Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Repeat After Me: He Was in His Own House

Henry Louis Gates, 2008
I read the news about Henry Louis Gates' arrest Monday on the Huffington Post, and couldn't believe the apologist comments written by many people in response. My thought was, this guy was in his own house or on his own porch, and even if he (allegedly) acted affronted and accused the cop of racism, that doesn't qualify as a crime that warrants arrest -- especially in his own house! (The charges have since been dropped.)

A friend sent me a link to a post about the situation from a blog called Shapely Prose, which skewered all the apologist discussion. This is just the last paragraph (written by Kate Harding):

A 58-year-old man who’s accomplished more than most of us could hope to in three lifetimes was arrested at his own home for being angry that a police officer walked in there and treated him like a criminal. And even liberal white people respond by saying, “Hey, it happens to us, too,” and Monday morning quarterbacking this specific instance out the wazoo, instead of acknowledging that this kind of bullying — let alone brutality — by the police is fucked up, and it waaaay disproportionately hurts people of color. The people who think “He should know better than to talk back to cops” is an appropriate response here remind me of people who insist the solution to rape is self-defense courses for women. Yeah, it’s nice to know, in theory, how to defend yourself, but the real problem is rapists – and a culture that doesn’t do nearly enough to discourage them – not victims’ lack of preparation. Here, the problem is racism and a culture that willfully ignores how deeply embedded it is in our institutions, in our expectations, and in our analysis of how just this world really is, not individuals getting angry with police officers.
Thanks, Kate.

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