President Obama has nothing to apologize for. He said the Cambridge Police Department officers ACTED stupid-LY in arresting Prof. Henry Gates! He didn't call THEM stupid. People need to differentiate between calling a person or persons "stupid" and declaring that they performed a "stupid act" -- that is, unless they are too STUPID to know the difference.
Having said that, Professor Gates' experience probably wasn't "racial profiling", though, and no lawsuit would probably allege that. Still -- as hinted to by Obama -- that a Black man would cry "racism" in this circumstance is understandable given our (and Latinos') experiences with police officers.
Is the fact that the Black cop (Sgt. Leon Lashley) stood up for the White cop (Sgt. James Crowley) in any way determinative? No. That just shows that the true problem is a “blue” one -- not black nor white. Lashley stated to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Crowley was within his rights to arrest Professor Gates. He added that -- because Gates was loud -- he would have arrested him, also. It didn’t matter to Lashley that Gates was on his porch -- “he was outside”, he said.
Now understand this. It wasn’t because Gates used profanity. He would have probably been arrested in his house for that one under the pretext that he had threatened Crowley. He was merely loud and the officers didn’t like the subject matter. So they waited for him to cross the “arrest threshold”.
So why was this stupid? It was stupid because it was a POWER TRIP on the part of the police officer and, thus, retaliatory in nature. It’s straight up police brutality -- brutality via malicious and capricious prosecution! THAT is the reality for so many -- whether Black, White, Brown or Yellow. [Hey, do we REALLY refer to each other with this archaic rainbow vernacular?] It's a reality because too many police officers have an "us against them" mentality.
Now, I truly understand the stresses that police are under. A few years ago an officer/fellow guest at a cookout I attended reminded me of this. He reminded me that officers get calls when there is trouble afoot. They're usually NOT getting a call to come to a cookout like the one we were attending. Thus, he submitted, it should be understandable that the officer is "on edge" while entering a tumultuous situation with little knowledge of the parameters. I could "feel his pain".
But still this is about the traits we citizens want our police officers to have. They must be part crime fighter and part civic activist. Yeah, that’s right -- civic activist. That moniker that President Obama is ridiculed for having. But that’s what “protect and serve” means to the citizenry. The crime fighter protects us against the “UNRULY” and the civic activist serves by helping to preserve our civil liberties -- like the right to be secure in our own homes.
Now I know that many “old school” policemen don’t like the idea of a “kinder, gentler” officer, but that’s what the people want. We want to look up to police officers. We want to respect them -- but they must be worthy of our respect. The uniform doesn’t magically bestow it. Officers -- like politicians -- must earn it. A good place to start is the policing of yourselves, the dissolution of the “blue code”, and the subsequent removal of rouge cops.
The problem with the "us against them" mentality is that it invites the power trip. On the one hand it‘s quite understandable for “them” to be the outlaw groups that are the natural nemesis of police. But it’s quite another when "THEM" becomes the citizenry in general. If "we" are the enemy, how can police "protect and serve" us? You don't protect and serve your enemies -- you frustrate them; humiliate them; annihilate them.
So despite the “come to Jesus meeting” Obama proposed in his new White House digs, I believe that a lawsuit is still necessary. It is necessary to deter police officers from arresting folk on charges that they know won't stick, just to impose the inconvenience of the arrest. THAT is the reality for so many. It is their cause that I hope Gates will champion.
This is the same point of view I offered when Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team some “nappy-headed hoes”. It was all about deterrence. But no, they had their “come to Jesus meeting” and all forgave him except one player, I believe.
This phenomenon of Black people “giving it to Jesus” has to stop. We must remember that “the Lord helps them who help themselves”. That’s what White folk believe. That’s why the dollar bill has the Latin phrase: "annuit coeptis" above the all-seeing eye of Providence. “Providence [God] favors our undertaking”.
So while we undertake our endeavors -- with God’s favor -- we must keep two things in mind. First, in a capitalist society, the only deterrence any institution understands -- businesses, police, shock jocks, etc. -- is financial loss. Unless you cost them money, no deterrence occurs. Secondly, with all the acknowledgements successful Blacks give to their predecessors -- “I stand on the backs of…(so and so)” -- let’s ask ourselves, “what if they hadn’t stood?” Where would we be now? Would we have a mixed-race President? Can we afford to just sit down, now? What will subsequent generations say about us? Will they say that we acted "stupidly"? Will they say that we answered the clarion call or cowered in a corner? Hmm!