investigate a neighbor’s report that two black men appeared to be forcing their way into his home. Having just jimmied his way into the home, Gates should have realized that the neighbor had seen him and his driver — and that the cop was reasonably following up on a reasonable concern.

That would have made anyone angry? No.

According to the police report, which I find more credible than Gates’s account, Gates started screaming about racism right from the get-go. (If he didn’t, then why did he get arrested?) And why? Because a police officer was reasonably following up on a reasonable concern?

No, it’s because Gates assumed he was being profiled. And so does Obama, who gives us a long lecture about the history of racial profiling in this country — as if that had anything to do with this incident.

It didn’t. As Jack Dunphy said at the Corner:

The claim that Gates had been “profiled” is ludicrous. Police responded to a 911 call from a witness who described two black men she believed to be breaking into a home. If contacting a black man then found inside that very home is deemed to be “profiling” then the term itself has been stripped of its meaning.

Welcome to post-racial America — where race hustlers hold sway, and all their paranoid fantasies receive official stamps of approval.

Letters to Obama

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 6:42 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Tonight in a prime-time news conference, Barack Obama told Americans (however many of them were watching) that he is rushing health care legislation “because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs” and they ask for his help.

Congress and the apparently tone-deaf Obama are fortunate they don’t have to worry about health care the way we little people do:

“This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance and so does every member of Congress,” he said.”

Polls show more and more Americans little people are starting to question Obama’s stewardship of the economy and his health care proposals. I think we munchkins should send letters to the White House explaining that American taxpayers and businesses are getting clobbered by unemployment, high taxes, spiraling budget deficits, and expansive legislation that adds needless uncertainty to our lives.

Can you help us, too, Mr. President?

— DRJ

Lindsey Graham Supports Sotomayor’s Confirmation

Filed under: Government,Judiciary — DRJ @ 1:38 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

According to Bloomberg News, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham plans to vote in favor of Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court:

“Graham endorsed Sotomayor just minutes after Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Senate Republican, said he would vote against her. Graham and Kyl are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that is scheduled to vote on her nomination on July 28.

“I find her to be well qualified,” said Graham, even as he expressed reservations about some of her off-the-bench remarks.
***
“I would not have chosen her if I had made this choice as president, but I understand why President Obama did,” Graham said. “Elections matter.”

I don’t live in South Carolina and how Graham votes is primarily between him and his constituents. But he strikes me as one of the most unpredictable members of the GOP, and I don’t care for unpredictable Republicans.

— DRJ

The ACLU at Work for a Better America

Filed under: Constitutional Law,General — Jack Dunphy @ 11:28 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

Continuing its effort to eradicate any visible trace of religious belief in this country, the ACLU has demanded that a simple cross, erected in 1934 as a memorial to Veterans of World War I, be removed from atop a rock formation in California’s Mojave Desert. The case, Salazar v. Buono, is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments early in its next term. Below is a video explaining the memorial’s history and the efforts to preserve it.

–Jack Dunphy

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast (Updated x2)

Filed under: Government,Obama — DRJ @ 9:11 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

A fun quote from the AP on the status of the House healthcare bill:

No one wants to tell the speaker (Nancy Pelosi) that she’s moving too fast and they damn sure don’t want to tell the president,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a key committee chairman, told a fellow lawmaker as the two walked into a closed-door meeting Tuesday. The remark was overheard by reporters.”

We need more of these eavesdropping reporters who’re willing to report what they hear.

UPDATE 1 — Another interesting behind-the-scenes quote:

“[Senate Finance ranking member Charles] Grassley said he spoke with a Democratic House member last week who shared Obama’s bleak reaction during a private meeting to reports that some factions of House Democrats were lining up to stall or even take down the overhaul unless leaders made major changes.

“Let’s just lay everything on the table,” Grassley said. “A Democrat congressman last week told me after a conversation with the president that the president had trouble in the House of Representatives, and it wasn’t going to pass if there weren’t some changes made … and the president says, ‘You’re going to destroy my presidency.’

Obama says it isn’t about him … but it is.

UPDATE 2 – Here’s a more encouraging quote:

“Budget chairmen are usually relegated to the background after Congress passes its annual budget resolution, but [North Dakota Senator Kent] Conrad has found a way to stay very relevant.

When asked about the question to Elmendorf, Conrad said he was concerned less about the prospect of derailing Obama’s vision for healthcare reform than about delivering a wake-up call.

“I didn’t have in my mind pleasing or displeasing the president. What I had in mind was getting an answer to a critically important question,” said Conrad. “I wanted to know what the truth is and to make sure that all of us who are working on this know what the truth is.”

— DRJ

Was Henry Louis Gates Arrested Because of Racism? A Response to Scott Eric Kaufman

Filed under: General,Race — Patterico @ 7:25 am

Scott Eric Kaufman asserts that the recent arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was motivated by racism:

Racism in America is truly dead.

(Except for the insignificant bit of it that motivated the arrest in the first place.)

I contend that the motivation was likely something else: the volatile combination of a Harvard professor overly eager to accuse cops of racism, and a cop high on his own authority and sense of outrage.

Let’s review the competing versions of events, which are rather similar but for a curious omission by Professor Gates. According to Professor Gates, he was returning home after a trip to China when he had trouble getting into his home:

Professor Gates attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates’ luggage into his home.

A neighbor apparently saw the two men throwing themselves into the door, and got suspicious. According to the police report (.pdf), a woman saw Gates seemingly trying to break into the home, and called police. The responding officer spoke with the witness and wrote that she

went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of [redacted] Ware Street. She told me her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry.

Obvious racism on her part, right? Everyone enters their own home by trying to wedge their shoulder onto the door.

Back to Gates’s version. According to Gates, he was on the phone to the Harvard Real Estate office to report the damage to his door when the officer appeared and asked him to step outside:

When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’ photograph, and the license includes his address.

Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates. As Professor Gates followed the officer to his own front door, he was astonished to see several police officers gathered on his front porch. Professor Gates asked the officer’s colleagues for his name and badge number. As Professor Gates stepped onto his front porch, the officer who had been inside and who had examined his identification, said to him, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request,” and then placed Professor Gates under arrest. He was handcuffed on his own front porch.

How very odd! Professor Gates was nothing but polite, and yet officers showed up en masse and arrested him for no reason. I guess it really is racism!

The police report tells a slightly different story:

As I turned and faced the door, I could see an older black male standing in the foyer of [redacted] Ware Street. I made this observation through the glass paned front door. As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as Gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied “no I will not”. He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was “Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police” and that I was “investigating a report of a break in progress” at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed “why, because I’m a black man in America?”. I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer. I assured Gates that I was responding to a citizen’s call to the Cambridge Police and that the caller was outside as we spoke.

According to the police report, Gates then got on his phone and told the person on the other end of the line to “get the chief” because he was “dealing with a racist police officer in his home.”

Gates then turned to me and told me that I had no idea who I was “messing” with and that I had not heard the last of it.

According to the report, the officer asked Gates for identification, and after initially refusing, Gates gave him a Harvard identification card. The officer started radioing Harvard police as Gates screamed at him, demanding to know his name. The officer claims he provided it but that Gates was so busy yelling that he didn’t hear it. The officer said he would be going outside, at which point Gates allegedly said: “ya, I’ll speak with your mama outside.”

As I descended the stairs to the sidewalk, Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him. Due to the tumultuous manner Gates had exhibited in his residence as well as his continued tumultuous behavior outside the residence, in view of the public, I warned Gates that he was becoming disorderly. Gates ignored my warning and continued to yell, which drew the attention of both the police officers and citizens, who appeared surprised and alarmed by Gates’s outburst. For a second time I warned Gates to calm down while I withdrew my department issued handcuffs from their carrying case. Gates again ignored my warning and continued to yell at me. It was at this time that I informed Gates that he was under arrest.

This version seems much more credible than Gates’s version, in which he is unfailingly polite but ends up getting arrested for seemingly no reason. While the police officer no doubt wrote his own report in a self-serving manner, it explains everyone’s behavior in a much more credible way.

Two observations.

Gates should not have been screaming “racism” from the beginning. He should have realized that it looked like he was breaking into his home. He should have canned the accusations of racism. They were inappropriate.

Also, the officer should not have arrested Gates. Gates appeared to have failed the “attitude test.” This gets a lot of people arrested, but that doesn’t make it right. If this report had crossed my desk, I wouldn’t have filed the case. Indeed, the City of Cambridge and the Police Department issued a statement indicating that they recommended that charges be dropped, and that has happened. This is appropriate. You can’t arrest someone for being an obnoxious jerk.

Viewed with the aid of this information, this does not appear to be a case of a racist police officer, as claimed by Scott Eric Kaufman. It appears to be a high-on-himself Harvard professor inappropriately screaming “RACISM!!” combined with an offended cop who got high on his own authority and sense of outrage, and made an inappropriate arrest.

Kaufman needs to rethink this.


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