Monday, July 27, 2009

Racial profiling

When I drive in my car and see a police car my first glance is at my speedometer. That’s how it should be. I don’t wonder if I’m going to be stopped because of the color of my skin.

But that’s not how it is in some parts of America. We elected a African-American President, but race still is a prism through which we view life.

I don’t have statistics on Racial Profiling, but there is no doubt in my mind that it exists. So I can’t help but look at the recent arrest of Dr. Louis Gates through the prism of racial profiling.

The issue of race immediately entered the events surrounding Gates’ arrest when the woman who called the police told James Crowley, the arresting officer, that she saw two black men with backpacks on the porch. It makes sense to me that Gates would react so strongly when a police officer asked Gates for personal identification while Gates' after Gates tried to enter his own home. In Gates’ mind he had only been trying to open a jammed door after being gone in China. Why should he have to produce identification when he was standing in his own home?

From reading the reports of the event it’s obvious that Gates acted out of anger. But it’s not against the law to be angry in your own home.

This incident is not about the exact specifics of what happened on Louis Gates’ porch—it’s about racial profiling. What happened on that porch has happened in thousands of other locations in our country. Gates understood this; President Obama understood this—this is why he responded so strongly to the incident in his press conference last week—though his use of the word, “stupid” to describe the actions of the Cambridge Police Department were regrettable.

Until men stop being arrested because of the color of their skin, it doesn’t matter how many African-American politicians we elect—we won’t enter a post-racial society.

I applaud James Crowley for suggesting to President Obama that Obama, Gates, and him have a beer at the White House to discuss what happened. It’s biblical to talk to your accusers face-to-face.

The journey to some sort of reconciliation can take a million steps. Honest conversation behind closed doors is a better way for the participants to work towards some sort of reconciliation and if not that, understanding. It’s important for the rest of us to realize that race will always be a prism through which we view the world. For that prism to stop staining our country we need more light than heat.

Since I wrote this blog, news reports have stated that the woman who called the police did not mention the race of the suspects; however the Police Report did report that race of the suspects.

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