Who Acted Stupidly?

I admit, I haven't been watching much news lately...so I was a bit confused about all the hoopla surrounding yesterday's Presidential involvement in a tiff between a cop and a guy who was arrested.  Is it me, or are people being arrested each and every day...why is the leader of the free world getting involved this time?  Surely something really big must have happened.


I flipped through the channels during late night news trying to get a more complete story - I saw a tidbit of the "beer summit" (gimme a break), a clip of Obama saying that the "police acted stupidly", and the mug shot of the guy who'd been arrested.

What the heck happened?! (if you'd like the officer's report, here you go)

I'd been out of the loop too long, so I decided to dig around the web to try and piece this thing together.  You know, since the web is full of truth and unbiased news reporting ;-)

From what I can tell, a woman saw a man trying to get into a house.  He didn't have keys, and it looked like he was trying to break in. She called the police.  The police responded.  By the time the police arrived, the man was in the house.  He was actually the owner of the house, and produced ID to prove it.  Sounds fine, right?

Well, except for the part where the owner of the home starts screaming and yelling and being uncooperative.  

Why couldn't the guy just calmly explain the situation, produce his ID, and answer the officer's questions?

Instead, he started hollering about racism (he's black, the officer is white), refusing to do what the officer asked of him, and even threatened action against the officer.  He was getting so belligerent that the officer actually arrested him for being disorderly.

I have a few questions for anyone who wants to consider them:
1.  Do you think the owner of the home would have reacted the way he did if a black officer had arrived at the scene?
2.  If a man or a woman (or a child or a 3 headed monster) is screaming at a police officer and refusing to cooperate, do you think it's fair that the individual (or 3 individuals in the case of a 3 headed monster) be arrested?
3.  If it appears that someone is breaking into your home, would you like someone to call the police?  Would you like for the police to arrive, secure the situation, verify that everyone is safe and accounted for?
4.  Do you think that if you're a professor, a friend of the president, a black man, a white man, or a super star football player....that you should be treated differently than anyone else? 
5.  Do you think that the President of the United States has any business commenting publicly, especially when he admits that he wasn't there and doesn't know all the facts?
6.  How do you feel about our President after he stated that the police acted stupidly?  
7.  I wonder...has the President told his friend that HE acted stupidly in screaming at the police and refusing to cooperate?
8.  I wonder...has the first lady told the President that HE acted stupidly in getting involved in this in the first place?
9.  Do you think it was racist for the officer to assume that there might be trouble at that home, considering the fact that someone had reported a possible break in?
10.  Do you think it was racist for the officer to arrest a man who was being uncooperative and acting disruptively?
11.  Do you think it was racist for the owner of the home to start hollering "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA!" when the officer arrived at his home and asked him to step out?
12.  Do you think that it was racist of President Obama to assume that the police were the ones acting stupidly?

Racism...what is it really?  It seems that at least one definition of racism could be "automatically assuming a derogatory or negative intent or action based on a person's race".  In other words, when a person doesn't have the whole story, he/she assumes the worst of someone because of their race.

The President assumed that the police acted stupidly (why?).

The man arrested assumed that the police officer was questioning him because the police officer was racist (why?).

The officer assumed that someone was breaking into the house (why?).

The only "why?" I can answer from the facts I've found is the third one.  The officer assumed that someone was breaking into the home....because someone called 911 and said "Hey, someone's breaking into the house."

As for the President and the Mr. Gates (the guy who was arrested) - hasn't anyone told you what happens when you A$$ U ME??  

Okay - I've said my piece.  This seems so cut and dry to me - am I missing something, or am I (ahem) assuming too much?

Mama Belle  – (7/31/2009 07:08:00 PM)  

I totally agree.

BTW, I'm updating my blogroll and adding you.

Jessica  – (7/31/2009 09:44:00 PM)  

Good questions...I've asked most of the same questions for about two weeks now. Simply ridiculous. Beer Summit this!

Craig and Bethany  – (7/31/2009 10:59:00 PM)  

Totally, resoundingly RIDICULOUS. Just when I think summoning the respect his office deserves couldn't get any harder... ACK! I'm seriously counting down the days.

Jackie  – (8/01/2009 10:15:00 AM)  

I agree and have been asking most of these questions myself. We live in amazing times!

Esther Marie  – (8/01/2009 11:32:00 AM)  

Daiquiri, the “why” you are missing is institutionalized racism. It isn’t in the eye of the beholder, it isn’t past tense, and it doesn’t fall equally on white men or 3 headed monsters. Racial profiling exists, it is perpetrated by law enforcement officers of all colors and it falls like a hammer on our black men in the present time and throughout American history since American law enforcement first brought them here in law-enforced chains.

If you are someone who believes that racism has passed in these few generations, I don’t know what to tell you. You don’t live in the same world that I live in.

Maybe you don’t work with Mark, who is a 20-something black man out of the dependency system (foster care) who got a felony as a teenager while his white buddy got a slap on the wrist. Locked out of the job market, he’s trying to figure out what to do with his life.

Maybe you don’t live and work with kids who are struggling to find a sense of fairness in a world that does not treat them fairly, who are trying to find their way into a hierarchy that appears to have them locked out. There is code everywhere. Social code that favors people who talk the way the white kids talk, read the books white kids read, dress the way white kids dress, and above all, don’t inspire fear in strangers just by virtue of walking the streets wearing black skin.

A Harvard professor has spent his entire life acquiring the status that can keep him from being treated the way his brothers are treated, and even allow him to protect his brothers from unfair treatment. I don’t doubt that he misbehaved, but to judge him without context is to perpetrate the racial divide, and in the world I live in that’s dangerous. In the world I live in, the racial divide continues to cause great harm.

Honestly, I’m alarmed this week by the language used by Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan (regarding Sotomayor) and their potential to stoke racial hatred. Now is the time to speak loudly and passionately towards compassion and healing. So here’s my piece.

Please acknowledge that there is not tape of the Harvard professor’s behavior, or of the police officer's, and that the charges of disorderly conduct were immediately dropped. There are assumptions made on all levels and on all sides.

Also, please acknowledge that the president who spoke out of turn is our first black president. I do find his comment to be stupid. But I find it to be stupid politically. He threatened the dominant (white) narrative regarding race in an atmosphere already charged by the Sotomayor hearings and at a time in which conservative politicians benefit from a distraction from the health care debate. He spoke with the voice of a black man. Bad politics? In this case, absolutely. Unjustified? Not in the world I live in.

Daiquiri  – (8/01/2009 01:30:00 PM)  

I love you, Esther :) I'm so glad that you feel free to speak your mind with me - I hope you know how much I appreciate you!

After reading your comment, I'm feeling a bit like I need to be more clear in my point.

Am I saying that "institutionalized racism" doesn't exist? Not a chance. I don't live in *your* world, but I see it in my little world too. I think it's similar to institutionalized sexism. When I got my engineering job at HP, my boss (who was wonderful and kind, but misguided this time) sent me an email that he thought would make me feel proud, but that almost led me to quit. It was an email describing the "numbers"...the percentages of women and minorities hired recently. "You're a part of those great numbers, Daiquiri! You should be proud that you've contributed to our company's diversity!"

Hmmm...and I thought I got hired because I had was a great engineer. Pissed me off to no end. I don't think he realized just how sexist his "diversity" comment was.

In this case though...a case where a police officer is called to the scene of a potential break-in and who seems to have acted appropriately...and with the information that I've seen (granted, I don't have a *recording* of the incident)...it was the professor's behavior that screamed racism to me. And it was the President's assumption that it was the officer who was in error that I see as at best stupid, at the worst, racist.

Was Obama's statement stupid politically? Absolutely...but only because it seems to shed light on his true colors (no pun intended).

Racism isn't limited to a situation where whites are "above" blacks. Racism, in my book, is making any choice (action, word, thought) that is based on a person's race. A black man (who automatically screams "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK MEN IN AMERICA" or who assumes that the police were in the wrong) can be just as racist as the white system that keeps the black man down.

Both are unacceptable in my book.

Amy  – (8/01/2009 03:40:00 PM)  

Way to go! This is such a crazy situation, made so much worse by our president's comments.

We were in the military for 7 years, the very epitamy of a the melting pot America symbolizes, and I got to study race relations across the board. It was an eye opener.

My rule of thumb has always been, if the colors are reversed, would most people label the same comment or situation as racist?

For instance, my black pastor's daughter stood up in church and went on and on about her white boss holding her back, she was so tired of the White Man keeping her down, etc. I was the ONLY white person in that church. I was floored. If I had stood and said those same sentiments about my black boss, would that not have been all over the news as a racist rant? But she got an applause.

She did apologize if I was offended. But only AFTER she finished her racist rant.

Racism works both ways, but Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton only show up for one side. That's not a true stand for equality in my book.

Esther Marie  – (8/01/2009 04:46:00 PM)  

Ooh-ee! I'm going for one more round. Debate may be dead on the Senate floor, but it is alive and well here.

1) Here's the comment we're talking about:

"But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry, No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 -- what I think we know separate and apart from this incident -- is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact."

So we're talking about the arrest. We're not talking about whether or not Crowley should have answered the woman's call, or asked for identification, or asked for backup. We're looking at an arrest for disorderly conduct in which the charges were dropped, and had already been dropped by the time Obama spoke. If the arrest was completely appropriate and justified, why didn't the charges stick?

2) I agree that there is a bad conduct charge that can be made against any individual, black or white, for racist behavior. It makes sense to me that we should hold people equally accountable for that behavior whether they are black or white. So does that mean we arrest them for it? Because if we're arresting people for being racist, I have some neighbors who deserve fair warning.

3) Institutionalized racism requires an institution. There is certainly a definition of racism that flows equally in any color direction, and could conceivably include three headed monsters. However, there is also a definition of racism that is systematic oppression of one group by another group. In our country, whites have never experienced that kind of racism. You can parse your definitions all you want, that inequality exists. It has existed. And it affects the way people interact with one another.

So...is it unreasonable to ask that the person who had the power in this situation--the one who was carrying a gun and had a badge and was backed up by the American flag itself...Is it unreasonable to ask that he rise above the racist misbehavior of a single individual and diffuse the situation instead of making it worse?

4) The idea that this comment is somehow revelatory about Obama's ideas regarding race suggests that he didn't write a book about race and identity, outlining his conflicting feelings about race and affirmative action in great detail. It's a book that he wrote before he ran for federal office, and I find it to be a little unlikely that this comment somehow makes information available to the public that hasn't been there for the finding for almost ten years.

Daiquiri  – (8/01/2009 05:48:00 PM)  

Are we gonna have to have our own beer summit when you get here? I hope so ;-) I think we agree on more than we disagree, you know. Ooo -or maybe a Cosmopolitan summit - that's more to my liking.

Okay...

1. From what I can tell, Crowley made the arrest based on an agitated man's behavior - not based on whether or not it was the guy's house. Why didn't the charges stick? I don't know. Maybe the officer's intent was to simply end the conflict and diffuse the situation. Or maybe once the professor stopped hollering, the officer could finally understand the situation and he realized that he should drop the charges? It's tough to tell what happened behind closed doors after that arrest. Again - I don't know.

2. No, we're not arresting people for being racist. I never suggested that. But we do still arrest people for being disorderly. The officer made the judgment call that the situation warranted handcuffs and an arrest. Based on the information I have about the information the officer had...he made his decisions in an appropriate manner given the situation.

The professor's behavior and the President's comment, however...just flat out of line.

3. I agree with you completely. AND I think that the officer acted appropriately in containing an out of line man. I think he diffused the situation 100% effectively and safely when he made an arrest. Based on the accounts I've had access too, there was no calm discussion going on - there was only anger and hollering and escalation.

4. I confess right here...I didn't read Obama's book. To us ignoramuses who have not taken the time to read it...the past couple of weeks have been revealing to say the least.

Esther Marie  – (8/02/2009 09:44:00 AM)  

Daiquiri, I’m delighted to hear that you realize that you agree with me! And I will be even more delighted when you realize that you agree with me enough to stop voting Republican. ☺

I should leave it at that, probably, for the sake of getting my house packed, but from my point of view the argument above is wide open. Check out this inconsistency. In item one, you don’t know exactly what happened. Closed doors, and all that. In item three, the accounts you’ve had access to give you enough information to make a judgment call. This is not clear. Either you don’t know what happened or you do. You can’t have it both ways.

Is it possible that your understanding of the situation is also influenced by the a** word? You’re telling me that you think Crowley did the 100 percent best thing. And you’re telling me that Gates was flat out of line. Those are pretty clear. Forgive my intentional pun, but that’s pretty black and white. Now, item one above shows that you don’t actually have all the information about what happened: (1) it wasn’t Crowley who dropped the charges, but his superiors, and (2) even if you had known that, you state that you don’t know exactly why Crowley decided to take the action that he did. So why do you trust him? And why don’t you trust Gates?

Is it because Crowley is white, and you are white, and you are going to automatically support the person who is the same race as you? Hmm. Probably not, right? Okay. So if the president is doing the same thing you are, assessing a situation based on limited information, and YOUR assessment doesn’t prove that you distrust black people, then how does HIS assessment tell you how he feels about white people?

Maybe you trust Crowley’s story over Gates’ because he’s the one wearing the badge, and you prefer to give the benefit of the doubt to the person who is in a position of authority. Someone was there to do a job, and that person should be respected and not obstructed in his task, which is to protect the peace. So, in that case, how is it okay to describe the PRESIDENT of the United States as “flat out of line” when he criticizes the action of an American institution? I’d have a lot of trouble being a leader if I couldn’t ever criticize the actions of the people I lead.

So if you aren’t making your judgments based on fact (the facts are simply not clear), you aren’t making your judgments based on race, and you aren’t making your judgments based on respect for the order of hierarchical authority, then just how are you making it? I would worry that you’re making decisions based on what certain media sources want you to decide. I would worry that you’re thinking what somebody else wants you to think.

I think we don’t know exactly what happened. That’s why I first brought up the lack of evidence to support either Crowley’s or Gates’ conflicting stories about what was going on in that house. One man’s story. Another man’s story. And a whole lot of media hoopla stirring up rage. And this is why I spoke with so much passion on the first comment, and shared my day-to-day experiences with black and hispanic teenagers. Because the media really can cause harm by framing Obama as a white-hater. I’m not sure even how it is possible for people to believe that about him. I can’t think of anyone who has more of a personal interest in closing the race divide than a man with a white mama and black skin. But that’s tha story that is circulating. And I can't be a responsible human being, let alone citizen, without doing my part to unpack it.

Daiquiri  – (8/02/2009 10:35:00 AM)  

Oh, Esther. I'd love to let you have the last word, but your comments keep putting words in my mouth, and I just can't help but try again to make myself clear.

- I do not believe that racism has passed in the past few generations. I agree with you that racism is still very much a part of life in this country.
- I am not suggesting we arrest racists.
- I still believe that the officer did the right thing.
- I still believe that the professor acted inappropriately, disrespectfully, disruptively, uncooperatively, and disorderly.
- I still believe that the President should have kept his mouth shut because he made the whole situation worse.
- Obama's comment IS revealing...that's not suggesting that he didn't write a book...it's only suggesting that his actions are revealing. Both can be equally true.
- I do not believe Obama is a "white hater".
- I don't "realize that I agree with you". I agree with you that racism is going strong...but that's not a change in opinion for me. It's something that I believed to be true before this happened.

And finally, this issue is not even close to the reasons I will likely never vote Democrat. My reasons for that have more to do with abortions issues and the level to which the Democratic party wants to stick it's noses in private citizens' lives. Sorry to disappoint ;)

Esther Marie  – (8/02/2009 03:38:00 PM)  

I really appreciate the opportunity to express my point of view in your forum, Daiquiri. And I look forward to seeing you and your family!

Louise –   – (8/02/2009 06:08:00 PM)  

OMG! Thank you for that. I thought I was the only one pissed at the President for getting involved, and at the Black man for getting mad at the cop for
Doing His Job.

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