Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama Sticks Gates' Foot in His Mouth

The following exchange occurred in Yahoo Instant Messenger.


chaosjackal: If I were the cop, I'd sue the President. When a national leader calls an individual peace officer stupid, that's defamation of character on an epic scale.

Gleno Underhill: I'm honestly not sure where I stand on this one, but I think we'll see Obama is the going to be the one to make the apology here. Obama snatched defeat from the lack of jaws of any kind in this one. He shouldn't have opened his mouth.

chaosjackal: The police showed up with a complaint of a possible B&E, asked the individual for ID, and before they could explain why they were present, the guy got nasty with them. Where reason and patience should have won the day, it escalated, because of race.

Gleno Underhill: True. BUT... Let's play it slightly differently...

chaosjackal: Kk.

Gleno Underhill: You arrive home and find yourself locked out...

chaosjackal: Common. >.>

Gleno Underhill: You know your house so you know how to get in. You enter. Now, admitting the distrust we both have about the establishment these days, think about it: The cops show up and tell you to come outside...

Gleno Underhill: Do you say, "Certainly Mr. Officer, sir" or do you tell them to show you a warrant? Honestly, depending upon my mood, I could see myself doing either.

chaosjackal: I'd demand a warrant or probable cause.

Gleno Underhill: So there you go.

Gleno Underhill: And if the cop gets pissy, he could push the issue and arrest you (wrongly so, but arrest you nontheless).

chaosjackal: I wouldn't start screaming and such. I'd calmly demand identification and prob cause.

Gleno Underhill: Bottom line: If Gates had not acted like a jackass, there wouldn't have been a problem. He's no dummy. He knew that obviously someone had seen him breaking into his house. Instead of saying to himself, "Good, I'm glad people are looking out," he acted like an idiot to the cop. The cop, instead of just letting the guy burn himself out, or even simply arguing with him, arrested him. Dumb move. Why arrest someone for being a jerk in their own home? Walk away.

chaosjackal: And the President, also playing along the, "Oh, we people of color are so oppressed" immediately makes the leap to, "Oh, the cop is stupid." I don't think there's a soul in this whole thing that's completely right. Not the professor for not being reasonable, not the cops for letting passion get in the way of patience, not the Pres for opening his mouth, and not the MSM for even COVERING the story.

Gleno Underhill: This is going to prove to be politically painful for Obama. There's a battle between a cop and a professor. Who loses? The President.

chaosjackal: I concur.

Gleno Underhill: The black guy obviously had a chip on his shoulder. But the cop shouldn't have arrested him. Short of the guy punching him in the mouth, he should have just let him rant.
chaosjackal: Well... did he arrest Gates before or after establishing his identification?

Gleno Underhill: After. The cop asked for ID. Gates initially refused and demanded to see ID from the cop. A short time after, Gates produced two forms of ID.

Gleno Underhill: I've broken into my house numerous times. After I do so, I always expect to hear sirens.

chaosjackal: Okay, yeah. Being belligerent in one's own house is a first amendment thing.

Gleno Underhill: There is no law against being an SOB.

chaosjackal: Newp.

Gleno Underhill: I'm glad. I'd be getting life. :-P

chaosjackal: Haha! Same here.


Recessionista Genie said...

Excellent blog! Yes Gleno, please do follow my blog of fabulous poverty. I'll follow yours, too. Strangely, I was just working on a post about how to talk to police officers (my cousin just having had a stupid experience with law enforcement down the street). Fortunately my cousin responded better, though, and Obama had no comment on the matter.

Anonymous said...

No comment.
Seriously, I don't know enough about the case, and what you say is hearsay, so I cant say who I think is right and who is wrong.
I'd be glad people are looking out for my neighborhood if someone called the cops because they thought something was odd. I'd be puzzled if the cops came to my house for no reason, but happy to talk to them about it, assuming I'm not in the wrong. I would be happy to step outside and show them my ID. That should have ended it. Assuming I wasn't giving distress signals that there was someone in my house holding my kid hostage or something.
I don't even know what the Prez said or how he said it, but honestly, NC would have been the thing to say.

AsterixChaos said...

Taken from the Boston Globe:

"Should the president have spoken out on Gates arrest?"

1) I don't think it was the president's place to interfere. He's creating a racial divide, and I think it's totally inappropriate. -- Joan Van Dorn, Cambridge resident

2) What the president said was right on. When you're dealing with a sensitive racial situation, you have to know how to deal with it professionally. One would hope Cambridge would be better at this than other places, but there's no evidence that it is. -- Daniel Klubock, Cambridge human rights commission member

So, we have an average citizen saying that the Pres is being inappropriate and creating a racial divide. We have a human rights representative saying that a racial situation must be approached professionally--which implies that it should be handled differently than it would be with someone else.

Look... If you are a person of color and you're bitching that you're not treated the same as "everyone else," then consider behaving like everyone else. From all that I've seen, the racial divides are NOT being caused by the police, the white people, the right wing, the left wing, the politicians... It's the PEOPLE WHO WANT THE EQUALITY CREATING THE DIVIDE.

Hell, I just listed to a black lady in my office going on about how important it is for her kids to know about heritage and to know about racial equality, etc.... So she only takes her kids to african american museums. Emphasis on the word "only." Where is there equality? How are we erasing the racial divide with shit like that?

Simply put, if you want to be treated like everyone else, shut the fuck up and act like everyone else. One of the President's wonderful quotes from yesterday was something to the effect of, "Police arrest and detain more black people and more Hispanic people than whites." No shit, Sherlock! Guess what ethnic groups COMMIT MORE CRIMES?!

You are not a unique, precious snowflake.

You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else.

Donzo said...

Don't argue with cops. Do what they ask you to do, and if you don't like it, take it up with the judge. If you don't want fully cooperate, you should expect to be arrested. That what cops do.
In this case, the cop went by the book. He came upon a possible B&E, and, when confronted, the suspect did not cooperate. He became belligerent. Procedure, is to arrest the suspect.
The cop TEACHES racial sensitivity to other cops, and has been for five years. He has an impeccable record.
Gates was trying to play the "Do you know who I am?" card, with the race card attached. He's a blowhard. This is going to hurt Obama, for calling the correct actions, of a good cop, "stupid". Obama hates soldiers and cops.

Glenn said...

Blah, blah, blah.

If I get arrested then nobody cares and nothing is ever written about it because I do not have a card to play. If I was black, then I could cry "racially motivated." If I was a woman, then I could cry "gender bias." If I was in a wheelchair, then I could cry "where's my ramp." The list goes on and on and on.

Interest rates are down, but my mortgage rate just went up. This is because too many people are not paying their mortgages. If you are black and the police are suspicious of you, then be angry with your "brothers" who are giving your race a bad name. Forget Cambridge, drive through Randolph some time and see how many healthy, young people of color are drifting around the streets with no jobs and nothing to do. Luckily, I'm paying to put a roof over their heads and food on their tables.

I'm not a racist at all, but the fact that Mr Gates was arrested may NOT be because of his skin color. If Bill Gates was arrested, then who would be complaining that it was a crime against the white man?

Side note: Mr Gates needs to learn what very few people seem to know. Respect for authority. People with a "screw you" attitude for authority make bad employees, students, and citizens. Much of the reason that we are fast becoming a failure as a country is that we are 300,000,000 individuals with rights and not a people who ware working for the betterment of the whole.

Thank you Mr Gates and Mr President for making us a weaker nation and a more divided people. Your children will be worse off for your decisions this week and your children's children will likely live under a flag other than the Stars and Stripes.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that cops hate paperwork. They don't arrest you if they don't have to because it's more paperwork. That in itself should speak to the behavior of the suspect. lol

Recessionista Genie said...

First, I work with an organization that collaborates with the ACLU and hears about the latest data on racial profiling and institutional racism. This is not my opinion, this is based in fact: People from racial minorities are arrested and imprisoned at far higher rates than whites WHEN type of alleged crime AND income level are accounted for. So yes, racism in the system does exist.

You can't blame the victim just because... of course... some people of color commit crimes and do stupid things. We're all human. There are jerks of every color. Oh, and by the way, saying "I'm not a racist" doesn't make it so.

Was racism at work in this particular case? I have no idea and won't try to judge. The whole situation sounds stupid. I don't know why Obama commented on it.

But this does raise a complex issue: Cops have a hard job to do and deserve some respect and the benefit of the doubt. However, cops are also in a position that they can, and sometimes do, abuse to victimize people.

In fact, my cousin just had a weird encounter with a police officer last week, and I posted about it along with some tips for interacting with police that I've gleaned from, well, people who would know.

Gleno said...


Thanks for your comments! I look forward to reading your blog about your cousin. I've had my share of strange encounters with the police so I approached this debate with some incredulousness. All things being equal, I'd say that arresting Gates wasn't what I would have done, but again, I wasn't there.

One comment on your statement:

"People from racial minorities are arrested and imprisoned at far higher rates than whites WHEN type of alleged crime AND income level are accounted for. So yes, racism in the system does exist."

I think you make a leap to a conclusion given the fact that you provide in your comment. Logically, it's just as likely that minorities *commit* more crimes of the sort being measured.

What needs to be tested is a samples of whites and an equal size sample of minorities who were caught in a crime and then see how many were arrested, charged, and imprisoned. If a statistically higher proportion of minorities was imprisoned, then you might have an evidenciary hypothesis for racial bias.

Recessionista Genie said...

Thanks, Gleno. Yes, I meant by my comment that according to the latest stats, a higher proportion of minorities are arrested and imprisoned for the exact same crimes compared to whites. Or, to put it in other words, if a man commits Crime X, he has a higher chance of arrest and imprisonment if he is nonwhite.

That's what I meant by saying "rates," not "raw numbers."

Sadly, the same is true for punishment in schools. A black child at any given income level, even in a "good" school, has a higher chance of being expelled from school than a white student at the same school, same income level, and same exact offense.

I was surprised by the data myself, but I did see examples of it happening when I substitute taught. Institutional racism often comes about through well-intentioned people who don't call themselves "racist." They just have subconscious feelings when looking at a black vs. white person that affects their decisions and their perceptions of how "bad" or "dangerous" the person is.

Recessionista Genie said...

I tried to find the exact report on the ACLU website to link, but they have so much stuff on there, I couldn't find it. I did find my notes from the press release, though. 70% of arrests are of whites, but an equal number of blacks and whites are imprisoned.

For the same exact drug charge, a black person is 9.4 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person.

Etc, etc. The latest data on all sorts of justice issues is always being posted at

Gleno said...

Wow. Those are ugly numbers, and that's an ugly fact of society.

I honestly find the whole racism debate depressing. In the little world I live in inside my head, it just grieves me when people call attention to race as an issue.

I love to travel. I love it because you meet different people. They look different. They speak differently. They may even behave differently. It's something I notice because it's FUN to experience those differences.

Now come back to the US. Blacks and whites are different. Hell, my Italian family is quite different from my wife's Irish family. These differences can and should be a cool thing, not something to cause tension and arguments.


I'm going back inside my head now. I'm going to lock the door and not come out until you people have resolved this problem. It just leaves me too bummed out.