Thursday, July 23, 2009

What if it had been you?

Almost everyone has heard of the incident in which Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested after someone called the police to investigate his breaking into his home. If you don't know the details, read this editorial from The Charleston Gazette. But let's put this into perspective. What if YOU broke into your house?

I know we've all done it. The door's been hard to open, or we've forgotten our keys, and we need to break in. Heck, Mother did it so often that my brother and I had a drill. Climb the picnic table into the bathroom window, walk around and let the others in. No big deal.

So if it had been me, a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian woman, I would have broken into my house. Sure! IF someone had called the police, they would have come in, asked me what was going on, I would have told them. Maybe they would have asked for ID, which I would have produced. They would have apologized, and I would have thanked them for doing their job and watching out for us. Don't believe me? Read Buzzard Billy's account of what DID happen when she, another Caucasian, refused to let a police officer into her home in the middle of the night. True story.

This is not what happened to Dr. Gates. OK, steps 1-4 would have been the same. Right up till Dr. Gates produced his ID. See, he's a black man. Never mind that he's a respected, graying professor and looks every inch the part. He's still a black man. Instead of an apology, he was given an arrest and put in handcuffs. The police said he was "agitated." Would I have been agitated? Oh, haell yes! Especially after I had produced ID and was still being questioned. Agitated wouldn't have begun to cover it. Sounds to me like he was restrained by my standards, according to both the police and his own reports.

Wrong is wrong. And racism is not dead in this country. Heck, it's not even close to terminal.