There’s this joke: You see, a cop, a professor, and the President walked into a bar.
On second thought, fuhgeddaboutit. It’s not really that funny. Or maybe it is. That’s because race is at the center of the story.
In real life recently, a White cop and a Black professor went to the White House for beer and conversation with POTUS, the President of the United States, who is Black.
What’s funny about that meeting is that the professor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.: is a mild-mannered scholar who has bridged racial differences; is married to a White woman; and has joked about his genealogical discovery that he was part Irish, part Jewish and more White than Black.
“I don’t have a profile of being an angry black man,” Dr. Gates said after he was arrested for disorderly conduct at his own home on the Harvard University campus by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass. Police. Prof. Gates has demanded an apology, accusing the arresting officer of racial profiling. The police and district attorney quickly dropped the charge against the professor.
For his part, Sgt. Crowley is known as a seasoned veteran of the police force with sound judgment in tense situations. In fact, he has taught a class for young police cadets on how to avoid racial profiling, or identifying subjects merely on the basis of their race. The director of the academy where he teaches told a reporter that Sgt. Crowley was “a good role model for young recruits.”
POTUS stumbled into all of this because he said at a press conference that the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” when they booked The Bookworm–Henry Gates.
The cop–who was slow to accept the invitation from POTUS in the first place–said after what was dubbed “The Beer Summit” at the White House, that he would not apologize for arresting the 60-year-old Black guy who walks with a cane because of a decades-old hip injury, and that he and the professor “agreed to disagree.”
Sgt. Crowley has got a lot of nerve!
First, his police report is at odds with the account of the woman who placed the 911 call about a potential burglary at the Gates residence in the first place. His official police report says the 911 caller identified the alleged perpetrators as “Black,” and that he talked to her at the scene of the arrest. The woman denies both allegations, and the recording of the 911 call verifies her account.
Well we all know police often modify their official reports after they complete their arrests, to justify their actions after the fact. Clearly that’s what happened here.
I am not acquainted with Sgt. Crowley, so this is pure conjecture, but I dare say that before this incident he has never been invited socially to the home of any Harvard professor, White or Black. Nothing personal, but he’s just not in their same social “class.” He’s certainly not on the White House social register either, so how does he come off refusing to apologize as though he was the innocent, injured party.
I dare say that had he been called to the home of a prominent White Harvard professor, and then discovered that the person he was questioning lived at the house, he would have simply apologized for the inconvenience and left the premises. No harm. No foul. But no, in this case, all that seemed to matter was Black and White, even though both protagonists are the most unlikely race-baiters you could ever imagine.
So, what happened? If you ask me: a White cop with a badge and a gun, saw a Black man with a cane and an ill-temper and he busted him. Not only did he arrest him, he HANDCUFFED HIM like he was a dangerous felon. And he won’t apologize?
It reminds me of a real joke. Comedian Redd Foxx told the story of Lyndon Johnson, back when he was POTUS. He was flying in a helicopter over the Florida Everglades and he saw a Black man on water skis, being pulled by a boat driven by two White men. LBJ was so impressed he had his pilot land so he could commend the men.
After POTUS LBJ left the scene Redd Foxx said, one White man told the other: “I don’t know who that tall guy was, but he sure doesn’t know anything about catching alligators down here.”
So, this cop, this professor and the POTUS went into a bar…