What Kind of Folks Are Drawn to Police Work?

It’s certainly not true that all police in the US are racists, but there is no doubt that police work as a career attracts a certain personality type the way a basketball court attracts tall people.

It’s a job where you can exercise power, where you can enforce your sense of propriety and order. The smart cops who respond to a call like the Gates “burglary” in Cambridge apologize quickly for the misunderstanding and earn the respect and trust of the population, but a significant number of the police officers who respond to this situation behave just like this officer did: they exercise their authority and demand deference from the public and especially from individuals perceived to need a lesson.

There is much discussion of the US as post-racial in the wake of an election that put a dark complected person in the Oval Office, but racism is alive and well in the US. Racism is at work every day in interactions like the one that took place in Cambridge. It makes the news when a guy like Henry Louis Gates Jr. gets booked.

What is the solution? I don’t know. My impulse says fire this cop. Make an example of him, but I know that just feeds the fears of the “oppressed white males” who can’t see racism at work if it was burning like a cross in their front yard. It feeds the fears that power the sales of assault weapons and arm caches by these fearful individuals. I know that we have to love these poor souls until they evolve beyond their current limited understanding of the world and how we should relate to each other. Complicated stuff. I hope Skip Gates will seize this teaching moment and show us something.

clipped from www.theroot.com

What Do You Call a Black Man with a Ph.D.?

The Skip Gates arrest shows how little some features of the national racial landscape have changed over time.

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    Posted: July 21, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Ain’t nothing post-racial about the United States of America.

Ain’t nothing post-racial about the United States of America.

I say this because my best friend, a well-known, middle-aged, affluent, black man, was arrested on his own front porch after showing his identification to a white police officer who was responding to a burglary call. Though the officer quickly determined that my friend was the rightful resident of the house and knew by then that there was no burglary in progress, he decided to place my friend in handcuffs, put him in the back of a police cruiser and have him fingerprinted and fully “processed,” at our local police station.

This did not happen at night. It happened in the middle of the day. It did not happen to a previously unknown urban black male. It happened to internationally known, 58-year-old Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. I am writing about this event because it is an outrage, because I want others to know that it is an outrage, and because, even now, I have not fully processed the meaning of it.

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