President Obama put his foot in it the other day when asked about the incident with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a black man, and the Cambridge police.
Obama acknowledged first that he didn’t know all the facts of the case. And that’s where he should have stopped. But then he went on to add that he thought the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly.” Bad move.
If he were not the President, I might have excused the comment because (a) he’s a black man, and (b) he knows Gates. But the fact remains, he is the President — sometimes referred to as the first “postracial” President — and he supposedly represents all of us.
And race aside, the President should not be commenting on local police cases, particularly after he has just admitted he does not know all the facts.
The facts are coming out now and the armchair quarterbacking continues unabated. Interestingly — and distressingly — it seems to break down along racial lines rather than on the basis of the facts. Blacks claim it was profiling by a white cop; that a white homeowner in the same situation would never have been arrested; that if whites had been trying to get the front door open, the police would never have been called in the first place.
Can we just cut the crap? Law abiding citizens do what police officers tell them. They address the officers with respect. They appreciate that the officers are just doing their jobs. If they refuse to show identification and start yelling and screaming at the officers, they are likely to be arrested.
I don’t know why a respected professor, an educated man, would lose his cool in the presence of the police. Maybe he’d had a bad day. Maybe the police did say something that was less than diplomatic. And maybe the professor (like the President?) was reverting to some sort of deeply ingrained emotion, some knee-jerk reaction, to perceived racial profiling.
Get over it! Slavery ended back in the 1800s. Any racial profiling that exists today is there because of today’s attitudes and behaviors — from people who were neither slaves nor slaveowners. If a black man acts like a mistreated slave, he’s perpetuating the stereotype, not the white people around him. If a white man goes after a black man solely because he’s black, then the white man is at fault.
I don’t expect Obama to forget he’s a black man, but I do expect him to be scrupulously non-racial while he is President of the United States.