Thursday, July 30, 2009

Racism in America: Has the scab been ripped off because of the Gates-Crowley event?

Earlier this week, I posted about the Professor Gates-Sergeant Crowley event in Cambridge, Massachusetts and how there had been little focus on who made the 911 call. Since then, that person has been identified and the recording of the call made public. My questions about the “nosy neighbor” were fully answered as I listened to the 911 call as reported on TV. Lucia Whalen, at the urging of an elderly neighbor who saw two men trying to gain entry in to Professor Gates’ house, called 911 and never mentioned the race of the two people in her call. Despite this revelation, Lucia Whalen was called a racist, bigot, and labeled in other similar ways, compelling her to hold a tearful press conference yesterday. So, because of this incident and the series of events that have followed since the 911 call to the Cambridge Police, has the scab of racism been ripped off in America?

In many ways it has. This went to a whole different level when President Obama called the Cambridge Police Department out and said that they acted “stupidly” when he didn’t have all the facts. Then it went back and forth on was Sergeant Crowley a rouge or racist cop? Turns out that he’s a police veteran of more than 10 years, and has taught other police officers how to avoid Racial Profiling tactics and techniques. Then it came back to Professor Gates and how he acted. Did he overreact? Did he deserve to be handcuffed for disorderly conduct in his own home? The discussions and debates took off from there.

Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, added his assessment of the whole situation saying on Larry King Live, “When you’re faced with an officer trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him.” Powell went on further to say “I would have thought at that point some adult supervision would have stepped in and said, ‘Okay, look, it is his house. Come on, let’s not take this any further. Take the handcuffs off.

Things seemed to start settling down a bit and some substantive discussions about Racial Profiling were happening. Several well know African Americans, including Colin Powell, came out and said that during their lives they had been Racially Profiled. During my time as a Community Organizer, I heard this all the time from the black community and when it was addressed with white conservative lawmakers in Virginia or with local Police Chiefs or Sheriffs, they either said that Racial Profiling doesn’t happen in Virginia or our officers don’t use Racial Profiling. But, it does happen. The only other debate at this point was about the beer that President Obama, Professor Gates, and Sergeant Crowley were going to drink at the White House. Then, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh weighed in. Listen to what Glen Beck and then what Rush Limbaugh has to say about race and racism:

After these two excellent displays of white privilege and superior intellect by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, it’s fair to say that the scab of racism has been ripped off. I hope that their racist and hate filled rhetoric brings them all the ratings and attention they truly deserve.

It is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done by everyone (White, Black, Hispanic, etc.). Whether it’s playing the race card at the drop of the hat or white people being oblivious to the fact that white privilege gives them a huge advantage in our society, there is still hard, hard work to be done to overcome the stigmas and stereotypes that come with every color of skin. It’s just that knuckleheads like Beck and Limbaugh make millions off of the trash that comes out of their mouths and millions of people absolutely agree with every word they say. When no one tunes in to watch or listen to boneheads like them anymore, then we can say that we've turned the corner.

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