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The Real Truth Behind Gates-gate

By       Message Allan Goldstein       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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I don't know how we missed this one, because it's blindingly obvious. What's really important about the Great Cambridge Confrontation got buried in a firestorm of passionate speculation. When passions run high, the truth lays low.

Was the Gates/Crowley episode an ugly case of racial profiling? Maybe, but I can't prove it. Was it an example of police arrogance clashing with black touchiness? Could be, both those attitudes are not unknown in their respective communities. Or, as some have suggested, is this just a case of two men, all pumped up on testosterone, getting in each other's faces? That sounds about right, all the above sounds about right to me, but they all miss the point.

What do we know for sure about Gates-gate? Only this: the charges were dropped like Sarkozy on a jog, like a hot steaming bag of anthrax, as fast as a meth freak tap dancing on the lake of fire.

This story isn't about race or cops or man-rage, it's about celebrity.

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Skip Gates walked. I'm cool with that, he should have, nobody should get busted for breaking into his own home. But let's say it wasn't Henry Gates, famous Harvard prof, friend of the prez, world-renowned author who took that unjust pinch.

Let's say that it wasn't Henry Gates of Cambridge Mass, but Hank Blackman of Gary Indiana, waking home from the Circle K toting a 40 in a paper bag, who left the keys on the cable box that night and got mouthy with the police when the cruiser rolled up. I mean, just for the sake of argument""though you can bet your hiney something like that did occur that night, more than once""what do you think would happen?

I'll tell you what would happen. Mr. Blackman would be cuffed, maced and buried so deep in county it would be three days before his public defender could get him out on bail, with the charges most assuredly not dropped. And if Mr. Blackman happened to have a small bag of weed in his crib or maybe a few counts of shoplifting on his sheet we'd be looking at one screwed Person of Color.

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In short, Mr. Blackman would have won the Grand Prize, because he committed two sins, the first venial, the second mortal. He was a nobody, and he was a black nobody.

The rich, famous and well-connected are fine everywhere. They don't need equal protection, rights and justice. They buy it and it's everywhere for sale.

But how do we treat the nobodies? That's the true measure of a nation, a society, of justice.

It's the stories we never hear, or have a hard time hearing, that aren't widely told, that tell the truth about us.

We don't need to get into Sgt. James Crowley's motives, his attitude or his heart to engage that issue. Is there anyone alive who doesn't know that it's hard out there for a black man, that being a cop is a tough, frustrating job, and that nobodies take it up the wazoo when the man gets them in his sights?

It's wrong, it's wrong for every nobody and it's worse for black nobodies. Equal protection under the law isn't supposed to depend upon fame and power.

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Fame is gold in America, fame shines through the blindfold of justice like a laser and weighs on the scales like a semi. And that's called corruption.

The Henry Gates case is about the power of celebrity, period. Using a dude that our freaking president calls "My friend Skip" as a poster boy for the evils of racism, racial profiling or racial anything is as misguided as a North Korean rocket.

Skip skipped, fair is fair, he should have. But soon the perp, the prez and the policeman will be draining brews in the oval office while the photogs hang out in the driveway, waiting for the shot. That's special treatment. It has as much to do with the lingering problems of race in America as the infield fly rule.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)

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