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.