What follows are my thoughts, in the most infant stages of development, on the incident between Professor Henry Louis Gates and Officer Crawley. This is such a late response to this incident that I want to apologize ahead of time if I am regurgitating ideas and views that have long since circled the blogosphere. (I really hate that word.) I have been so caught up in other endeavors that I haven't had a chance to think critically about what happened to Professor Gates, much less share my thoughts. I am not sure if I will continue to develop these thoughts or leave them as they are, but in any event I would like to share them with you.
Let me start by saying that what happened to Gates outside of his own home was despicable. The officer did indeed act "stupidly". (To continue to suspect a man for Breaking & Entering after he showed you a Driver's License and another form of ID is stupid.) Although it was a terrible incident, I appreciate that people seemed to care.
However, I cannot help but wonder if there would have been this media hoopla if Gates wasn't so white. Let me explain. I am aware that Gates is an African American. What I mean is that Gates has a PhD, is a Harvard Professor, and is very wealthy - ranks usually held by white males. Therefore, Gates' status, for better or for worse, makes him whiter, and this is why this incident attracted so much attention and so much outrage.
Racial profiling is a disease that plagues every police force. Incidents like this occur daily, yet we never hear about them. If Gates was a postal worker or a gas station attendant, or if Gates didn't live in such a white place - nearly 70% of Cambridge's population is white - this story may have been buried in the back pages of the newspaper, but there would be no CNN and there certainly would not have been beer at the White House.
But Gates is a "model" African American. He worked hard and made the most of his opportunities and realized the American dream ( I really wish the powers that be would create a sarcasm font). And the incident did generate hours of media coverage which in turn did "spark a national debate." Or so they say. Pundits claimed the White House happy hour was a giant step in advancing the discussion of race in America. But was it really? It has been over a month and, save the week after the beer-talk, has there been any discussion? The fact remains that incidents like this (ie. DWB - Driving While Black) happen more than most anyone in white America know, but we are not outraged until is happens to a whiter African American. Furthermore, the outrage is short-lived and it isn't long before we return to the status-quo.
We cannot make any real progress if we huff, puff and discuss isolated incidents. Progress cannot happen until we look at the real issue at hand: systemic racism. Sure, stereotypes and ignorance are hurtful and backwards, but they are only bits of the quagmire, and until we are able to realize the scale of racism, well then we are stuck.