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Stupid Is as Stupid Does: Obama Chimes in on Gates Arrest

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ShinyTop, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    A must read from The Nation, a very Left leaning magazine. In it, recalling his own arrest in a similarly tense situation, Eric Alterman criticizes Gates for "racializing" the context of his arrest. Gates, Obama, and the media (and a few members here) immediately assumed the officer had racial motivations, even though he had led classes on avoiding racial profiling.
    So people on the Right and the Left agree, except a few minority folks who think white cop black person being arrested = racism. It also echoes my own sentiment how the Liberals could NOT have picked a WORSE case for "teachable moment".

    Talk about a huge fumble.
  2. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    One last thing (I hope). Crowley is SUCH a fucking racist.

  3. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    Of COURSE he is. You just can't see the squad car. ;)
  4. rockotman

    rockotman Blown on the steel breeze

    He is obviously positioning himself to push Gates down the steps.
  5. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Nope, he is obviously positioning himself to taser Barry, blame it on Gates and then arrest his ass all over again. :)
  6. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    I'm not sure who here in this forum you're talking about, but I know for a fact it's not me, if you've been reading my posts. I've been saying all along, quite consistently, that while racism was probably a factor in Crowley's responses, it certainly wasn't the primary factor, and I still think that's true. The main motivation, as I've said repeatedly, was "contempt of cop" and a misplaced anger and inappropriate urge to punish speech and disrespect with the power of arrest. It was about power (and possibly class--as it connects to police authority). Crowley was completely wrong to arrest Gates, but he was not completely (or primarily) racist. I've said that over and over.

    So to that extent, I agree with Alterman (and thanks for posting that--my copy of the Nation is always late to arrive. The Brooklyn mail, you know).

    However, it should be said that the fact that Crowley has led classes on racial profiling is utterly irrelevant. It's the equivalent of "I can't be anti-Semitic--some of my best friends are Jewish." Anyone can be racist, either partially or completely, including, of course, people who lead racial profiling classes (and yes, of course including black--or any color--university professors).

    And I think that where Alterman is wrong, and missing the point (a point which Obama understands and very well, and so does Gates--and I think you understand it, too, ethics), is that perception, symbolism, is much more important than anything else in a case like this. Alterman does make some good points (and I wish he had said more about the largely unexplored class issues in this case--there is a lot more to be said there). But just the fact that racism is not the primary motivation for Crowley's unprofessional and wrong action does not mean that the case can't be used to make some very strong (symbolic, perceptual) points about racism--points that Alterman knows (and says) need to be made.

    That beer at the White House (and photos like the one you posted above), and both Gates' and Crowley's admirable statements afterwards (as well as Obama's) have a great potential to do a lot of symbolic good--and it would be a shame and a loss to miss that potential. Racism is largely, at its heart, about symbolism and understanding and communication. So fighting racism (beyond remedying the practical and factual inequities, and in fact as a prerequisite to doing so) has to have those same things at the heart of the fight.
  7. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    Fighting racism is not helped when the race card is played anytime there is conflict when one is black and one is right. It really, really isn't.

    Making every event a media event and playing it to death does more to keep racism alive than anything else happening in this country today. The death of racism cannot happen when every encounter between white and black must be examined under a microscope. The death of racism will not happen as long as we are looking in every nook and cranny for it. The death of racism can only happen when ALL of us are making some effort to be color blind.
  8. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    The death of racism will never happen when it's "poison" (Alterman's term) to talk about it.

    "Color blind," far too often, is an excuse for denying the existence of the problem.

    If the ultimate outcome of this case is that people see Gates and Crowley sitting down and talking, being friendly, coming to understand each other's perspective, that's a completely positive outcome, and all the moaning and groaning about "cards" falls to pieces. There is no ultimate downside then.

    And it goes farther, if you read Gates' statement after the "beer." Gates comes out not just with a better understanding of Crowley--and not with a better understanding of issues of racism--but with a better understanding of what it is like to be a police officer--and an urge to understand that even better. Again, a completely positive outcome, with no downside.
  9. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

  10. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Couldn't agree more. If a racist plays the race card and it blows up in his face on the national stage and he learns from it, it is a positive outcome.
  11. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    I'm curious Joe. What do you know about law enforcement and the procedures an officer is trained to take when on scene. How versed are you in procedures and tactics. And how versed are you on when an officer, in the line of duty, is authorized to make an arrest.
  12. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    China is great!
  13. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    Joe, it's perfectly relevant! It's not just that he leads classes. It's that he was chosen to lead classes by a black commander! This wasn't "Hey, we need someone to kill a few hours and teach the profiling class." It's reasonable to assume that he was chosen because of his prior interactions with people of a different race.

    It's probably almost impossible for you to imagine, but there really are cops out there for whom race is only a descriptor, and I think Crowley is one of those cops. Race didn't enter into this until Gates started screaming at the officer who was trying to find out if the person who was in the house was allowed to be there.
  14. jfcjrus

    jfcjrus Veteran Member

    Well, they've got a few internal problems to work out, but I do think they'll wop our ass for the next few years.

    Especially, if we continue to direct our nation's attention to the saga of this NONSENSE of Crowley vs Gates!
    Two good folks, and a President, that simply got caught up in a media circus, and can't find their way out, without losing face.

    Good grief, have we all lost perspective of the important matters of the day?
  15. Arc

    Arc Full Member

    Didn't you say at post 217 this thread was winding down? ;)
  16. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member


  17. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    Oh, you're curious, is that it? Somehow I doubt that. You've never asked anyone else here, on any subject, to trot out credentials of any kind.

    But what the hell, you asked, so let's get it out there, whether it's relevant or interesting or not.

    I'm not sure if you're asking about my general knowledge of this subject, or specifically in this case. I'll answer both.

    In general--I'm not Stanley or Arc, but I have a little more than a basic layman's understanding of the law and how to read laws and legal decisions. My undergraduate degree was in rhetoric, but my minor was in legal studies, and I read and analyzed many legal decisions as part of my studies in that field. I also studied with Jerome Skolnick, one of the experts in the field of sociology of the police and police behavior, although I'm not a sociologist or criminologist myself.

    Outside of the academic setting, I spent two years as a representative on the 77th Precinct Council, here in Brooklyn, working on improving police/community relations in the years after that precinct was so severely tainted. I made good progress and good friends, and learned first-hand (through regular ride-alongs) about the day-to-day experience and arrest procedures (and report procedures) of patrol officers.

    So that's general knowledge and experience. In this particular case, I've read the applicable statutes carefully (both Massachusetts and city of Cambridge) and read Crowley's report, and read reports by police officers, prosecutors, and judges, from Massachusetts and elsewhere.

    I'm not going to ask you for your credentials, because quite frankly I don't care about them. I read what you say on this issue, and how you say it, and that says all I need to know about your opinions and where they come from. The same goes for Copzilla, who actually does have relevant and admirable credentials in this area. It's his statements here, though, not his curriculum vita, which interest me, and which I judge, analyze and respond to.

    Crowley's report is clearly phrased to buttress an arrest that was unjustified and inappropriate, and there is strong evidence that he directly falsified events (in regards to Whalen's statement to him--he may have falsified others, but there is no clear evidence of that). He acted inappropriately (as Obama said, "stupidly"), and I've reached that conclusion based on my own knowledge of the facts of this particular case, as well as my own general knowledge and experience. Many and many people of far greater and more directly relevant credentials than mine (and far greater than yours, or anyone else's here) agree with me completely and exactly. Others do not. Clearly you do not.

    No, Bob, it doesn't matter that the commander was black (black commanders can make mistakes about race or racism just as easily as anyone else!). People who teach racial profiling classes can still act with a small factor of racism as a motivation--even if they're chosen by God himself to teach those classes! The fact that he has taught (or was selected to teach) those classes doesn't make him perfect or beyond reproach.

    And in any case, just to repeat yet again, I don't think that Crowley is overall and primarily a racist, I don't think that racism was the primary or major motivation for his actions with Gates.

    I don't have to imagine that. It's an obvious fact and I know it from direct personal experience with many police officers of all races.

    He could well be. It still doesn't make the arrest right--he acted stupidly and inappropriately, choosing to use the power of arrest to punish bad behavior, and then falsifying a report to justify that. That doesn't make him a racist or an evil villain, but it does mean that he acted stupidly. If we go back (wayyy back!) to the original statement by Obama that started this thread, even Obama said that he didn't know what role race played in this, but that the police acted stupidly. That was true then, it's still true now, and it has nothing to do with ethics' choices of tableware (China?).
    Yes, probably true. Gates assumed racism on the part of Crowley well before there was any reason in this case to make that assumption. And that made Crowley very angry. And that caused Crowley to want to teach Gates a lesson, when, as a professional and a public servant, he had no right to do that. That's abuse of power on Crowley's part, but might well have been the same if Gates had been a white man. We can't be sure, and therefore can't assume in either way.

    I do keep stumbling, though, over Crowley's lie in the report about what Whalen said to him on the porch? I don't know why Crowley made that lie about "two black men with backpacks." We may never know. But there is no way to reasonably or rationally state (given the empirical evidence of the 9/11 call) that she said that. Maybe Crowley heard it even though she didn't say it. If we want to bend over backwards to give him the benefit of the doubt we could guess that, I suppose.
  18. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    So, in other words, while you've been on the political side of things, you have no actual experience or first hand knowlege of what an officer is required to do in the field, on scene. (Yes, I do have experience.)

    So, having no experience at all, and not knowing the exact procedures an officer is required to take while on scene, how can you, with a straight face, state as fact that Crowley was unprofessional and acted in the wrong?
  19. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    Nope, you didn't read what I wrote. I do have first hand knowledge, from having been there, on patrol, in Brooklyn. Neither of us has experience in Cambridge or in Massachusetts, but I've at least read (and posted above) the relevant statutes and case law there. You seem to have no interest in any of that.

    Because I do have experience, and knowledge, both first-hand and from reliable experts in the field, I do know the exact procedures, and I do know that Crowley abused his discretionary powers of arrest in this case.
  20. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    Joe, you hold the officer involved to a high level of responsibility to his community. You talk about how he should take abuse and walk away even when the abuser is shouting his abuse in public. You indicate no limit on what abuse he should take. Is that limit when it gets physical? Is it when the abuser talks about his sexual preference? How about the sexual likes of his spouse, his children? If physical, can he take action if he sees what he thinks is a weapon? Or does he actually have to confirm the identity of the weapon? How much of a target do you think an officer of the law has to be?

    So, wow, we have a man who you say was abusive to the officer but should get a free pass. Let's talk about him for a minute. What does Gates owe anybody in this situation? He is by all accounts a successfull man in his field. He has risen to those heights of success in spite of his race and yet still feels free to scream race at a policeman asking justified questions during a justified investigation. What about what he owes the young people of his race? What about the young man who would look up to a man of Gate's stature and feel that he should emulate this succesful role model? Gee, look, even when approached when my actions justify questions and identification I should start screaming and yelling about race. Not only will I make news, the officer will be afraid to arrest me and even if he does I will get released. I may even sip suds with the Man.

    No, Joe, you will never get this. But Gates, with Obama's help, did more harm to his people and race relations than Crowley did or could ever hope to do on his own.

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