CNN’s Don Lemon speaks with a panel about racial profiling in America. The panel includes Prof. Andra Gillespie (Emory University), Tim Wise (antiracist writer and activist) and James Andrews (social media entrepreneur). The conversation is only available in two clips from CNN, I’ll post them both. The first one here is about (4:45).
And, here’s the second part from CNN (7:36) which is where Prof. Gillespie and Tim Wise discuss the difference between ‘having a racist moment’ and working on one’s own individual issues of prejudice and racism:
We’re often critical of mainstream news coverage of racial matters, but I thought that this was a step in the right direction, even if it was all too brief and necessarily superficial. The panel seems to agree that the Gates’ arrest represents a ‘teachable moment’ in American culture. What are your thoughts?
This is a very teachable moment; the question should be, what lessons will we (America) learn? One that must be acknowledged is that police lie, exaggerate, and stereotype: Lucia Whalen denies identifying the race of the men she saw.
Deja Vu: Stanley Fish, former dean at Duke, recalls previous treatment of Gates in Durham, NC, near Duke: I’m Skip Gates’s friend, too. That’s probably the only thing I share with President Obama, so when he ended his press conference last Wednesday by answering a question about Gates’s arrest after he was seen trying to get into his own house, my ears perked up. As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him
in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town … and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake. . . .http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/henry-louis-gates-deja-vu-all-over-again/
Good catch, Joe – I tend to tune out Stanley Fish. 😉
Abigail, excellent point! I’m working on a post about Lucia Whalen – still waiting for the facts to become clear, which they’re not yet. In another report, it she says, “”two larger men, one looked kind of Hispanic,” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/27/gates.arrest/index.html) which is not the same as not identifying the race of the men she saw. I’m not defending the cops here, I’m just saying that I think there’s some retrospective editing going on by Whalen (who has, btw, hired a lawyer to defend her racial innocence in this incident).
Hey Jessie. I just wanted to comment on the lawyer thing. It is crazy that being accused of racism has actually become worse than acting in a racist way. WoW.
I think everyone is missing the key point in the Whalen tape:
She notes very clearly that another woman got her to call, because this other woman was scared that a burglary was underway. The key here is a) we don’t know whether the first “witness” had greater fear because the two men are black, or not, but we certainly can’t rule that out just because Whalen didn’t say “black men;” and b) this other woman IS a neighbor of Gates, unlike the caller, according to what Whalen herself says on the tape. So how in the hell does this other white woman not recognize her neighbor of several years, Dr. Gates, in the middle of the day? The answer of course is that, to so many whites, black folks all “look alike,” and we DON’T differentiate, and the root of this, is indeed a form of racism.
Also, note that the cops continued to press Whalen about racial description. This, despite the fact that knowing whether the alleged perp was, as they put it, “white, black or Hispanic” would be of no use whatsoever to the cops. Why ask it? She said they were still in the house, so all they need to do is show up and investigate. Whoever is in there, regardless of race, would need to be questioned then. By demanding to know race, even when race would be of little help here (it’s not as if the “perps” were “On the lam” and needed to be tracked down), the cambridge cops are exposing themselves as flat out liars when they say, as the union did yesterday, that race plays no role in ANY of their actions. My guess is that they asked race because had the caller said “white” they would have assumed that the “perps” were either college students or a Harvard employee, and taken it less seriously. I can’t prove that of course, but it makes sense; and there is little other reason to ask at all.
I’m going to take issue with Tim’s idea of lumping the dispatcher in with “the cops” and the idea that the race of the perps was unimportant because “it’s not as if the “perps” were “On the lam” and needed to be tracked down.”
Nothing says the police were going to arrive at Gates house while the possible suspects were in still in the house. It’s the dispatcher’s job to get as much information as possible from the start. And all crimes in progress are, by definition, fluid situations.
Tim is right to call into question the account Cambridge Police and the officers’ union tried to put out but its the gaps and inconsistencies with Whalen’s 911 account and Crowley’s statement in his report when he claimed he talked to Whalen at the scene that’s the problem. Either Whalen said something different at the scene — “two black males with backpacks” as Crowley reported — or Crowley lied, embellished or got confused as to who said what… when.
One thing I never really understood is why Crowley talked to Whalen at the scene before entering the house if he actually believed a burglary was in progress. IMO, time would be of the essence. Also, I wouldn’t want the burglars to know the identity who complained.
To Tim Wise, I saw this video (the first one) in my diversity class at work today – at Emory Univ, in fact. I so admire your insight into the mindset of racism, prejudice, and privilege. I look forward to hearing and reading more from you!