Staff Writer Cynthia Meyer explores the controversy surrounding President Obama’s poorly-chosen words regarding the Gates arrest.
Cynthia Meyer, Staff Writer
Ideology: Conservative | Writing from: Austin, Texas
As President Obama continues his attempts to cast left-wing policies over a conservative America, his approval ratings are slipping. He is beginning to realize that he cannot mirror Franklin D. Roosevelt’s legendary First Hundred Days by sweeping the nation with radical “reforms.” He cannot completely shut out Republican opinions, and even conservative Democrat opinions, when he was elected on vague promises of bipartisanship and openness. What Obama still surely has on his side is the adoring liberal media, but the last thing that he needs right now is a controversy to dominate the news.
Too late. In an effort to wean himself off of his beloved teleprompter, Obama made some divisive comments that not only fueled racial tensions, but also belittled the hard work of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department (as well as respectable police officers around the nation).
Of course I am referring to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who claimed “racism” when he was taken in for disorderly conduct by Sgt. James Crowley.
Quick overview: Last Monday, July 20th, Professor Gates returned from a vacation to find his front door jammed. He ended up having to force it open from the front. To an onlooker, the behavior looked suspicious, so his neighbor called 911 after she witnessed two men who looked to be breaking into Gates’ home. When the Cambridge Police Department arrived at the scene to investigate what was going on, Gates refused to cooperate and accused Sgt. Crowley of racism. He showed the police his identification and proved his residency, but he reportedly would not stop yelling at Crowley, acting obnoxious and aggressively accusatory. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but in any normal situation, if you express belligerency towards an officer, you should probably expect to be in the backseat of his car in a matter of minutes.
Critics of Sgt. Crowley say that after Gates provided proof of his residency, he should have left and dismissed it as a mistake. But anybody who holds this opinion is unfamiliar or naïve with the precautions officers must take in questionable situations. It is the duty of law enforcement officials to handle every call seriously. They encounter a great deal of false alarms, but it would be dangerous if each of these cases were not thoroughly evaluated before their dismissal. Police were informed that two men could have been breaking into the house. Questions needed to be answered before Crowley could go on his way. He had to consider the possibility that there were two men in the house that Gates was not aware of. He had to analyze what happened before he could conclude that there was no present danger. We shouldn’t expect any less from the men who protect us. In fact, we should honor them enough to let them do their jobs.
Having three family members in law enforcement, it is frustrating for me when these men of public service are defamed and insulted by those who freely throw around the word “racist.” It is clear that Sgt. Crowley was simply doing his job; he would have treated Gates the same had he been a belligerent white man. It is not easy to find men who are so willing to put their lives on the line everyday so we can feel secure. The last thing we need is for these guys to feel like they have to second-guess themselves in risky situations, putting themselves—and others—in danger.
The 911 tape was recently released and it’s contents confirmed that race was in no way a driving force in this incident. The media had been reporting that the woman who placed the emergency call identified the two men forcing open the door to be black. This was not the case, in fact she admitted that she didn’t know their race, and she guessed one of them might have been Hispanic. Yet the media and bloggers all over the internet were casting her out as a racist as well.
I thought it might be amusing to Google the articles and opinion pieces about this story dated before the tape was released, simply to read the hasty accusations about this woman.
Sure enough—Adrian Walker of the Boston Globe wrote on July 24th that “This all started with a neighbor who [saw] two black men trying to force a door open and [figured] she must be looking at a crime.” Then, describing what would have happened if Gates had been a white man, Walker continued, “First, his neighbor probably wouldn’t have called the police, even if she didn’t recognize him.” This is obviously not true, since she couldn’t even make out the race of the two men. But leave it to the media to scream racism.
Professor Gates wasn’t charged with disorderly conduct because he is a black man. He was charged with disorderly conduct because his conduct was disorderly. Gates acted as an egotistical, elitist professor who doesn’t appreciate the men who protect his safety. It was completely inappropriate for Barack Obama to say a word about this to the media. First of all, as he admitted himself, he did not know the facts. Yet, he said Sgt. Crowley acted “stupidly.” Secondly, he is a personal friend of Gates. He had a natural bias towards Gates in this situation, as anybody would defend a friend. Contributing his opinion was neither productive nor beneficial to the situation.
Sgt. Crowley deserves a public apology from both Gates and Obama. Racism is an unfortunate and horrible thing, but being falsely accused of racism is just as bad—if not worse.