Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why I Don't Care

Last Thursday, a woman called police to report a break-in at a house saying that she saw "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry. One of the "black males" was Yale professor and distinguished historian, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who happened to own the house. The police allege that Gates was being belligerent as well as initially refusing to present proper identification, while Gates contends that it's a simple case of racial profiling.

Does racism still exist? Of course. Does racial profiling exist? Yes. But We ALL engage in profiling. Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar or lives in a bubble. And, while I wasn't there witnessing the Gates situation, I'm going to speculate anyway. When cops are alerted to a potential break-in, it is their job to respond and they should ask for I.D. as they have no idea who this guy is. And, yes, Gates has every right to be upset after just arriving back from a long trip to China to be accused of breaking into his own home BUT, however much of an inconvenience this is to Gates, if an officer asks you for I.D., show it to him. Anything less is asking for trouble.

Secondly, injustices happen to white people everyday. Is it any less of an injustice simply because the person handing out the injustice happens to be white as well? Had the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey been black, you can be assured that the injustices that they endured for years would have been viewed through a racial lens. Injustice is injustice is injustice. Several years ago, a black guy jumped in my truck and told me to drive. The destination was a dead-end in the ghetto where he proceeded to rob me and, luckily, not kill me which I had already convinced myself was on his to-do list. As I frantically drove away, I came across a white police officer only two blocks away. When I told him what had happened, he told me, "well, you shouldn't have been buying crack, you little motherfucker." White guy in the ghetto? Must be up to no good. I was profiled. That cop had fire in his eyes and I assure you, had I protested, he would have beat me silly and/or arrested me. As a white student at a black college, I was often profiled as smart and wealthy. Ironically, the reason I ended up at a black college in the first place was because I lacked both.

Just because injustices statistically happen more to one group than the other, doesn't mean that one should be ignored over the other. And every incident between whites and blacks should not be automatically labeled a racist incident. It's overkill and it makes it incredibly difficult to separate real racism from racial paranoia. The Gates story is not worthy of front-page headlines and I say this as someone who truly admires the guy.
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