Thursday, July 23

Well, Thanks For Sharing

Jonathan Saltzman and Erica Noonan, "Officer in Gates case says he won't apologize". July 22

I'M a civil rights absolutist--or what I like to call "an American"--but I'm also a Midwesterner, so I believe in polite, twice over, to cops, parents of small children, even disc jockeys, while expecting the same against all reasonable historical evidence.

Now, being an absolutist doesn't mean I have to think everyone's innocent until conviction, after which I get to pile on; it means they're entitled to my presuming their innocence before the Bar. I have no idea whether Professor Gates became disorderly and "disruptive", whatever that means (Police report, which the Globe scrubbed, is here.) Dunno if he threw open his unstuck door and called Sergeant Crowley a racist, or if he started in with the sorry-assed "You don't know who you're dealing with" routine, though, for the sake of someone who wants to take offense at being racially profiled, I hope not. Dunno if he was jet-lagged, drunk, medicated, or cranky. Dunno if the sales job that Incident Report tries to do is legitimate or suggestive.

What I do know is that Gates has the right to be obnoxious, should he decide that's a good idea, and a peace officer has the power to arrest and the right to lie as when, to chose an entirely hypothetical example, he asks an irate citizen to step outside his domicile and continue yelling in order to draw a crowd that interferes with the officer's performance, and blames it on "accoustics". The facts are obscured; the general outline--Gates pisses off cop, cop runs him in in retaliation--can be glimpsed through the fog; charges are dropped (read: Gates wins, read: never should have reached that point).

And leave us depart from Rashomon meets In The Heat Of The Night here and suggest that you receive a report of "two [black] men trying to break into a house", and you determine that there was no break-in, and that one of the men was the homeowner, the other his cabbie, then you bear the responsibility for the thing managing to wind up on the national news that evening anyhow. Police work, like bartending and network teevee programming, is all about how far you cooperate with assholes. (I gotta tell you, Sergeant, that if "Suspect refused to get the non-verbal message when I flashed my cuffs" is part of the department standards your Association says you live by, I personally would like to see them augmented by "biceps flexing in shirt-sleeve weather" or "cracking walnuts in the fist, where possible".)

And, look: whoever took the last sheet of toilet paper should replace the roll. That's the situation you guys are in, and I know you resent it, because I watch The Closer*. Get yourself some professional PR help. Do not say "I'm not a racist". That's what racists say.

The Globe, our dedicated story scrubber, does its best to help:
A father of three who coaches youth basketball and plays on a local softball team, Crowley declined to comment in the afternoon, but spoke to a Globe reporter this evening.

"The officer, who admits he "bawled like a baby when Old Yeller died," said..."
One of Crowley's neighbors, Ed Shagory, a retired attorney, said he has been friends with Crowley and his family for more than 17 years.

He said he was upset about the criticism levied against his friend, whom he supports in the dispute. "I think the world of him and his family," Shagory said.

He said he was disturbed by the intense worldwide, often sensational, media coverage on the case. His daughter, serving in Iraq, even read about the news, Shagory said.

Good Lord. The terrorists have won.

Nice attempt. I think you should have used a bigger trowel, but then I'm no professional; my one semester of Journalism was so long ago I remember the professor saying that shit that had no fucking connection whatsoever to the story was supposed to be left out. But I'm just wondering how much longer ham-fisted reverse racism charges are going to fly, via pseudo-crypto Birther pandering and faux-analysis of what was "decided" in Ricci, in our coming Post-Racial Age. Not that the Globe will be around to see it, but Scary Black Man Cries Racism would seem to have a dwindling appeal, and the expectation that the Police, Corporate America, and even, yes, the Republican Party might reach the point where they got entangled in such messes only by accident, not design, are rising. Dunno who's at fault. Maybe both, maybe nobody, really. Dunno if Sgt. Crowley would have behaved differently with a white suspect, but I know that his Many Fine Personal Attributes have nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of racial profiling, in this case or in every last one of 'em. And I don't know, but I suspect, that if the arrestee had been a newspaper reporter for a Tottering Metropolitan Daily, Crowley's kindness to old people and injured wildlife would have been, uh, less newsworthy.

* God help us, appending soap-opera "personal" storylines is apparently as essential to teevee policiers as bolted-on tits are to pole dancing, but do we have to have the Ambitious Professional Rival combined with The Conniving Other Woman, the Evil, Unscrupulous Internal Affairs Officer, and The Paragon of Bleeding Heart Concern For Everyone's Rights Except The Victim's, Even When It's Gunned-Down Cops like some sort of basic cable English Trifle or something? Pah. At least when these storylines ground Hill Street Blues to a halt you knew they weren't going to take over entire episodes.


R. Porrofatto said...

I dunno the same things you dunno about Gatesgate, and I also dunno if Officer Crowley was thinking about his three children and his youth basketball team when he decided to fucking arrest an African-American man who's infinitely more likely than him to appear on PBS even after Crowley confirmed that he was inside, as in inside, his own house. And I dunno if his and his fellow officer's "black male" refrain in their respective write-ups is standard just-the-facts reporting or a colorful way to cut a Harvard professor in his own house down to "guilty gangbanger on the evening news" size. Yet, even in my ignorance, I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion.

My Most Significant Other insists we watch Closer, so I sympathize -- the episodes you describe: ugh. For the life of me I can't figure out why it was necessary for such a competent actress as Sedgwick to have a character who hails from Georgia and a laughable accent via the muddiest part of the Hollywood Ozarks, unless it was just to make the show appear less obviously a ripoff of Prime Suspect.

Blister said...

A note for all races: don't put beans in your ear, don't run with scissors, and never disrespect the pig.

Also, if you disrespect the pig inside your own house, and he invites you to follow him outside to continue the conversation, stop to consider whether he thinks you're an OK guy before you take him up on it.

There's nothing wrong with trying to figure this out on an amateur basis, but the smart money is waiting for Ann Althouse to deconstruct the police report.

James Stripes said...

There should be no question that your reference to Rashomon describes well our access to facts of the case which must encompass some aspect of the the Southern sensibilities of In the Heat of the Night, and this in Cambridge, Massachusetts! Of course the cops tell us they are not racist, as this has become the obligatory defense in cases of racial profiling.

John Calvin turned 500 this month, though he died quite a few years ago. But, looking at the evidence of racism in twenty-first century America, I thing he might find clear and unmistakable evidence of his thinking regarding total depravity: we are all sinners. Everyone is a racist in America. We can either confess our sin and seek the enlightened self-interest of dismantling de Jure and de Facto discrimination, or we can deny our nature and wallow in ignorance.

I doubt Skip Gates agrees with me.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that that last episode of The Closer stank on ice. I used to like the show a lot, but in the last 3-4 weeks it's been ridiculous. That dying cat story line, including having Pope help with the freaking kitty IV????...pee. yoo.

They must have new writers. Much less talented writers, WAY more ham-fisted than in the past.

Poicephalus said...

Those are some pretty tasty asides there Jimbo.

Alas "the Republican Party might reach the point where they got entangled in such messes only by accident, not design"


Yeah, they might reach that point. And monkeys might fly out of my butt.

drip said...

Mr. Obama did not use the word “apology,” but aides said that was the sentiment conveyed during his phone call with Sergeant Crowley. I'm sorry too, but only that 75% of America thinks it's OK to to ask a citizen to leave his house and then arrest him for complaining about the treatment. Mr. Obama said, there was a discussion about the police sergeant, Professor Gates and him having a beer at the White House Ah! Invite Hillary, and Skip and Sergeant Crowley for a shot and a beer, shoot the shit a little, we're all friends, here. Pissah! See, next time some arrogant police officer oversteps his bounds and illegally arrests you, just take him to the White House and have a beer with him. No problem here officer, we were just cleaning up before we went home.