I’m sure you’re all by now completely sick of the Henry Louis Gates. white supremacy story and the media discourse that surrounds it, but I’ve just got one last post in me before I let it go. Yesterday it just struck me how furiously angry I was not just at the original injustice, but the results of the harassment spectacle. You can’t hold these things inside or your smooshy parts turn all bitter.
First of all, beer? Are you fucking kidding me? This is adult politics? Gates and Crowely didn’t have a spat because Crowely borrowed and lost Gates’s lawnmower. President Obama is not the president of the homeowners association. He responds to a synecdochal crisis by having the dudes over for beer; America is supposed to think Obama just like does that? They’re not doing a reenactment of King of the Hills, we’re dealing with race relations here. It’s not two guys who both screwed up, we have a black man and a white cop abusing his authority. To treat this as a problem between individuals that can be solved with alcohol is understating it a little. Instead of an honest dialogue about the vicious legacy of white supremacy and problems with the institution of the police, we have media kibitzing about the beers they drank. Bud Light, Mr. President? Bullshit. Just bullshit. Don’t let them poll-test your food and drinks, for sanity’s sake. Crowely probably tried to sound sophisticated with the Blue Moon and I like to think Gates was winking when he picked Red Stripe. Yeah, it’s cute to speculate on why the president said he liked a certain beer when asked by the media about his choice. But you’ll have to excuse me if analyzing why the president gave a specific banal answer to a stupid question doesn’t strike me as fucking news reporting. It’s like the media isn’t covering events so much as covering the way their presence alters and shapes events. The post-objectivity uncertainty-principle media is interested mostly in itself.
The result is an abusive cop is rewarded for harassing an elderly black scholar with a beer date in the president’s backyard, all while the media discusses the semiotic importance of Bud Light. Fuck that shit. The media got distracted from a discussion on race by beer? I know you’re aiming for the college freshman demographic, but damn.
And finally, a man who does it better than the rest of us, Bob Herbert:
The president of the United States has suggested that we use this flare-up as a “teachable moment,” but so far exactly the wrong lessons are being drawn from it — especially for black people. The message that has gone out to the public is that powerful African-American leaders like Mr. Gates and President Obama will be very publicly slapped down for speaking up and speaking out about police misbehavior, and that the proper response if you think you are being unfairly targeted by the police because of your race is to chill.
I have nothing but contempt for that message.
Black people need to roar out their anger at such treatment, lift up their voices and demand change. Anyone counseling a less militant approach is counseling self-defeat. As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.
While whites use illegal drugs at substantially higher percentages than blacks, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.
Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We’re never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.