The Surreal Life of the Post Gates Affair

As with many matters racial in this country, the coverage and aftermath of the Gates affair gets more and more surreal (remember O.J., Tywana Brawley, et al.?)   This just in.

Justin Barrett

“A Boston cop insisted he was not a racist as he apologized for calling Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates a “banana-eating jungle monkey” in a mass e-mail.

“I did not mean to offend anyone,” Officer Justin Barrett told WCVB-TV. “The words were being used to characterize behavior, not describe anyone.”

Barrett admitted it was a “poor choice of words.”

“I didn’t mean it in a racist way,” he added. “I treat everyone with dignity and respect.””

The profound cynicism of this officer’s response points not only to racism but problems with facts, themselves.  Several years back, Toxic Sludge is Good for You analyzed the growing influence of public relations and spin.  This officer’s inexpert effort to spin his remarks shows the logical progression of that problem.
And I simply don’t care about Barrett.  I don’t want to hear from his colleagues of color.  Irate charges of reverse racism.   Discipline him and move on.
And while we’re at it,  I am shocked and deeply saddened — You know that phrase is standard for these events —
to once again see that solid black people are falling into the same traps.
“He shouldn’t have asked for the officer’s badge number.”
No?  When the Justice Department comes riding in to deal with these situations, they need facts and statistics.  Citizen complaints matter.  If not, they’ll say:  There were no complaints, so there must not be a problem.  He could have just taken note of the number or car number more discreetly as a strategy, perhaps.  But this plays into the uppity negroes shouldn’t ask questions and if they do they get what they deserve.
Different place.  Same issue.
A young lady who stayed with me was outraged that a young white woman in the local ghetto mart wanted to complain about something and insisted on seeing the manager.   “She kept insisting that someone listen to her.”
There are many times when people don’t care about or will not hear what we have to say.  But not speaking, stuffing it down, taking it and then making our silence a point of pride doesn’t work either.  Our children need to see us stand up for ourselves and for them.   Men and women need to see each other doing it so that we can respect, honor and value each other.
“He’s an uppity, bourgie nigger anyway who brags about his white wife and white blood.”
Troublesome true.  But is there a one of us who doesn’t struggle with identity issues and racial pride?  And what bothers me here is outright, hateful class resentment.  And hidden low self esteem.  Am I really diminished if Gates was never attracted to a black woman?  Didn’t defend Chanequa Campbell?  So what?
Let’s learn from Obama.  All non-black people aren’t against us.  All black people aren’t for us.  Case by case people.
And more disturbing is the idea that Gates got what he deserved.
Crabs in a Barrel
Crabs in a barrel.  Don’t let it be you!
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About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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2 Responses to The Surreal Life of the Post Gates Affair

  1. John says:

    The “jungle bunny” email and subsequent attempted spin was pathetic and yet, fortunate. Fortunate because there are people like this confused angry Officer who’s education on race relations likely began and ended before puberty. Pathetic because it’s mind-numbing to me that this truly ignorant man could get to 37 years of age, particularly in an urban setting and still not know the difference between right and wrong.

    The truth of the Gates incident is we had THREE parties that over-reacted and those over-reactions came together to create this firestorm of opportunism and divisiveness.

    • liftingasweclimb says:

      Agreed. But I do think the divisiveness was already in place. The firestorm illuminated what is usually hidden. I also don’t get why people get to have a pass on racist, hate talk when they are upset. Hmmm.

      Thanks for the comment!

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