Thursday, July 30, 2009


The Racial Beer Summit at the White House is enough to make me queasy.

At a time when our economy is falling in upon itself, a quarter of a million homes a month are being foreclosed on, healthcare is in crisis, we are (although we seem to simply ignore it) still fighting two wars, and doing piss-poorly in both of them, our cities and states are running out of money for basic public services and everything sort of seems to be diving headlong into the proverbial shitter – In times like these the President of the United States is having a Harvard professor and a local cop over for beer and a chat. Why?

Because of this… Like it or not, these are the facts, just the facts, sans all the interpretations:

1. In broad daylight, a fifty-seven year old man, a man who needs a cane to walk upright, returning from a visit to China, was seen “pushing” his way through a door that was apparently stuck. He made no attempt to hide or disguise his efforts. He was trying to get into his own home – not yours, not mine and not someone else’s – his own home!

2. Somebody called the cops.

3. When a policeman arrived on the scene the old man was already inside his home. For him, whatever difficulty and drama the situation had presented was over.

4. The policeman announced himself and asked for some identification from the professor – who was, remember, inside his own home by now.

5. The old man showed the cop two pieces of identification, at least one containing his photograph. The ID clearly showed that the house he was in belonged to him – He lived there! One of the IDs told the cop the old man was a teacher at the local neighborhood school – Harvard.

6. The cop called for six backup cops to assist him. Six! The professor was then arrested for violating a local Disorderly Conduct statute. He was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

Those are the facts. Yes, other things happened as well – allegedly – not necessarily and perhaps not ever to be established as facts. Unkind words may have been exchanged between the professor and the policeman. Someone’s “Mama” may, or may not, have been mentioned. The professor, from within his own home, may or may not have been “cooperative” with the policeman.

If we allow – for the purpose of discussion – that all of the claims by the policeman regarding the behavior of the professor are accurate, might that have justified his eventual arrest? Let’s say the professor spoke in a nasty manner to the cop. Let’s also say he refused, at first, to cooperate. Let’s also remember – he was inside his own home and the cop was an uninvited visitor. Could the cop have still arrested him? Well, only if the policeman in question didn’t know anything about Disorderly Conduct laws he was enforcing, only if you believe that a cop’s “personal reasons” why somebody ought to be arrested should be applied to the official enforcement of law and order.

Let’s look at just a couple of additional facts – facts that are well known to those who work in law enforcement.

- It is not illegal to talk unkindly to policemen. “Yes sir – No sir” is not required by law when communicating with cops.

- One cannot be disorderly in a manner that violates the law when one is in one’s own home. There is no Disorderly Conduct law in effect anywhere that allows for an arrest in this situation.

- According to the facts as we know them, the professor could not have committed any behavior legally considered to be disorderly so long as the only people present were the professor and the policeman and so long as they were inside the professor’s home.

Since that is the law, how then did this escalate to where the cop arrested the professor? Why did he do it?

One final fact to consider:
The professor is a black man. The cop is not. He is white.

Some people think that doesn’t matter. Some think that race plays no role in these situations. Some believe it’s only the media that plays up the racial angle. Some people – including the cop involved here – have denied that race was ever a factor.

Fair enough – What do you think? Try asking yourself this question:

If the Harvard professor had been an old white man with a cane, and the cop had been black… do you think events would have developed as they did and do you really believe that the two of them would be having a beer in the White House with the President of the United States?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen and Amen