Monday, July 27, 2009

Moving On: Gates and Crowley Will Bury Hatchet Over Beers

It was very nice to hear that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sergeant Joseph Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department would be going to the White House to bury the hatchet over a few beers. It is probably the best solution to a problem that has rallied both sides of the argument over racial profiling in general and both participants' behavior in this particular incident. At the end of the day they were both a little wrong, with Gates seemingly overreacting and Crowley unjustly arresting him.

Today had a piece on the caller who dialed 911 to initially report the "break in" at Gates' home on Ware Street by Harvard, stating that the caller claims she did not cite race. I found it very surprising because nearly all of the media reports immediately following the incident stated that when the caller spoke to 911 dispatchers she mentioned that two black men were breaking into the house. Even in Crowley's police report it indicates that she knew the race of the alleged perpetrators: "She [the caller] went on to tell me that she observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch of [redacted] Ware Street. She told me that her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry." That pretty clearly states that the caller was well aware of the race of the individuals.

And while the article contains flat-out denials (through the caller's lawyer) from beginning to end that the caller did not know the race of the two individuals, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas, while saying that the caller did not mention race in the 911 call, seems to backpedal a little bit:

In an interview at police headquarters last night, Haas said "it was very clear that she wasn’t sure" what the men’s race was. He also said that when the dispatcher questioned Whalen for more details, she told police she could only guess about the race of the two men. "She speculated . . . that one might be Hispanic."

Someone involved in this does not have their facts straight. Either race was mentioned in the call or it wasn't; you can't say it was and then say, "Oh, well, she might have speculated that one might be Hispanic." If she did, then race was mentioned. If she did not postulate as to the skin color of the men, then race was not mentioned. The only way we'll know is if the 911 tape is released (which Haas says might be released in just transcript form, despite the fact that the caller has no qualms about fully releasing the audio).

It's nice to see Gates and Crowley put their differences aside and plan to enjoy a cold one with the president. The incident put race and police treatment of minorities back in the spotlight (whether you think Gates was a victim of racial profiling or not). The problem is that a new story will come up in the next week or so and we'll forget about this. Until another incident occurs. Then CNN and all these outlets will do specials to get more viewers (and ad revenue) until the next big story. Will racial profiling be eliminated or decrease because of this incident? No. If more cut and dry cases of racism (such as Amadou Diallo) did not stop racial profiling, a very ambiguous case such as this will not come close to ending the practice. We are a very long way from post-racial America (if it is even possible). Peace.

Photos - The White House, where Gates and Crowley are scheduled to have beers (Visiting DC)


  1. The tapes were released, and it's pretty clear that nobody but Crowley thought the two potential suspects were black.


  2. When will you be correcting your entries saying that the caller was motivated by race?
    The tapes clearly indicated she did not know the race of the 2 "gentlemen" (her words).
    It seems like you were quite willing to jump to conclusions and accuse someone of racism - quite a slur in the 21st century - without facts. When will YOU be apolgizing for wrongfully & slanderously accusing the caller of having a racial bias? I assume you will be doing so soon because when you thought Crowley was wrong (still yet to be proved either way) you were insisting on a public apology from him.

    On the other hand, maybe such jumping to conclusions over other's racism (real or merely perceived) & not apologizing qualifies you to run for President as President Obama did the same thing.

  3. Anonymous from 3:52 PM:

    Take this comment as an apology from me to the caller for my accusing her of being motivated by race. Having listened to the 911 tape, she does not mention race until pushed by the dispatcher. Could race have played a factor? I suppose, but at this point to say that would be adding lighter fluid to the conflagration. Do I think she was motivated by race? I can't say certainly one way or the other, so for stating pretty emphatically that the caller was motivated by race was wrong and I apologize.

    Do I think race had something to do with this? Deep down I feel that race was involved. Additionally, had Gates not overreacted, this would never have even made the news, nevermind turn into such a hot-button issue. But to call Crowley racist (which, for the record, I never did on this blog and focused more on the actual arrest and subsequent dropping of all charges in terms of police action) is going too far. There is still a third piece to the whole issue and that is the neighbor who seems to have alerted the actual caller to what was going on, and as stated in previous posts, we will never know what her motivation was.

    I still think Crowley was wrong for arresting Gates. The arrest itself held no water (in my mind). As I said before, does this make Crowley a bad person? No. He made a mistake, and hopefully this meeting of Gates, Crowley, and Obama will settle this issue once and for all.

    I have fixed the previous posts that state the caller was definitely motivated by race. Thank you for pointing that out.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Peace.