Gates Arrest: Dust Settles...Now What?
If you did not have a chance to read my earlier post about this situation please check it out here and feel free to leave a comment.
A lot has exploded over this situation in the past few days over the arrest of Gates in his own home. We have had two different accounts of exactly what went down inside the house. We have had a flurry of commentary on both sides of the issue, highlighting the blatant racial connotations of this arrest and highlighting the overreaction of a scholar and misrepresentation of an officer. Most importantly though, we had the President
of the United States acknowledge the situation, and comment on it within the context of race.
Whether or not you agree on President Obama's verbal interjection into the situation or his choice of words, I like the effects that his speaking out has had. Because it was deemed controversial, the entire issue has remained a major news story, and has allowed continued discussion of the larger question here: racism in America.
I have read articles such as an article by the LA Times on black men's fear of racial profiling as well as continued coverage on the commentary from Obama, Gates, and Crowley - all focused on the implications of their actions or words in relation to racism. There are still inequalities amongst people in this country, as great as it is, and it often times divides on racial or economic lines. This post is not meant to be an exploration into the specific situation that occurred between Gates and Crowley. In fact, an article by the Boston Globe does an excellent job of getting to the point of this situation, summarized in this quote:
"If they talk past one another, it's hardly shocking that the rest of society struggles with the same issues. At our worst, we are all long on surprise, and short on insight."
We can continue to wait on facts to surface in the situation and lambast Gates, Crowley, or Obama for their role in shaping the current news story that sits before us today. Or we can look at it for what it is. An opportunity to actually discuss the impact that race and ethnicity has on American society - whether it is obviously present and in our faces or not.
Like the President focusing on Healthcare, or the Environment, or Afghanistan - the President of the U.S. that takes a stand or a position on something raises the issue into the national spotlight. And for that I am thankful that race has been acknowledged as a "national issue" and not just an issue for "them".
By not being victims ourselves of certain issues, we can often be blind to the reality of it. In fact, Paul Rogat Loeb makes an excellent point about this in his book Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time:
"Those of us who are relatively privileged are used to having our interests and needs attended to. Contentedness though can induce insensitivity, even among people who are caring and generous...by casually accepting the gifts bestowed by fortune, [we] inadvertently circumscribe the lives and dampen the aspirations of countless others."
I will say that I hope this conversation about the larger issue of racial inequalities does not get derailed because of discomfort, resentment over each individual's role in the larger situation, or worst of all because of denial that there is an underlying issue here.
Regardless of which way you choose to interpret the situation between Gates and Crowley, and Obama's timely or untimely entry into the situation, the fact that the situation escalated calls to question what role perceptions of race on account of all parties played in this.