Why the Gates Affair Bored Us
President Obama and the subject of race remind me of the proverbial camel’s back and straws: the American people shrugged off “typical white person”, then forgave the clingers speech. They bristled a bit about “No more disown Rev. Wright than…” and started to become concerned about “downright mean country” and Michelle’s never before being proud of the good old U.S. Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” and self-referencing “as a Latina” ad nauseam did not help. Nor did Attorney General Holder’s slur that we were “cowards.” And now the Gates affair. Minor of course. But it is the proverbial straw that finally seems on this issue to really be breaking the back of the American people, who are not only tired of racial evocation, but tired of Barack Obama and those elites around him using race for self-serving sermonizing—especially given their former confidence in Obama to lead us to racial transcendence. So read on…
African-American professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his own home by a white policeman for disorderly conduct (I think mostly for insulting a cop) and then subsequently released. Such misunderstandings happen all the time. Many in the Civil Rights community, however, were outraged at the arrest. And they cited Gates’ treatment as proof that racism was still very much alive in the age of President Barack Obama.
But as details emerged about the incident, the outrage of the African-American self-appointed leadership oddly failed to ignite even liberal America. And why it did not tells us much about a changing United States. So let us list the ways in which we did not much care whether or not Professor Gates had to go down to the station for screaming epithets at an investigating police officer.
Race is Not So Simple
1) America is no longer a white/black country. Due to liberal policies, tens of millions of Asians and Hispanics have recently immigrated to the United States. And far from seeing themselves, along with blacks, as a unified “people of color”, they split along various class and racial lines on almost every issue.
Intermarriage has created millions of Americans who don’t consider themselves part of any race. Gates may be a professor of white/black racial bias, but millions of nonwhite Americans have evolved beyond his easy dichotomies. Tens of thousands of Koreans, Filipinos, Mexicans, Hondurans, and Punjabis living in America are no doubt mystified by Gates’ furor. Most in their own lives perhaps instantly profile those on the streets of their neighborhoods not by race, but in rough accordance with their perceptions of prevailing crime statistics. From my travels in Hispanic, Arab, Asian, and European countries, I would speculate that those of African ancestry are treated most equitably (by far) in the United States.
No More Monolithic Poor
2) There is now not only a black middle class, but an elite one as well. Professor Gates is one of the highest paid professors in the United States. As soon as he was arrested, the African-American mayor of Cambridge, the African-American governor of Massachusetts, and the African-American president of the United States all weighed in on his behalf.
When he sneered at the arresting officer “You don’t know whom you are messing with”, Gates was quite right—and so was released almost immediately once the calls came pouring in. In contemporary America, the wealthy and influential Gates, and his close political friends, are part of the establishment—and Sgt. Crowley who arrested him a member of hoi polloi without capital or chums in high places.
America shrugs that when an elite like Gates, a zillionaire like white-faced Michael Jackson, or an Bruno-Magli shoed O.J. gets caught in their own self-induced legal jams, they will too often immediately revert to racial victimization and try to convince America that they are living in Mississippi circa 1930. Good luck with that in the multiracial 21st century.
Living is stereotyping of some sort
3) Gates’ accusations of stereotyped racism, the President’s assertion that blacks are unfairly profiled by police, and Governor Patrick’s claim that the arrest was the nightmare of every black man—all failed to register with the American people.
Why? Because such allegations, even if they were true and some may well be, are only part of the complex 21-century story of race and the police. Attorney General Holder may call the American people cowards for not engaging in a national conversation on race. But the Gates incident, and the reaction of the Massachusetts governor and the president of the United States, reminded them why they don’t welcome these melodramatic “conversations.” Such therapy sessions never involve questions of personal responsibility—specifically why African-American males commit crimes at rates both higher than the general population’s, and at levels higher than other minority groups that likewise struggle with poverty and unfairness.