Gatesgate – Part I
In His Own Home!
Here we are, in the year 2009. We have lived through a myriad of experiences from blatant segregation to an on the surface much more free America and yet..and yet …it is the same old, same old face of racist behavior that rises and bites us like the coiled serpent it has always been.
Several states away, a fellow black Appalachian comes home from an overseas business trip. He is tired and probably looking forward to the peace and quiet of his home, the comfort of his favorite chair or the comfortable spot in his bed which translates to a restful time before he has to face the re-emergence of his daily work. Now he is confronted with a weather warped front door. His key snaps the lock open but the door will not budge. I can only imagine the profane comments running through his head as he drops his luggage on the front stoop of his house, grabs his cane and stalks to the back door, accompanied by the driver who ferried him home form the airport. Again, he applies his key and the door opens. Thank heavens, he is back on his own turf, in his own house. Now comes the struggle to get his traveling luggage inside. In frustration he stomps to the front door and with the help of the man who helped get his luggage inside, he finally manages to force the front door open. At that point, he thanks the driver for his assistance, perhaps offers the obligatory tip and reaches for the phone to call the people responsible for the maintenance of his home. Probably the only thought in his head is to get someone there to fix the door…a issue that needs to be settled before much needed rest and down time can be addressed.
As he talks on the phone, a stranger’s voice addresses him, What idiot can this be in his house? Who would dare just walk in? He turns and then here stands some cop in his house, What the hell! Instead of identifying himself, this intruder demands the identify of the homeowner. Now, he must rummage in his pockets for the driver’s license, for his work I.D. because this upstart youngster wears a uniform with a badge. Aha!, there is the required documentation complete with photo and address. But the stranger is still yapping like a puppy. The elder man returns the request, ‘Who are you and what is your badge number?” The yapping puppy walks away without giving the required information. The elder man’s temper rises at this total lack of respect and he walks toward the door…raising his voice…again asking for the identifying data. Like a yapping puppy, the cop turns and threatens the elder. OH NO! THAT IS NOT DONE…in our hills, in our community, in our own homes. The elder knows he is no criminal, no outcast of society, no suspicious person out of his appropriate surroundings. At that point confrontation was inevitable and the battle was joined.
The ensuing confrontation between Dr. Henry Louis Gates and this quasi control freak cop hits the newspapers and the internet and the shouting begins, There probably isn’t a black person of middle age in America who didn’t understand the scenario of what happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We didn’t have to be there because all of us have either had or know someone who has had, a confrontation with a culturally ignorant, insensitive individual hiding behind a badge and a gun. Because my hair is gray and I am on the downhill slide of 100 years, am I supposed to be afraid of a cop’s uniform? Forget that, it is not happening. It didn’t happen in my first 50 years and it is not happening now. All cops are not power crazed individuals or even racists but life has taught me that a significant percentage of people with deep psychological issues in relating to minority individuals gravitate to that profession. Hiding behind badge and gun allows these people to suspend common sense and act upon the wild fantasies of their bigotry. Sometimes they survive for years and then, luckily, for the rest of us there are some who are tripped up by their bigotry and false perceptions of their fellow man. Those are the cops who get fired for their aberrant behavior. Unfortunately, not enough of those individuals are weeded out. In the 21st century there are a whole lot of Bull Connors types still out there.
The bogus apology coming from the Cambridge Police Department ( in my opinion) needs to be tossed out the with bathwater. I sincerely hope that Dr. Gates takes the whole issue to court!