This post is dedicated to Louie:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them…[Malvolio, in Twelfth Night]
Rosita has the best summation I’ve seen on the arrest of “Skip” Gates for disorderly conduct by the Cambridge police earlier this week. She puts two and two together and…surprise, comes up with FOUR. Too bad the press can’t add.
Dr. Gates had plans for a tidy little race war in which he would be the beneficiary. Instead, the Bigot Bomb went off in his hands before he could toss it off to the dumb white cop he’d spotted as the fall guy in this venture.
Had the whole scenario played out correctly, the Harvard professor would have:
- a wonderful, center-stage part as the offended Negro;
- an opportunity to get attention from The Choir (those credulous journalists who already have a prefabricated meme for White Racism — oops, a redundancy. Only Whitey can be racist);
- a chance to grab President Obama for a “Black Brothers United Against Whitey” photo op;
- more donations for his purported charity “Inkwells”;
- a good basis for a resentful/outraged documentary on race in America (with Gates as the star, naturally);
- a gathering of prominent black Personalities to talk about the eternal evil of whiteness in America;
- and so on — back to the first, second and third motives captured in a Mobius strip of Offended Negro, breathless attention from The Choir, and a tidy profit to be made off the guilty White suckahs.
It almost worked. In fact, his scheme looked real good before the bomb of reality went off in his hands. Now it becomes obvious who was the villain here. Hint: it was not the white arresting officer.
This is a good example of the devil being in the details. Here, the devil is played by the Tar Baby, and the latter is about to grab aholt to the professor, spoiling his Great Opportunity.
When the Professor saw a white policeman at his door, sent there in response to an emergency call by a neighbor about a possible break-in at his home, Gates danced the racist rag he’d perhaps rehearsed — one he may well have considered using should the opportunity ever arise. What he needed was a foil, a sucker for the role of Villain in his little morality play. Opportunity knocked in the form of Officer Crowley, tapping on his door. White police officer = Racist, right?
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If you don’t believe the outraged Gates, just ask President Obama, who jumped in with both feet, giving great details about the plight of being black in America, at the mercy of police who “act stupidly”: Yep, “we” just have seen too much of that profiling, folks. Black victims like Barack and Michelle have had to endure endless suffering at the hands of the Man…(soft chorus singing “Nobody Knows The Troubles I’ve Seen” plays in the background while white reporters stand abashed and ashamed).
But the touch of the Magic One wasn’t enough. Gates’ concoction exploded, or unraveled, or started to smell — choose your own metaphor for what happens when that old demon, Details, grabs you by the short hairs and commences to chewing big holes in your beloved script.
It turns out that even though all White Men look alike to Dr. Gates, the “racist” officer in question has an exemplary record. Just to put a bit of frosting on the cake, he once performed CPR on another famous black man, even though Officer Crowley wasn’t able to resuscitate him.
To make matters worse for Gates, a fellow officer at the scene, an African American Cambridge policeman, thought the good Professor was acting strangely enough to justify his arrest. The black officer unwittingly jams Gates’ face further into that Tar Baby when he opines that had he, a black officer, been the first at the scene, there might not have been a problem. He’s exactly right: “black on black, jump back”.
But hey, what happened to racial solidarity? Turns out that not every black man in America buys Gates’ line:
The black leader of an organization dedicated to “rebuilding the family by rebuilding man” rebuked Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and civil rights activist Al Sharpton on Thursday for their “unfounded and reckless” allegations of racism against police in Cambridge, Mass.
“Henry Gates and Al Sharpton are abusing police while black,” said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny. [my emphasis — D]
“What’s regrettable is that the city of Cambridge and the police have allowed themselves to be intimidated by a race hustler like Al ‘The Riot King’ Sharpton,” he added. “The race card has once again been used to unjustly smear law enforcement and thwart justice.”
Rosita’s conclusions answer Occam’s Razor when it comes to ascertaining motive in this incident. Here, she speaks for Dr. Gates:
Hi, I’m going to theatrically break into my house along with my “cab driver.” We’re just going to forcibly enter through the front door, like physically bust it open. No big whoop. Then when the police come, I’m going to refuse to tell them who I am, and I’m going to refuse to give them identification. Finally, I’ll give in, but then I’ll demand to know why I’m being arrested, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” [Yeah, because, as recent history shows, black men do sooo badly in America. Not like his cushy Harvard sinecure teaching African-American history is the result of him being a black man or anything. -Ed.] When an officer warns me I’m acting disorderly, I’ll follow him out of the house, acting more disorderly and yelling at him until he arrests me.
Why, do you ask, would I do this? What am I- crazy? Like a fox, my brethren, like a fox. With this ritual dance, any ethics problems that might be floating around regarding me have dissipated, I am getting tenure for sure, I have the subject of my next book, let’s face it, I have fodder here for the entire rest of my career, I might just have a new career. Some people use opportunities, some people make them.
Excuse me, I have to go and take this call, it’s a sympathy call from the White House. I’m gonna wrangle a spot in their poetry jam while I have him on the line. (Wink.)
She may be right. Anyone who bases his whole career on race is bound to get stuck to that Tar Baby eventually. This is especially true for a man who is willing to assume the rôle of Director the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Du Bois hated America. This man has devoted his whole academic life to finding racists under the bed.
Gates is a sad case. Obama, jumping in with both feet, has proved beyond doubt that he is not the post-racist black man he claimed to be. But then, Obama is proving that much of what he said in his campaign wasn’t true. Most presidents wait a week or two after their inauguration to start breaking promises. Obama began stomping on them before he even got the chair warm in the Oval Office.
As for Officer Crowley? He thinks Obama should butt out. But Obi Wan is a compulsive peace-maker. It’s part of his shtick. No doubt he’ll force a semi-public reconciliation between the arresting officer and the perp.
One thing is sure: Gates and Obama created one big mutha of a sticky Tar Baby. They both need liberal applications of Goo Gone to extricate themselves from this one. As they are both discovering, hot tar burns like the dickens.
Just ask any southern child who ever hot-footed it (without shoes on) across a street in July.