The newest information about the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates renders the situation even more absurd. The quote above comes from the 911 line transcript; they are the words of the arresting officer, uttered after a middle-aged man who depends on a cane to get around proved "uncooperative." They follow the officer's acknowledgment that Gates had shown identification confirming his identity. Unless Gates had been doing research in the line of gamma radiation, I doubt whether his obvious anger could have threatened the officer. Nevertheless, backup was called and Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, which still seems to consist of a failure to show proper deference or respect for authori-teh in a situation where either would be insulting to a homeowner.
More absurd yet are the excuses offered, through the medium of an attorney, by Lucia Whalen, Gates's accuser. Some of her clarifications are useful. It turns out that she is a housekeeper rather than a resident of the neighborhood; at least that's my assumption from the comment that she works there. Whalen is more determined than the officer, perhaps because she stands on shakier ground, to prove that she's no racist. She claims that she did not "profile" Gates, and the 911 transcript bears her out to the extent that she describes the supposed burglar as possibly Hispanic.
Whalen is "by no means the entitled white neighbor," her attorney argues. Better yet, the lawyer insinuates strongly that her client shouldn't even be considered white. Whalen, we're informed, "has olive-colored skin and is of Portuguese descent." While I'm as ready as anyone to concede that "whiteness" is a social construct and a form of caste rather than race, I'm still sure that numerous Portuguese-Americans will be stunned to learn that they're not white. I suppose that Whalen and her counsel implicitly accept the "if you're not white you can't be racist" proposition, but the beef with profiling isn't only that it's something whites do to non-whites. The oppressive aspect of it for black men is that everyone does it to them. Leaving aside the specifics of this story, for Whalen to try to squirm off the hook by disclaiming whiteness is pathetic. But the President shouldn't hold that against her. He ought to invite her to the White House for a beer along with Officer Crowley and Professor Gates -- if only to avoid appearing sexist.