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Town and Gown Antics – Cambridge 2009 August 3, 2009

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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“On July 16, 2009, (Skip) Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the door to his house jammed. His driver attempted to help him gain entrance. Responding to a report of a possible break-in, a Cambridge police officer arrested Gates and charged him with disorderly conduct after a confrontation. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.[10] The incident spurred a politically-charged exchange of views about race relations and law enforcement throughout the United States.[11]”  Wikipedia.
 
I have been following the Skip Gates saga since it started; the many twists to the story are fascinating and while I don’t think any “dialogue” of race has been started I do think it’s worth noting how polarized people have become over this incident and for interesting reasons.  Here’s one:
 
I was born in Boston and have lived in Cambridge.  It is its own city with its own police force.  Having said that- the Cambridge PD are not hired by or from Harvard.  I think there are people that imagine that Cambridge attracts a better,  more educated kind of cop.  In fact,  the City of Cambridge draws their police form the same gene pool that Boston PD does.  Good or bad – these are local folks for whom the idea of being a cop is a good salary, respect (maybe), a nice pension, medical insurance, overtime, camaraderie, better than a gang and you get to carry a gun.  You become the law.  Not everyone should become the law.
 
Skip Gates is a distinguished Harvard professor who lives in a lovely home in Cambridge.  He was disabled at 14 and requires a cane to help him walk.  He has degrees from Yale and Clare College, Cambridge (UK).  He is a Ph.D.  His area of expertise is African American Humanities and related fields.  His list of honors is a long one. 
 
James K. Crowley is a sergeant with the Cambridge Police and is the responder to the call of a possible burglary in progress at an address that happened to be Gates home.  A passer-by called it in.
 
Did I mention it was broad daylight – around lunch time. 
 
I think everyone behaved poorly;  Gates was jet-lagged and Crowley was over zealous.  When Crowley established it was indeed Prof. Gates’ home he should have simply said – “sorry – we have to check every call for service” and left.  Gates should have cooled his jets. Crowley or someone in the CPD instead called for back-up.  He asked Gates to step outside.  Gates got really irate and mentioned Crowley’s “momma”.  Gates was then handcuffed and arrested for DISORDERLY CONDUCT”.
 
Let’s review – Crowley has the gun, Gates has the cane, Crowley is overwrought, Gates is furious.  A crowd has also gathered.  Look at all the police.
 
NB: Black people do not get treated by the police – in general – the same way white people get treated. This is not Black paranoia – this is experience.  Black parents train their kids how to act when pulled over by a cop.  Do you imagine white parents do?  The main idea is not to get hurt or worse and stay out of jail.  We have all heard of Driving While Black.  This is a real thing – not a Dave Chapelle sketch.  DWB embraces every possible experience Black people could have with the law, even when they are the victim.  Deny it, sputter, shake your head.  But I been there. And I am not the Black person in the car or store or house.
 
White folks don’t think this happens at all and Black folks wish it wouldn’t happen so often.
 
So the other day a woman, whom I know from my area,  and I were chatting and the subject of Skip Gates came up and she went off. Like a bottle rocket. And she was specific – she hated Gates; hated his interview on TV with Ethiopian Jews years back when she says he lied about these Jews  and hence he was an asshole , a liar and no good.  (She is a 60-something Jewish lady who says she’s a Democrat and loves the President).  The Cambridge Police, she claimed, were not like other police and were polite and reasonable and they were specially trained to be police in a university area and better than other cops.  And Gates lied and he did it.  And I just stood there. She was so angry and so adamant that I feigned “gotta go” and went.  We were not having what I consider a “chat” at that point.
 
So what have we learned through all this ordeal – including beer at the White House?  Did it become a teachable experience for  all of us who swim in this multicultural ocean?  I don’t know – I jumped in and got bitten by a shark.  I suspect she could have been arrested for disorderly conduct as her voice got louder – but no passerby called 911.  Just as well.
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