"Some Scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe."
I don't think the Gates arrest story is all about racism. I'm willing to believe that the Sgt. James Crowley is not a racist, that he's a good man. after all, this is a man who, as USA Today reports, gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dying black Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis "when the basketball player crumbled on a practice court with heart problems."
I'm willing to believe that he was not motivated by racist reasons when he followed up on a call that two men were breaking into a house.
But He did something stupid, even malicious. Once he was in the home of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and had confirmed that Gates belonged there and was not engaging in any illegal behavior, he should have apologized and left the scene.
He should have understood, being an instructor who taught about racial profiling, that this encounter would be upsetting to a black man who studies racism, who knew that there had been a history of racial profiling incidents in Cambridge.
But he took offense and decided he had the right to arrest a man for getting angry, for calling this special cop, this holier than anyone cop, names.
That was stupid. That was worse than stupid. it was emotional. It was abuse of police power. It is exactly the kind of thing that happens to blacks, to latinos, to teenagers all over America. A cop uses his power to arrest in a way that goes beyond the situation. He arrests someone for an attitude, for cross words, for a glare or dirty look.
There is no doubt that Crowley had to go to Gates' house and check things out.
But I think that Gates also over-reacted. When someone asks for my identification when I am cashing a check at a bank, I don't take offense. I am not insulted that I am not trusted. I thank the teller for being cautious, protecting my security. Gates could have shown his ID and thanked Crowley and that would have been that. But he didn't. Gates took offense too. Even if Crowley came to the house with a typical cop "attitude," treating Gates with less than the respect Gates was accustomed to receiving as a noted Harvard professor, Gates did not need to get angry. But, as a historian of black history, as a man who knew personally and professionaly the context in which he was being affronted, he had some right, in his own home, to show indignance and even to shout it. Though it was an understandable, even justifiable response, it doesn't mean it was the best response.
They were both wrong, both over-reacted, took unnecessary offense. They both need to show some contrition.
As I write, Mika Brehzinski says, "Watching two men getting their back up,- it leads to things escalating.... there is a chance race played no role in this."
Too much testosterone in both men? Too little forbearance? Two strong men butting heads? Perhaps all of the above.
I'd like to hope that the two of them can work things out.
Gates lost it, continuing to go after Crowley once the issue was resolved.