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July 29, 2009

The Non-Event Of The Century

By: John Caruso

I don't want to risk having my citizenship rescinded if I fail to offer a half-assed commentary on the single most important news story of this century, and possibly all of human history: the misdemeanor arrest of Henry Louis Gates.  So here, in convenient bullet point form, are some thoughts which hopefully don't just rehash ten thousand other half-assed comments you've already suffered through:

  • I'd say this is the most substantive and meaningful story to entirely dominate the U.S. news cycle since the Summer of the Shark.
  • And coincidentally, it has just about as much to do with racial profiling.
  • Rarely have I seen such a textbook case of projection.  In Gates' own words: "So I went over to the front porch still holding the phone, and I said ‘Officer, can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Would you step outside onto the porch.’ And the way he said it, I knew he wasn’t canvassing for the police benevolent association. All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger. And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’ ... Now it’s clear that he had a narrative in his head: A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me."
  • I thought we'd never see someone as afflicted with delusions of grandeur or addicted to self-promotion as Donato Dalrymple—but after hearing Gates' immediate plan to make a documentary about this harrowing ordeal, or his later suggestion that his epic hissy fit "could and should be a profound teaching moment in the history of race relations in America" (move on over, Rosa Parks!), I've realized just what a failure of imagination that was.
  • There's nothing quite like watching white liberals use any opportunity to hurl accusations of racism, with escalating fervor, to the point where even a slight deviation from doctrine can earn someone a denunciation (though I'm sure you could have seen the same kind of thing at Party meetings in East Germany).  It's difficult not to think they protest just a tad too much.
  • Until now, I never realized so many people in this society had such powerful ESP—you know, the kind that allows them to make unequivocal assertions about the innermost thoughts and intentions of people they've read about via second- and third hand accounts in sketchy news stories.  It's a little scary to discover we're surrounded by psychics.
  • Perhaps the funniest part of all of this (and not for lack of competition): the notion that the description "two black males", applied to two black males, is prima facie evidence of racism.
  • Ironically, Gates has probably done more to damage the cause of those who work to document and raise awareness of the very real and very serious problem of racial profiling than anyone I can think of.
  • And finally: from now on, I'll take Henry Gates' attributions of racism every bit as seriously as I do Abe Foxman's attributions of anti-Semitism.

I only hope that in a few months we can all get over this and get back to talking about something more important, like Michael Jackson.

UPDATE: I was curious to see what Black Agenda Report would have to say about this, and (as usual) they didn't disappoint; see here, here, and here for three excellent articles.

— John Caruso

[ NOTE: I'm resposting this here since I think it's worthwhile to have a different take on this issue on ATR, but comments are closed here since there's already been extensive discussion on my site. If you're interested, you can read or add to the comments there. ]

Posted at July 29, 2009 12:35 PM