Thursday, July 23, 2009

Acting White: Disorderly Conduct

This post is not about race, it is about egos, and how they get the best of us.

Cambridge Sergeant James Crowley (pictured), whose side of the story I have now heard (on WEEI Boston) as well as that of Professor Gates (on CNN), made a decision to arrest Gates on a disorderly charge, when experience and judgment should have told him that this was a very bad move. This is not to say that Gates does not have an ego or a willingness to raise his voice. Crowley, by his own words, believes that hearing bad things about himself (or family) is part of police work. So why did he not just hand himself a favor and do the water-on-a-duck’s-back thing? One word - EGO.

Last summer I had a run-in with two Oakland cops, which was all about ego (not race), mine and theirs. The first officer nearly ran me, on my bicycle, off the road, while pursuing a speeder. Mind you, no lights, no siren, no pardon me move your narrow ass on the bull-horn, no nothing.

When I caught the cop and lucky speeder (who got off) a mile down the road, I started giving her a piece of my mind, undoubtedly in a raised “Gates style” voice. Meanwhile another cop rolls up and tells me I am interfering and he will arrest me. In my adrenaline-fueled state, I told him to F-off and that he could arrest me anytime he felt the need. I also told him it would be my pleasure to watch his duty officer, Captain and DA take turns reaming his private parts for compounding the other cop’s stupidity with his own brand. There was never any mention of race during the entire exchange.

Well, the punch line of this story is that just maybe the Oakland cops are smarter than Cambridge, because the reckless cop knew she was wrong almost running me over (she apologized), and regardless, the two of them thought it would be the lesser of evils to endure my tongue-lashing rather than what awaited them back at the precinct, after being arguably right and patently stupid to arrest me. Are you listening Cambridge? My encounter was about safety, emotion, adrenaline, ego and common sense – mine and theirs.

I’m glad the Oakland cops neither arrested nor shot me for my indignant stance. I was not proud of my behavior, but a life of marginalizing incidents by authority figures caught up to me as my life flashed before my eyes, and over the deep-end I went. I partly hoped the cops would be stupid enough to arrest me, and partly hoped they would be smart enough not to fall for the trap I was presenting. After all, I was out riding for some peace and enjoyment, I thought.

To put it succinctly, we have big issues in this country around race, and the Gates debacle and other daily occurrences go to remind us that we have a lot of work to do.

James C. Collier


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Unknown said...

In the coverage of this story I have not seen any discussion by police officers on whether arresting someone in those circumstances was appropriate. (My opinion is it is not. This is a case of contempt of cop).

James' story here shows how valuable and wise an apology can be.

Unknown said...

Professor Gates claims in this interview that he knew what officer Crowley was thinking:,1
Do they teach telepathy at Harvard?

The other thing is that Prof Gates says stepping onto the porch would have been a bad idea. Sergeant Crowley made the case today that was for his own safety, and I can believe that.

Two hot tempers, yikes.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm glad your encounter on the bicycle came out okay. I know what it's like in a (fear) adrenalin moment to lose it.

Gedanken experiment: imagine a white guy who is shouting at the cops, even in his own home. Describe that person's demographics: age, income, location, religion, favorite type of alcohol, education level, ....

I am probably the one stereotyping, but I was thinking white trash.

Gates could be perfectly correct in his views regarding the cops violation of his rights, but I don't know anyone who does much more than be respectful and even thank the cops and just encourage them to leave and not tase them accidentally.

Speaking of which, I really am not familiar with Henry Gates' work and I am probably doing him a disservice, but how many times as he spoken out against the use of tasers in general against all members of society?

Basically it bugs me his playing the "you don't know who I am card".

Regarding your post on profiling yesterday, today on the DR Show, there was more talk of profiling where it was just described to be wrong wrong wrong.

Here is where you might help educate me, and I would honestly be paying attention. What are the alternatives that profiling opponents think are possible to "prelude" profiling?

If an individual has just been the victim of a crime, what are the salient features we can best expect, even in a non-racist world, for that person to use to describe the criminal? Height, age, sex, hair, hair color, tattoos, and not race?

So when a Harvard Professor (not Gates) objects to the police profiling him when a crime has been reported in the area and it matches in height, age, sex, and race, what are the alternatives?

And I understand that many times, the cops have ignored or discounted many of the factors apart from race, but often times, I just don't understand how any inspection of race becomes profiling.

Oh well, I'd edit this and try to make myself clear but I have a meeting....


Anonymous said...

I watch the television show COPs all the time,c and see White people actually curse out the cops and dont get arrested, what gives!

Anonymous said...

I've heard both sides of the story now - Mr. Gates' and SGT Crowley's. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Word to the wise: it's far better to play along in situations like this than to risk being a statistic on the nightly news. I'm not sure that the pride of any one of us is worth paying that kind of price. If something untoward did indeed transpire, Mr. Gates should have held onto his anger/frustration and filed a formal complaint later rather than risk being shot over the matter. This is not to impugn in a broad-brush fashion the professional conduct of most police officers, but it is to say that one can never know when that one "bad" cop (and I'm not implying this of SGT Crowley) may be standing outside your door. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Unknown said...

Maybe Sgt Wheeler just hates Harvard....

George Bush got his MBA there, so it sounds like a crummy place.

Nick said...

I'm sure you're a troll, but to clarify, you sir are the idiot. Dub got his undergraduate at Yale (are grad students even given the opportunity to join Skull & Bones, a Yale society? I think probably no.) and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

Also, anyone else think it's odd that the cop's name is JIM CROWley? I mean, seriously, is that for real?

Anonymous said...

Little bit of trivia:

G Dub's verbal SAT score was an atrocious 566, well below even the Yale Affirmative Action students' average of 600. Yale tried to encourage him to go somewhere "less competitive", but the Bush family insisted, and got him through.

Dennis Mangan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lincolnperry said...

Lets not get distracted folks, White Folks obviously believe the purpose of the police is to protect them from those people (US) the darker contigent!

On my way to the coffee shop the other morning, I saw a police officer stop a motorist, and the white driver actually got out of his car and walked up to the officer to question his motives, unbelieveable, now if I would have tried that stunt, I would still be sitting in jail!

Gates got arrested for being Indignant, the white boys ego got in the way, and he felt that he had to flex, and show his authority. Would he had the same encounter with a white professor...NO!

Anonymous said...

Lincoln Perry revels in being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to guess why this story didn't get a peep out of the media?

chemist said...

The cop was responding to a 911 call. He did not know what he would find, it could have been a burglary, a home invasion, a kidnapping, a domestic dispute, or an error.
It is standard procedure to ask the homeowner to step outside- just in case there is an armed intruder standing behind the door.

lincolnperry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lincolnperry said...

@Anon 7:57
Lets pull off the sheets, I dont post Anonymous because I'm not a coward, secondly, Gates was in his right! Mr Collier, has clearly articulated why the officer should have left Gates alone!

White Officers seeing themselves as a occupying army, and not protectors of all citizens.

Numerous times I have flagged down a white officer for assistance only to be stared at as if I was a perp!

And I was dressed conservatively standing near my own home. So you are misinformed!

Anonymous said...

This is a good example of what can happen when you live your life immersed in a dialogue about race and racial injustices. Any little thing said or done to you is going to be perceived as being racially motivated/insensitive. Over immersion in “Black talk” with colleagues and students on a daily basis, discussing America’s racial history, contemporary problems with race, the White psyche, and so on are going to necessarily make someone very biased against White authority and see shadows, like a paranoid man, where shadows don’t exist.

The same phenomenon is observable in Whites who, having once been everyday next-door-neighbor-Joes, find themselves coming under the influence of pro-White/White supremacist dogma and begin to look at their Black neighbors differently/suspiciously. They begin to develop a distrust, if not outright hate, for every Black person they see, without even knowing them on an individual basis.

This may be an extreme comparison, and I don’t mean to equate Dr. Gates’ reaction to the White police officer as somehow indicative of a Black nationalist/militarist bent on the part of Dr. Gates; however, it’s clear by his behavior, during and after the incident in question, that his over-immersion in all things Black has jaded his ability to think clearly, fairly and objectively when interacting with White authority figures. It’s as if we witnessed a Pavlov’s dog knee-jerk reaction at the sight of the White officer.

Anonymous said...

How in the heck does posting anon "mean" anything????

So you put a name up. So what?

It's just a name among many with no meaning to the people posting here and certainly does not define the word coward.

Discuss the topic without name calling and made up issues....

Anonymous said...

I am the anon that takes exception to someone being called a coward for something as simple as posting anon and that was my first post in this particular series.

Since Mr. Collier gives that option it is acceptable to him and that should be good enough for anyone posting here.

How someone chooses to post has ZERO bearing on that person. How they discuss the topic does.

The NAACP has one major failing.
It chooses to ignore ALL of the issues blacks bring upon themselves in America.
The only issues they discuss or bring to press or even give attention are ones that they can call racial which of course is anything they can describe as white doing something to blacks.

When Bill Cosby bravely spoke the truth about how blacks hurt themselves with their actions he was shot down by the very black community he was trying to help.

Those people that treated him so badly choose to keep their heads in the sand and continue to blame their station in life on being a victim of racial issues instead of taking responsibility for their own actions.

The only time you see Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or William Barber in NC is when they attempt to wring their hands and gnash their teeth about something they can claim some white person did to some white person.

Black gangs can kill each other in droves. Black girls can drag themselves to the depths of poverty with illegitimate pregnancy, and black kids can choose to ignore their education but does the NAACP address these issues where it is seen to do so?

Perhaps they do but the vast majority of what is PUBLICLY seen is anything but self examination.

Addressing those issues as well as race relations will advance the lives of blacks and isn't that what the national association for the ADVANCEMENT of colored people is about or is it as it seems, a conglomeration of hate mongers that exist to only rear their heads when they can shout RACIST?

anon and proud of it.

Anonymous said...


The only time you see Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or William Barber in NC is when they attempt to wring their hands and gnash their teeth about something they can claim some white person did to some black person.

James C. Collier said...

Lincolnperry, your insinuations on how I operate are distracting, and nearly slanderous. This is your one and only warning, sir.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:10am
There is a simple solution to Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton. End incidents of racism, and prejudice, and this would end their protest efforts! The Gates incident provides fodder for the individuals that use race as an excuse; I could see officer behaving in this manner with an African American such as musicians T-Pain, and Soulja boy. Yet, Professor Gates and intellectuals like James Collier have discouraged the behavior of African Americans of the fore mention; however, this incident shows that the ugly specter of racism still exists. I have to agree with the fore mention poster, many Americans do not make class distinctions when it comes to African Americans.

This is of course is unlikely, what is never discuss in many of these blog posting and discussions, It is not in the best interest of the majority group in this case, White Americans, or groups that can indentify as such to admit to any actual bias or wrong doing.

Doing so, would actually require a morally or ethical concession on the part of the dominant group. One way to maintain social and economic advantage over the other group is to constantly demonize and marginalize the group, create social constructs that discourage and prevent advancement.

What this does is maintain a social order of limited opportunities and resources, and discourages competition from the other group in the social hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

"End incidents of racism, and prejudice"

Yes, let's get on that. Let's also end violence, and poverty, and global warming, and cancer too.

Of course, even if there were no racism in the world, you'd still have the Crystal Mangums of the world trying to invent it. Do you really think that Al Sharpton wants to go out and get a real job?

The real racism in this case is Gates going apeshit on the police officer just because he's white. No surprise, of course, that a professor of "African-American Studies" would have an unhealthy obsession with race.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:10 I would like nothing better but on BOTH sides.

There is racism on both sides but rarely is is considered. Mr. Collier shows in his blog title how some blacks have disdain and contempt for whites on an issue as simple as acting a certain way. That "way" is now labeled by many blacks as acting white instead of just acting right and if they that choose to feel that way so easily about something so innocent it is easy to expect they have much more serious feelings about whites that can easily be defined as racist especially by the NAACP's standards.

Sharpton, Jackson, and Barber, etc. lack credibility when the only black issues they discuss are those they can label and use as racial when there are so many other issues that effect black lives and advancement that are self made.

The Duke Lacrosse incident being a good example of how the NAACP is so willing to shout race and when the truth finally comes out not a peep from them. If the incident had been white girl-black men they would have been silent and no white group had better not say a word because the PC pundits would have had a field day with them.
What is fair about that especially from a group that claims to only want fair treatment?

Then the two black gang member can brutally murder a white girl not long after that and again not a peep from the NAACP about it.
But you can bet the farm had the men been white and the girl black they again would have been marching in the streets over it.
Again, what is fair about that?

As far as the current topic,
I think there is a good chance the prof. would have acted totally differently had the responding officer been black but of course he will never admit that.

So many issues and so few will solved in our lifetime.....

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Sharpton, I almost had a heart attack the other day when I saw him in a video stream online exhorting kids at a predominantly Black high school to get their priorities straight with respect to taking school seriously and staying out of crime. I thought I had seen a ghost. Couldn't believe it was Sharpton. Very out of character.

I say that as a big positive. Maybe he's finally coming around to the realization that in this day and age the most bang for the buck to be achieved when it comes to Black advancement is to address issues of personal decisions/responsibility.

Hooray. Maybe blogs like this one and other alternative-view voices are finally starting to get through to hard-heads like this.

Undercover Black Man said...

Dang, this joint is like the Witness Protection Program... so many Anonymouses.

Claim a handle, gents. Makes it easier for readers to consider you a person.

Anonymous said...

and "undercover black man" makes you more of a person?

If readers have trouble claiming anons here as people what other minor and insignificant problems do they create for themselves in their daily lives.........

As long as Mr. Collier allows anon signatures there should not be an issue.

It is HIS blog and if it's acceptable to him then anyone complaining should complain to him and not those that sign anon.

Well Al was talking to sense to high schoolers? Way to go Al.

Now how about addressing some of the other self created issues?

Don't you ever wish Bill Cosby was head of the NAACP?

Anonymous said...

EVERY BLACK MAN in my neighborhood has stories of policemen with egos.

THEY ARE A GANG. nothing more nothing less.

The entrance tests they take are metered to get the exact results the departments look for. Thuggish, arrogant, followers who have a general disdain for the general public, ESPECIALLY minorities, which was their bread/butter for tickets in the late 70s-90's.

Most of the black men in my age group i know have problems with their drivers license. Is this because they are terrible drivers? No, it is because we were stopped on a magnitude much higher than our white male counterparts.

Back on Point: Gates got what he deserved. You live in those neighborhoods, expect some harassment. Par for the course. Your not part of that community. You just a black man at the country club.

lincolnperry said...

/ˈslændər/ [slan-der]
–noun 1. defamation; calumny: rumors full of slander.
2. a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report: a slander against his good name.
3. Law. defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc.

When Peter King accused Michael Jackson of being a molester, after being MJ was aquitted by a jury, this is slander!

Chiding you or challening your posters in debate is not slanderous, or disruptive. As far as the Gates incident goes...Crowley should have not requested backup, and dimissed Gates behavior, offered apology, and advised him that a concerned neighbor made the call!

And recent release of 911 tapes, demostrate that Crowley fabricated his report.

Anonymous said...

Only in the West would someone like Gates be supported. What he has written over the years has been a total waste of paper and ink.

Anonymous said...

THEY ARE A GANG. nothing more nothing less.

The entrance tests they take are metered to get the exact results the departments look for. Thuggish, arrogant, followers who have a general disdain for the general public, ESPECIALLY minorities, which was their bread/butter for tickets in the late 70s-90's.

That's a perfect description of a gang alright. A criminal gang of which this country suffers so much at the hands of.

Since you hold cops in such low regard maybe you;d rather the criminal gangs take over.

I didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

Let me relate what happened to me several weeks ago.
I was elected to a political office.
My opponent claimed that the election had been rigged.
He incited people to protest the elections.
Thousands of protesters took to the public streets, yelling, screaming, even shouting death threats to me. They blocked traffic. They refused to listen to the police. They created a very dangerous situation.
The police asked them to disperse.
But they refused. They continued to block traffic.
In the end the police had to arrest many of them on charges of disorderly conduct.
Many of them are now going on trial.

When the police make a request you best comply otherwise things could go badly for you.

Thank you for your support

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President