Author Topic: HILLBILLY VIEWS: Gatesgate (Three Parts)  (Read 2576 times)

Offline Lion

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HILLBILLY VIEWS: Gatesgate (Three Parts)
« on: July 30, 2009, 03:11:42 pm »
Part I

http://hillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2009/07/in-his-own-home.html

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In His Own Home!

Here we are, in the year 2009. We have lived through a myriad of experiences from blatant segregation to an on the surface much more free America and yet..and yet …it is the same old, same old face of racist behavior that rises and bites us like the coiled serpent it has always been.

Several states away, a fellow black Appalachian comes home from an overseas business trip. He is tired and probably looking forward to the peace and quiet of his home, the comfort of his favorite chair or the comfortable spot in his bed which translates to a restful time before he has to face the re-emergence of his daily work. Now he is confronted with a weather warped front door. His key snaps the lock open but the door will not budge. I can only imagine the profane comments running through his head as he drops his luggage on the front stoop of his house, grabs his cane and stalks to the back door, accompanied by the driver who ferried him home form the airport. Again, he applies his key and the door opens. Thank heavens, he is back on his own turf, in his own house. Now comes the struggle to get his traveling luggage inside. In frustration he stomps to the front door and with the help of the man who helped get his luggage inside, he finally manages to force the front door open. At that point, he thanks the driver for his assistance, perhaps offers the obligatory tip and reaches for the phone to call the people responsible for the maintenance of his home. Probably the only thought in his head is to get someone there to fix the door…a issue that needs to be settled before much needed rest and down time can be addressed.

As he talks on the phone, a stranger’s voice addresses him, What idiot can this be in his house? Who would dare just walk in? He turns and then here stands some cop in his house, What the hell! Instead of identifying himself, this intruder demands the identify of the homeowner. Now, he must rummage in his pockets for the driver’s license, for his work I.D. because this upstart youngster wears a uniform with a badge. Aha!, there is the required documentation complete with photo and address. But the stranger is still yapping like a puppy. The elder man returns the request, ‘Who are you and what is your badge number?” The yapping puppy walks away without giving the required information. The elder man’s temper rises at this total lack of respect and he walks toward the door…raising his voice…again asking for the identifying data. Like a yapping puppy, the cop turns and threatens the elder. OH NO! THAT IS NOT DONE…in our hills, in our community, in our own homes. The elder knows he is no criminal, no outcast of society, no suspicious person out of his appropriate surroundings. At that point confrontation was inevitable and the battle was joined.

The ensuing confrontation between Dr. Henry Louis Gates and this quasi control freak cop hits the newspapers and the internet and the shouting begins, There probably isn’t a black person of middle age in America who didn’t understand the scenario of what happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We didn’t have to be there because all of us have either had or know someone who has had, a confrontation with a culturally ignorant, insensitive individual hiding behind a badge and a gun. Because my hair is gray and I am on the downhill slide of 100 years, am I supposed to be afraid of a cop’s uniform? Forget that, it is not happening. It didn’t happen in my first 50 years and it is not happening now. All cops are not power crazed individuals or even racists but life has taught me that a significant percentage of people with deep psychological issues in relating to minority individuals gravitate to that profession. Hiding behind badge and gun allows these people to suspend common sense and act upon the wild fantasies of their bigotry. Sometimes they survive for years and then, luckily, for the rest of us there are some who are tripped up by their bigotry and false perceptions of their fellow man. Those are the cops who get fired for their aberrant behavior. Unfortunately, not enough of those individuals are weeded out. In the 21st century there are a whole lot of Bull Connors types still out there.

The bogus apology coming from the Cambridge Police Department ( in my opinion) needs to be tossed out the with bathwater. I sincerely hope that Dr. Gates takes the whole issue to court!

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Offline Lion

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Re: HILLBILLY VIEWS: Gatesgate (Three Parts)
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2009, 03:12:59 pm »
Part II

http://hillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-cant-we-communicate.html

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Can't We Communicate?

The brouhaha about Dr. Gates continues into the third day and I find myself answering the question, “Why are we so far apart? Why do we disagree so much on the reactions of both man?” Before we can answer the questions as to why the divergent viewpoints, there is a more critical question….WHO are the disagreeing parties?

Several years ago I was standing in the hall way of the high school where I worked until my retirement. Since it was my so called “free period” (translation –I wasn’t scheduled to teach) I was monitoring the hall. The white (and I use this racial description merely to establish parameters) kid coming down the hall was probably a freshman, he obviously hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet . Since the young man wasn’t one of the habitual hall walkers, I stood quietly against the wall and waited for him to come closer. About that time, the principal, a tall black (again I am establishing parameters) man, bolted out of his office door and in the manner of large school principals confronted with too man children in the hall, immediately started yelling at the kid.

“Why are you in the hall? Where are you supposed to me? Where is your pass? Why aren’t you looking me in the eyes?” At that point I came off the wall, raised my voice a notch and in a tone of urgency, “Mr. Williams, I need to see you a moment…NOW.” Since I rarely raise my voice, the principal caught the fact that I needed an immediate action so his next comment to the kid in the hall was, “You wait right here, I need to see this teacher.”

Very quietly I spoke to the principal. “Stop yelling at that student, You have scared him to death. He is NOT disrespecting you or your authority…he is trying his best to be respectful ….and polite!” Now that I had his attention, I could continue. “You are asking him to look you in the eyes and if he does, that is extreme disrespect!”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand….?”

“This kid is Appalachian and well bred Appalachian children never look an adult in the eyes, especially one who is chastising them. If a kid makes that mistake, they expect to be backhanded and I do mean backhanded immediately!” I waited a second for my message to sink in…then continued, “I know……because my four foot eleven inch (Appalachian) grandmother would already have used her left hand on my face!” The principal looked at me and then asked, “Are you serious?” I nodded and said quietly, “As serious as a massive heart attack.” The principal looked at me questioningly and I nodded in the affirmative.

Mr. Williams wheeled around and turned back to the kid, “Come on my man and walk with me for a few minutes. I need to go in the cafeteria and get something to eat…..I didn’t eat breakfast this morning. Now, you sit right here and wait for me.” The tall man went back into the kitchen and came back with his coffee, a milk, an orange juice and two sausage and egg sandwiches. He kept one sandwich and the coffee and gave the rest to the kid. “Sit here with me a minute while we eat and then, I’ll walk you back to class. You are not in trouble. Whose class are you supposed to be in…don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” The instance had moved from a “he’s picking on me” scenario to a male bonding routine and the anger on both sides had been diffused. Because the principal trusted my judgment, I had been able to intervene in a situation which could have had very negative results. Because the adult male was listening and trying to bridge the gap between two cultures, he had gained the student’s respect and trust, a trust that would continue until the student left school…because that kid knew he could ask to see “Mr. Williams” if there was a problem and the man would listen (and not overreact).

What happened in Dr. Gates situation was a little more complicated. Any black man and many other men of minority cultures understood exactly what happened (without further explanation) and the extreme out of context disrespect shown by the Cambridge cop. Sadly it appears that the cop either does not know what he did wrong or does not care! Ironically when the chief of police says that his officer had actually taught a class on “racial profiling” at the police academy…..the majority of black men around me reacted with “Sure, he did. He probably taught them how to profile!” Sad but true.

My family lives in a small mid-western city. A few years ago we had a chemical accident in our town, an accident that required the town to be evacuated because of excessive smoke and fumes. My husband and I had been out in our neighborhood, about three or four blocks from home when the smoke began to cover the sky. We turned the car around and headed home. When we came to the four-way stop down the street, a police car pulled up behind us. In my rear view mirror, I watched the cop on his radio and said to my husband…”There’s a cop behind us and he is running our license plates. Don’t look back, let’s see what happens.” I knew the second the cop got a reply because he suddenly peeled out and made a sudden left hand turn into the next alley….which took him away from us. That officer had common sense enough to check facts before he did something with negative results.

If Crowley had backed out of the situation and apologized to Dr. Gates as soon as he verified his identity, the incident would not have escalated into the national news. Instead Crowley’s ego went into power trip overdrive. Why do I come to this conclusion?
1. Age difference – A 60 year old college professor who is in his own
house expects to be treated with respect, not with Gestapo tactics
and threats. Any cop coming to my door had best stand on my stoop
and wait until he is (or isn’t) invited in and if he hasn’t had time to
go through the amenities, his explanations should be prompt and
logical.

2. If this cop is such an expert on racial profiling (and I doubt he is) ,
He should have immediately understood how his posturing and presence would appear to Dr. Gates. The fact that he didn’t is cultural unawareness (remember the “he’s not looking me in the eyes..” response of the principal).

3. Testosterone overdrive- (or I’m gonna show this nigger who’s boss)!
At this point Crowley knew (or should have known) he had overstepped his bounds but he was hell bent on being “in charge.” The minute Dr. Gates asked for a name and badge number (which is his right), Crowley knew (or should have known) the situation had been reversed. Instead testosterone overdrive escalated (again, I’m gonna show this nigger who’s boss).

4. FOP support- Oh come on! Do you really think any union is going to
admit publicly that one of its members screwed up? As a former union steward and board member, I know better. The private communication might be “How could you do something so stupid?” but publicly, the union is probably not going to criticize its member. However, this situation is very dicey, the union is walking a very thin line.

5. I also have to say, this. The “I tried to save Reggie Lewis” excuse
sounds too much like the “some of my best friends are black (white, pink, purple and/or polka dotted)” cliché. Frankly, if these people of different ethnicities and cultures were your friends, you would know better than to deliberately take actions which would be offensive to them.

My final reaction has to be that racism and a lot of other “isms” are “as American as apple pie.” This country is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures, languages , and peoples. Too often we focus on the ways that we are alike and tend to forget that the ways we are different are just as important. Whether you choose to be a teacher, a preacher, a police officer, a social worker or whatever…..understanding the different cultures and languages that make up this country are endemic to the success of you job.

The English as a Second Language teacher who had Moslem students copying phrases from an English language Bible was just as (culturally) wrong as she could be and couldn’t figure out why the children’s parents were angry. After all, she didn’t do anything wrong! REALLY! Think about it!

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Offline Lion

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Re: HILLBILLY VIEWS: Gatesgate (Three Parts)
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2009, 03:14:26 pm »
Part III

http://hillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2009/07/sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired.html

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired!

These are my last comments on the Gates incident and the title above expresses my most heart felt sentiments. Unlike my president who thinks that bringing the principals into a face to face discussion of what happened in Cambridge, MA, I no longer believe that there will be positive results from that conversation. The after incident brouhaha has illustrated even more divisions in our society than I would have wanted to believe. The racial split is too obvious, the class split is a little more sheltered from site and the cops versus "them" (whoever "them" may be), is the most disturbing and infuriating.

Some time ago, shortly after my husband and I had bought our first home, a neighborhood kid (a 13 year old with an extensive juvenile record) broke into the house with three other youngsters. When they were unable to steal the stereo system that my husband had so carefully put together over a period of years, the kids grabbed newspaper, placed it in the middle of the bed and started a fire. Unfortunately for the juvies, a veteran Toledo detective had spotted the kids breaking in the house. As he sat in his car, he checked out home ownership and figured out what was going on. He watched the juveniles come out of the house (carrying nothing because they couldn't untangle the stereo system wires which were carefully taped together) and spotted smoke coming from the second floor. He radioed the fire department (which luckily was two blocks away) and because of his vigilance, the house was saved from total destruction. His professionalism saved our first house from total destruction. The next day, he and one other officer presented picture of several young men and simply asked if we knew any of them. I identified all four quite easily...they were neighborhood kids....who saw me almost every day. In spite of the fact that a detective had caught them in the act, not a single one of those kids ever came to trial because someone in the legal system identified them as "poor misguided, misunderstood miscreants." That officer did his job, the legal system did not. Do I identify hims as a bad cop or a racist? No, I do not. We thanked him for doing his job (much to his embarassment) but we had no complaints.

I was young and naive in those days. I actually believed police were supposed to "protect and serve" and that they were present to protect the boundaries of common decency in our neighborhoods. Of course, I knew about Bull Connors and his water hoses. What young adult of the civil rights era did now know about racist, bad cops? The turmoil of the 60's in a sence led to a quieter time in the 70's when we were trying to sort out the lessons we had learned from those teachable moments.It was ten years later when I ran into a cop that not only lied but was willing to write the lie in his report and go to court and swear to his lie. That time I was pulled over in a speed trap on US 52 in southern Ohio. When I went to court, I managed to proved my innocence. For appearing in court, I was fined seven dollars in court cost and the so-called speeding ticket was torn up. (I have always figured that the court costs were charged because I argued with the judge which had nothing to do with the cop.) That particular cop may or may not have been a racist but...he was definitely a liar. The speed trap incident bothered me for a long time because one of my best friends from childhood was the daughter of the police chief in the small West Virginia town where I grew up. I did not want to believe that a cop could be so unethical...it wasn't supposed to happen.

Before my daughter was born, her father and I went to a friend's house for dinner. He and his wife lived in an apartment near the University of Toledo and we had been friends for quite some time...in fact, we had gone to their wedding. As we putt-putted to our home inthe Old West End in our 70 VW beetle, two Toledo cops pulled us over. I am sure they both caught my schoolteacher glare as I asked why we had been stopped. They asked if we had come from the university area and when we answered yes, they indicated that there had been a robbery in that area a few minutes before and the thieves had absconded in a VW beetle. They then (politley) asked if they could search the car. I shrugged my shoulders and told them to go ahead. Our trunk was filled with miscellaneous stuff from my old apartment. I sat there and watched them pull everything out piece by piece. Let's face it, thieves do not bother with area rugs and assorted books and dishes. After they were satisfied that we were not the thieves, they apologized and started to leave until I folded my arms and suggested that since they had taken everything out of my trunk, they should put everything back! They looked kind of sheepish but they did as I asked. Because they were white and I was black, should I call them racists? No...there was no reason to go that route...they were simply doing their job.

I relate these incidents to simply say...every contact a black person has with a police officer is not negative. After all our neighbor, who was then our local police chief, shared our grief when our son died. He could have cared less that he was white and we were black. He was simply our neighbor (and no this is not a small town, it is a small city). Would I call him a racist? NO, not unless I want to sound like a fool and that is what I would be.

However, on Martin Luther King day nearly six years ago, I ran into a cop who was not only a racist, he was definitely profiling and he was a liar. Without going into any details, his lies tripped him up. The more he tried to explain himself (after the fact) the more his inconsistencies tripped him up. (Does this sound familiar?)
I will not go into details except to say that when a person puts on that badge and picks up that gun, that person needs to understand not only himself/herself but the people he (or she) comes into contact with on a daily basis. The officer that truly understands his/her community and the people in that community, the better a police person he or she will be. That officer is to be respected. The officer who is ego-involved, who misrepresents the truth on a police report, who is on a power trip, who does not respect the cultures within the community, who lets his contempt for people of different (religion, race, culture, life-experience) show does not need to wear the badge...ever. I really don't care if the cop is male, female, black, white, pink, purple or polkadotted, gay or straight. Defending the mistakes of a fellow cop when you know that a mistake was made..contributes to a negative view of all who wear the badge (and the black female cop with her vitriolic defense of an error in judgment as well as the black male cop who did the same needs to examine her/his relationship with the greater community of minorities). Do me and the rest of us old black folk...STAY OUT OF OUR NEIGHBORHOODS....you don't have the life experience to understand what we see amd have seen in the last forty plus years of our adult lives.

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