Monday, July 27, 2009

I hate using this cartoon again

As the dust settles, a little bit of good news. Apparently, the Cambridge Police are going to look into their handling of calls in general, not just the one that overshadowed health reform the other night. Well, good.

But, goddammit, here we are again. I first used Cory Thomas's brilliant cartoon back in November, 2006, when Houston Texan Fred Weary was followed, followed, followed by police and then stopped and, well, basically harassed into a reaction. Charges were dropped, apologies all around ... and then in March, 2009, Dallas police stopped another Houston Texan, Ryan Moats. His crime? He was rushing his wife to the hospital so she could be at the bedside of her dying mother.

What we have here is a cop demanding that a black kid produce his proof of insurance. The young man is trying to get to the bedside of his dying mother-in-law, and the cop is showing off his power.

Here's what you have to understand: The cops says, "I can screw you over. I'd rather not do that"

And that's all you have to understand. Because I've been the longhaired kid in this exchange. And I understand the position of the young black man in this exchange.

This is not new. And it is not right. And it is not fair.

Let us flash back 41 years, to May 1, 1968. There was a peace demonstration in Chicago, and I was there, not because of my opposition to the war, but because Cream and The Mothers of Invention were playing at the Coliseum that night. But I was also against the war, so whatthehell. A bunch of peaceful people with signs began walking downtown, chanting and singing.

And then, in a preview of the Democratic Convention three months later, the police rioted and beat the living crap out of everybody. I knew a guy who ended up with a broken collar bone, but the people who were with us remained safe and we went off to the concert.

And, as we walked away from the scene of the crime, young blacks in cars drove by, giving us power salutes and yelling "Now you know! Now you know!"

And yet we didn't, because all we had to do was cut our hair and put on some nicer clothes and we could slip right back into the mainstream and never have to deal with this again.

That, my friends, is the critical difference.

I can stop being a hippie. Can you stop being black?

I'm willing to concede that Professor Gates was an obnoxious, self-important, born-again black sonofabitch.

In fact, I'd make book on it. He's a college professor, after all. It comes with the job title.

But let me ask you this: So what? So the hell what?

Let me tell you something about being a cop: If there were a bank robbery and the machine guns and shotguns were going off, I'd wade right into the middle of that.

But that's not really what cops are paid to do. I watch "Cops" and I promise you, I would never have the patience to deal with all those semi-delusional drunken idiots that local cops deal with time after time, hour after hour.

That's why we give them great health benefits and good retirements -- not for the shoot'em-up moments, but for the unbearable tedium of dealing with idiots. And god bless'em for undertaking that thankless task.

The case of Professor Gates and the Cambridge Police is one of those cases where your task is to sort out this jackass from that jackass. It's not a robbery-in-progress call. It's an idiot call. And so here's what I find most offensive about the whole thing:

I don't want to hear the opinions of a bunch of middleclass white jackasses who have never been there, never seen that, never dealt with that.

I've been a tourist in that world. But I've never had to live there. And I've read about black men throughout the country, talking about how they were carefully taught how to behave in a situation where a cop with the power of life and death had decided to screw with you.

White boys cannot possibly understand that world.

Bloviate to your heart's content. But understand that you don't know what you are talking about. And you don't have the grace to shut the hell up.

Please. You are embarrassing me.

Shut the hell up.


Dann said...

Good post, Mike.

ronnie said...

No, seriously, tell us how you really feel.

(Well put.)

Sherwood Harrington said...

I'm willing to concede that Professor Gates was an obnoxious, self-important, born-again black sonofabitch. In fact, I'd make book on it. He's a college professor, after all. It comes with the job title.

Aha! So that explains my otherwise baffling compulsion to bust out a "yo mama!" at random times.

Mike said...

With all due respect, Prof. Harrington, you must understand that, while my ex-wife and I did not always communicate well, I was very much in sympathy with the public information director on days when her duties included sitting through Faculty Senate meetings. Comfort food and a jug of wine were waiting when she finally straggled in. With, like I say, all due respect, of course ...

Sherwood Harrington said...

I was the president of our faculty senate for one term in the mid-1990's. My dear wife has absolutely forbidden me to have anything at all to do with the organization ever again in the interests of my health, because she will hurt me very, very badly if I do.

For a few years after I left the senate, some of my colleagues would ask if I'd consider coming back to serve another term. My standard response was a smile and a "Yes! Absolutely! It would only take one little addition to the President's powers in the by-laws."


"The power of summary execution."

They don't ask much any more.

Ronnie said...

Without even any beer! Good for you guys.

Sherwood Harrington said...

You don't know that for a fact, Mrs. Peterson.

Ronnie said...

There you go again, Professor. Facts!

Dann said...

Nothing causes the professorial ego to bloom like tenure at a major University such as Harvard.

Local college/university professors are as a rule engaging and helpful. To the extent that they think "Big Thoughts", they have the good sense to limit their ramblings so that their students think of them as 'quaint' as opposed to 'sonofabith'.

After all, if their thoughts were truly big, they'd be at Harvard!

In my experience....