Friday, July 24, 2009

Defensive & Divisive

You know what the whole "black professor vs white cop" thing teaches us? Everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath and be a little less defensive. And all the talk shows and talking heads manufacturing some sort of false outrage to boost their show's ratings needs to shut it.

Obama's comment is controversial? Fucking bullshit. I don't know a single person who hasn't sided with a friend over a cop when that friend is ticketed, harassed or arrested. It doesn't matter who was or wasn't there. If the scenario is "Freind vs Cop," everyone tends to side with the friend. Even if that friend is the drunk redneck who starts fights at the bar.

And tell me you wouldn't be pissed off after a twenty-hour flight from China, dealing with our airports and cooped up space for all that time, to get home and have to break into your own house. Then a cop shows up? Gates was already in meltdown mode.

And the cops. I have all the respect in the world for law enforcement officials, and I know plenty of folks who conduct themselves professionally at all times. I have seen officers give people every possible attempt to stay out of jail on some occasions. Most officers I have come in contact with return respect with respect, and have a tolerance for abuse that transcends the normal bounds of humanity. When I hear what they have to deal with during a regular day, I am usually stunned that they keep at their jobs.

That being said, I am SCARED TO DEATH of cops, because you never know which one is pulling you over - the guy who's a professional or the guy who's gonna take you to jail if you look at them wrong. Not a week goes by without some story about a police overreaction somewhere. A 5 year old arrested at a school; an old lady tased in her own home. There's a reason "Don't Tase Me, Bro" is a generational catch phrase.

I mean, was this a case of police overreaction? I don't know because I wasn't there. What I do know is this: if there weren't so many stories and personal experiences of police overreaction, this story would be a lot easier to figure out.

Update: Slate has a good article on this case.



Dante said...

"And tell me you wouldn't be pissed off after a twenty-hour flight from China, dealing with our airports and cooped up space for all that time, to get home and have to break into your own house. Then a cop shows up?"

I wouldn't be upset with an officer asking me what I'm doing breaking into a home, even if it's my own. They've done the same thing twice when I was breaking into my car. I'd be thrilled they're out there actually trying to protect and serve rather than rack up revenue by ticketing speeders.

Personally I'm not scared of cops but to be fair, in the words of Homer J Simpson: "I'm a white male aged 18-49. Everyone listens to me."

E.J. said...

Here, here! Insightful and well-said. This is mainly a story about everyone overreacting, including the two main characters starring in this episode.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

@ Dante: In theory, I agree. I only hope I can react better under similar circumstances. But I know plenty of people who verge on panic attacks when they can't find their car keys or lock themselves out of something, especially on the heels of travel. I suspect that Gates' nerves were cookin' before Crowley showed up. (And I'd wager if we looked at the shift records, Crowley had already dealt with some other episode prior to this event.)

And my fear is based on those few but poigniant episodes I have experienced where the only things that kept my ass outta jail were the color of my skin and my father's profession.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

@ EJ: Thanks. Some caller on the radio last night likened this situation to "two powder kegs crashing into each other."

DADvocate said...

Even if that friend is the drunk redneck who starts fights at the bar.

My oldest sister is an attorney. My youngest brother, whom you could claim is a redneck because isn't everyone from Tennessee a redneck, was in a fight at at bar. (Technically in the parking lot out back.)

When the cop came, he ran but the cop threw his night club at my brother's legs causing him to fall. Then, when the cop got to me brother, he punched my brother in the stomach without provocation.

My sister advised him to forget being punched, plead guilty and he could get off with writing an essay on why he shouldn't fight. He took her advice, walked away a free man, and wrote a 20 page essay.

While we all thought the cop was too rough, we didn't side with my brother. Getting in fights with strangers at bars is stupid and could have turned out much worse.

Back in my hippy days when I had long hair, a fu manchu mustache and drove a beat up VW Bug, a cop stopped me for expired plates. He was belligerent, etc. I remained calm, did as requested and when the incident was over there was no ticket, no problems, etc. (Details later if you want. It was basically a comedy of errors on my part.)

I could go on and on with anecdotes similar to this one where the friends and family did not take the side against the cop. They fully understood that their friend/sibling acted, sometimes made a habit of, stupidly.

Obama's comments reinforced stereotypical black versions of black/cop relations and black/white relations. In such situations where he has no knowledge of the facts, he'd be much better off, and serve the country much better, by not taking sides. Instead, Obama took the typical black tact (and Obama's not a typical black and did not have a typical black experience growing up) and perpetuated the racial stereotypes that prevent our country from moving beyond our racial problems.

Dante said...

"I suspect that Gates' nerves were cookin' before Crowley showed up."

You've brought this up twice now but I'm not clear on what exactly that excuses. Perhaps you can draw that line for us. Mouthing off maybe? What if he does that pointy finger thing to the cop's chest? He's had a long day. That's ok, right? What if he gives a little shove to the cop? Or maybe a punch?

Being in a crappy mood is no excuse to take your frustrations out on someone else, especially when they're obligated to do their job. Short fuse or not, you're responsible for your own actions. If an officer is trying to ID you because you were caught breaking into a home, you had damn well better handle the situation carefully even if you are in the right.

As far as Obama is concerned, I'm glad he's taking sides here. The more he shows the American people who he really is, the more his approval ratings plummet. Now if only the opposition puts forth some viable candidates.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I know there are some folks out there who side with the police over their friends and family regardless of incident. But you guys are the minority as far as people I know.

@ DADVocate: My experiences have been wildly different. The number of people I know who have been arrested for minor traffic or paperwork infractions makes little sense. It costs too much money to process in such ways, clogs the system with unnecessary arrests, erodes the credibility of officers of the law, leads to lawsuits, and places folks in the same holding areas with people arrested for assault, murder, and rape.

That. Does. Not. Make. Sense.

@ Dante: It is not illegal to act like a jerk. It is a bad idea to act like a jerk, but it is not illegal. It is also a bad idea to arrest people to "cool them off," because a record is the result. Disorderly conduct has to do with starting a riot, and yet the charge is used more in situations like this than it is to find justice after civil unrest.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Obama's comments reinforced stereotypical black versions of black/cop relations and black/white relations.

So you're saying he profiled Sgt. Crowley? That's an interesting meta-cognitive thing to think about.

This whole incident has been unfortunate, but when the silver lining of this does emerge, it will be that Sgt. Crowley is getting airtime. He has come out as a strong voice of reason as this controversy has ratcheted up in the media and interest groups. (And he apparently has great taste in beer, as I, too, am a Blue Moon fan.)

His post-incident behavior could literally change perceptions and prove to be more educational than both the President or a Harvard professor.