Quote of the Day.

The conversations at TNC’s spot on the Gates fiasco have been great to read, but this quote from a commenter named brent is really worth highlighting.

Setting aside all of the other meta-discussions on race and class that surround this issue, the thing about all of this that creeps me out the most is that so many people are willing to defend this officer who, assuming the most charitable possible interpretation, arrested a guy because he didn’t like his attitude. That is what [Mike Barnicle] is defending. That is what the execrable Mika Brzenski is defending. That is what I have read numerous commenters on a multitude of sites from the entire political spectrum defend.

They are, as far as I am concerned, defending the indefensible… [The panelists] were saying that if you cannot agree that arresting Gates was just plain wrong then there is no possibility of moving the argument forward. There is no good faith argument to be had without starting from the point that officers do not get to arrest a guy because he says unkind things to him.

I have decided that I no longer have anything to say to people who can, with a straight face, defend this nonsense. Forget about race. Forget about class. Forget whether or not Gates or Officer Crowley are nice guys who treat their mothers well. The bottom line here is that an officer used the authority of law to restrict the liberty of a man who was expressing displeasure with him. If you think that is right, then you fundamentally disagree with the basic principle of a free society.

That is not hyperbole. If you are willing to grant any individual with a gun and a badge the authority to arrest people because they don’t like them, then you and I share no common principle on liberty and the right of people to be free from oppression. None.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • ladyfresh

    nicely put, much appreciated

  • yeah, usually I am ‘that guy’ who tries to rationalize why people do crappy stuff, who tells people to wait until we get all the information in etc. And even as a bonafide ‘that guy’, I could still tell that this was a complete screw up and there is nothing defensible in all of this on part of the police officer. Its a freaking social contract, and in this case it was unequivocally broken.

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  • Bourgie, JD

    Well, there it is.

  • ladyfresh

    ok i’m back.
    this has been needling me for a while.
    it’s a major problem which, from what i can see, no police force comes close to addressing

    whether it’s this ‘light’ form of abuse of power that happens regularly across the spectrum or the really horrid shootings

    the fact that this officer and his dept don’t see the need for an apology (no matter the behavior of prof gates) as the entity in the position of authority comes across as sulky, spoiled, childish behavior which continues through to only a brief suspension with a grudging apology for loss of life for people who obviously show a lack of qualification for their position.

    i can only think of one incident in which an apology was fully given(the athlete who’s mother in law lay dying), and i know it was only because it was recorded and the woman died, by the chief of police and did not smack of political motivation

    these moments are not ‘one offs’ and occur way too frequently, they create dissatisfaction which is building to resentment in our populace which is dangerous

  • quadmoniker

    It’s really true. I’ve decided the argument that Gates was wrong, or at least an asshole, is coming from people who have never dealt with police before and imagine they would always act calmly. The implicit idea in the view that Gates overreacted is that he should have shown deference to the officer, which is what really galls me.

  • pprscribe

    Wonderful quote. Thank you for highlighting it.

  • God, I love Ta-Nehisi’s comment threads. Where else do you get commenters who are so damn smart and thoughtful? (Other than here, of course.)

  • YES.

    Thank you.

  • Agreed. As an attorney, I read the Massachussets “disorderly conduct” statute. It requires that the “tumultuous” conduct be performed in public or have the threat of public harm. Clearly not so inside Prof. Gates’ house. Once Sgt.JIM CROWley discovered that Gates was rightfully in his own home, there was no more probable cause for the arrest. While the woman who called police may have been guilty of racial profiling, Crowley was guilty of misconduct under color of law. This confirms my belief that his actions were racist, not prejudiced. They were not based on a prejudgment or ignorance, but performed with full knowledge and full culpability.

    I agree with Winslowalrob, that the social contract was violated, indeed decimated. Here, the social contract was an absolute fraud. Dr.Gates had paid both the economic and social price for living in his nice house in his nice neighborhood, and he relied on society’s promise of what that would mean. At least the white woman who called the police was trying to protect that. But the Cambridge police proceeded to destroy the value of what Dr. Gates had rightfully paid for and earned. Call it what you want: quiet enjoyment of one’s home, sense of security, peace of mind, the right to pursue happiness, unimpeded. Sgt. Crowley knowingly and intentionally took all that away from Dr. Gates, without just compensation, and that is repeatedly done to people of color across this country, regardless of class. For an example, have a look at my post. http://bit.ly/5mur4

  • Nicole M

    Thank you and yes. I was just shot down with the “PC” label and told I need to “lighten up” (which, btw, I’m now considering the new Godwin’s Law for white men uncomfortable with being held responsible for their dismissal of issues of racial importance) for insisting on this exact point, that the cop undeniably abused his power.

    We get way too caught up with labeling people “racist”, which takes the focus away from the real issue of a person’s responsibility in regard to a specific interaction. Jay Smooth has a great vlog post about this though I am hard-pressed as to how to bring this understanding to more people: http://is.gd/1N6R5

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  • Molly

    I think you are paying more attention than I am and are probably right. I redact everything I said previously.

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  • Brent needs to go into writing if he hasn’t already. Absolutely spot on.

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