I’m starting to rethink the whole Prof. Gates thing, in light of the 911 call placed by the neighbor.
First of all, it was unfair of me to assume that the neighbor was like the “Crazy McCain Lady” from SNL, as funny an image as it was. Listening to the tape, the woman seems more concerned that someone might be breaking into her neighbor’s house than concerned that BLACK people are breaking into her neighbor’s house. She never mentions race at all.
So, really, I’m going to give her maybe 1% of the blame now. The other two…. well, Crowley’s no racist, rogue cop. Gates is no Black Panther militant. They found themselves in a sticky situation. My Dad put it best. He said that “500 years of racial oppression drove Professor Gates a little crazy.” Which sums it up perfectly. Having said that… Crowley wasn’t trying to oppress anyone. What fuels a lot of “white resentment” these days – not all of it, mind you – is the sense that, yeah, slavery happened and Jim Crow happened and years and years of oppression happened, but our generation was raised not to be racist, so stop blaming us for everything just because we’re white. And whether that’s true or not, that black people are blaming living, breathing, not-particularly-racist white people for the fact that, 200 years ago, white people owned slaves, that’s the sense we sometimes get.
Still, it’s a lot harder to “get over it” when your heritage is conspicuous and geographically significant. In other words, I’m Irish, so I should hate the English for what they did 200 years ago to my ancestors, but, honestly, I could care less. And that’s probably because my people have pretty much been running this country for the last fifty years. Another example: there has been anti-semitism in this country, but it never reached the level of, say, the Holocaust, so you’d be hard pressed to find an American Jew who really hates the Germans of today. But slavery led to poverty, which led to crime and a lack of education, which led to white people thinking black people were violent and stupid, which led to black people resenting white people for looking at them that way, which led to… and so it goes.
None of this excuses anything anyone did here. I still think Gates shouldn’t have yelled at the cops, for the same reason that none of us should ever yell things at the cops if we don’t want to get arrested. I still think Crowley should have assessed the situation, realized that the only things under threat here were Gates’s vocal cords from all that yelling, and walked away. But, no, the neighbor wasn’t racist. The only person who brought up race was Gates himself. Do I think Crowley would have arrested a white Harvard professor in the same situation, like, say, Alan Dershowitz? I do not. But then again, I don’t think Alan Dershowitz would have had any reason to assume he was being hassled on account of his race.
UPDATE (11:28pm on July 29th) : I just caught the neighbor’s press conference on NBC Nightly News. She seems even more reasonable than before.
I think we all thought this thing was all about racism, and all about the cops vs. the Blacks, and, more importantly, all about “the Culture Wars.” And I think that’s what we wanted to see, even me, who obviously wanted the neighbor to be some crazy, 60-year old Fox News viewer so that I could place all my blame on my personal enemy of choice – not blacks, not cops, but Willfully Ignorant Middle Aged White People. When it turned out that the woman who made the 911 call was apparently “color blind,” around my age, and (more importantly) very hurt that people would assume she was some Crazy Racist White Lady.
So, look: we live only a few miles from each other. I may have seen this person, walking around town. We may even know some of the same people. If she happens – due to some bizarre coincidence – to be reading this: I am extremely sorry I lept to my own knee-jerk Liberal reaction about this whole mess, and – yeah, I’ll say it – it’s a little bit misogynistic of me that I assumed I knew anything about you because you were a woman who happened to call 911 on a man who was breaking into his own home. I leapt to the conclusion that you were an emotional reactionary, and that was extremely unfair and ugly of me. I’m sorry. This whole case is messed up, and I blame you 0% for it.
I did a Google search looking for a picture of the woman – Lucia Whalen – that I could put up here, and I found this article from the Kansas City Star. In this case, a thousand words are worth a picture (I hope.) Here are two of the best comments I’ve ever read on any online article ever:
Shouldn’t the neighbors have recognized Professor Gates? He does have a rather distinctive appearance and apparently has lived in his house for some time. Don’t they see him picking up his mail, driving to work, checking his lawn, or what ever?
I don’t know many people who live on my street. That’s the way life is today. I think, however, that I would recognize who belongs where.
I once locked myself out of the house and had to climb up on a stack of garbage cans and wriggle into a window. Either nobody noticed, nobody cared, or they were too busy laughing to dial the police.
Whalen should be the one invited to the White House. She is actually the only one of the 3 people involved who behaved 100% appropriately.
Well, there ya go. It has to be said: back in 1951, Ralph Branca, a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, threw a pitch to Bobby Thompson of the New York Giants. Thompson connected, hit a home run, and won the pennant for the Giants. This was huge, and forever connected Branca and Thompson in the annals of sports history. The two became close friends and frequently gave public speaking engagements together.
Anyone else wanna bet Crowley and Gates go out on the road together, signing autographs and making speeches? Crowley used to teach a class on how not to be an evil, racist cop, and Gates is obviously used to making presentations to his classes. This will happen. I guarantee it.