LatinaLista — Unlike past presidents who have lived sheltered and privileged lives, it’s not a stretch to see why it’s natural that President Obama would dive head first into the escalating race debate over the initial arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge officer Sgt. James Crowley.
Cambridge officer Sgt. James Crowley says he has no intention of apologizing to Harvard Professor Gates.
Being black and having worked in Chicago as a community organizer, there’s no doubt that Obama, if not experiencing it firsthand, certainly heard from people who suffered racial discrimination at the hands of their local law enforcement.
Yet determining discrimination always depends on which shoes you stand in.
If Sgt. Crowley had a dashboard camera rolling pointed to the professor’s front porch then we would have a better idea of what went down. Did Professor Gates let his irritation at being asked to provide ID in his own home get the better of him? Or was Sgt. Crowley irritated that Professor Gates talked back to him, as was reported.
For sure, discrimination is much easier to view objectively when seen through the impartial lens of a camera.
It was certainly true in two other cases: In the case of Dallas police officer Robert Powell who ignored pleas from Ryan Moats, an NFL running back for the Houston Texans, who was rushing his family to the hospital bedside of his dying mother-in-law.
Family members, a hospital nurse and a Plano police officer all made a plea for Moats to be allowed to enter the hospital. Unphased, the Dallas officer made Moats remain at the scene while he lectured him and wrote out a ticket. By the time he entered the hospital, his mother-in-law Jonetta Collingsworth had died.
And in another case of when an Oklahoma State Trooper pulled over an ambulance on its way to the hospital and got into an altercation with a (black) paramedic while a heart patient waited inside the ambulance.
While both of these cases, just as the Cambridge incident, are white on black altercations, the case for discrimination is a harder claim to make in these cases but one thing is obviously clear.
All three incidents illustrate a very troubling attitude that exists with some police officers, and is obvious in both video footage — some police officers don’t like being challenged — meaning their authority is verbally being questioned.
When that happens, they literally lose it.
Respect means a lot to everyone. It’s because of respect that we are able to have a civil society. Respect is an equalizer for people of different ethnicities.
In this country, we are taught to respect the law. Police officers are seen as representatives and enforcers of the law. So, what happens when someone doesn’t show the proper respect for the enforcer?
If the enforcer is not an ego maniac, that officer can deal in a rational way with whatever challenge is thrown his/her way. But if that officer is insecure, has a propensity to show the world he’s the boss and perceives himself to not be the law but above the law, then we have officers who need serious counseling and reviews.
Now that the altercation between the Cambridge officer and the Harvard professor has died down, and Sgt. Crowley said he has no intention of apologizing to the professor, should all be forgotten?
No. Questions still need to be answered:
If the officer saw that the professor was irritated, what did he do to try and calm him down?
It’s reported that the officer asked the professor if there was anyone else in the house with him. Why didn’t he ask if the professor lived there?
Why after establishing the fact that it was the professor’s house did the police officer feel the need to make an arrest for disorderly conduct?
Would not the better solution by the officer have been to apologize for the initial misunderstanding and move on?
Yet, something kept Crowley there, egging the professor on to the point that I’m sure he shared some choice words with Crowley. And why couldn’t Crowley just walk away from it?
Because he wasn’t getting respect.
Would Crowley have played out the same scenario had the professor been white? Would he have taken the professor at his word that he lived there and just walked away from the situation?
We’ll never know but what we do know is that the ending to the situation was unacceptable and, yes, stupid.
Being a police officer can be a thankless job and low-paying and so it’s not hard to see why a perk of the job for some officers is the idea that everyone has to respect them.
And it’s something that should be done but when an officer holds to the notion that respect for them outweighs the safety and rights of the people, then there’s something wrong — because it impacts the way they enforce the law.
And that’s a bad situation for all of us.