27 July 2009

"Keep the cars coming."

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.

6 comments:

David said...

Why in the world would one assume Whalen is a housekeeper?

She is, according to numerous press reports, an employee of Harvard Magazine. Whalen is listed on the masthead of that publication. The offices of Harvard Magazine are located at 7 Ware Street.

Samuel Wilson said...

Well, the reports I've read haven't identified her profession, but I accept the correction.

hobbyfan said...

If Ms. (or is that Mrs.?) Whalen can't tell the difference between an African American and a Hispanic, she's got issues not related to race. The sitch has gotten blown out of proportion.

Joseph D. said...

I believe "keep the cars coming" meant that the original cars dispatched should still be sent along. Keep in mind Crowley was not the one called to the scene. There were other cars dispatched. Since he was very close, he decided to respond. Keep the cars coming doesn't mean "I need backup keep them all coming"

Could be he wanted more cops to back him up since Mr. Gates was throwing around racist insults and was being disorderly. I don't really know, but I just wanted to throw in the fact that these cars were the ones supposed to report to the scene. Could be he was going to pass this off to them, since he wasn't the one called. They might have had final questions and have to do a report, something maybe he doesnt' want to do, I don't know.

According to a person who spoke to Crowley after, Gates even made a "Yo Momma" insult. That's how mature Gates was being during all of this.

Samuel Wilson said...

Joseph D: That's a fair interpretation of the comment, though I still think it was unnecessary. In earlier posts I've noted that Gates stooped to using the "Do you know who I am?" threat, but I still think his indignation did not deserve an arrest.

Hobbyfan: Whalen's trouble was as much a matter of distance as anything else. She saw figures struggling to enter the building and assumed the worst since she was aware of recent robberies in the area. An open question is whether she knew whose house that was and whether she should have assumed that the person at the door was Gates. A lot of the lingering debate is over how much benefit of the doubt Gates, Crowley and Whalen should have received, but the nature of the situation makes equal shares impossible.

Crhymethinc said...

A pig is still a pig. If cops came up to me and started hassling me while I was having trouble opening my door, after having shown them proper ID, I'd be throwing around insults as well. The problem is that some cops expect to be treated with fear and respect by everyone around them and the thin blue line backs them up. One day there must come a judgement on all cops who become pigs.