Friday, August 7, 2009

Lancing a Racist Boil

Here are the news stories that prompted this edition:
Louis Gates Arrest Report
President Obama Press Conference
Professor Louis Gates about the incident
Sergeant Crowley about the incident

I'm concerned about with Obama's "leadership" and the way he and his administration are overtly fostering racism. Beginning with his inauguration (final prayer -- "whites do what's right" , then statements by Holder, and now, leveling personal accusations against a cop regarding an altercation he knows little about, Obama is encouraging blacks to carry chips on their shoulders for unsuspecting whites to knock off. This is racism.

I've had to deal with"race baiters" who assume that any criticism leveled at them is racist, even if it's a justifiable criticism. I think this is part of the reason blacks have higher unemployment - I have spoken to employers who have have steered clear of blacks with even a hint of that chip on their shoulder because hiring a race baiter opens the door to conflict and law suits.

President Obama will squandered his opportunity apologize to the officer and the nation. To the officer for leveling an unfounded accusation. To the nation for demeaning the office of the president (Imagine: the most powerful man in the world publicly accusing before an audience of millions, a police sergeant of acting stupidly!).


Louis Gates had the biggest opportunity to usher in healing. He should have publicly apologized to the officer as his actions clearly undermine the cooperation between law enforcement and the community. If Obama and Gates were to acknowledge that they over-reacted then they would be setting the stage for meaningful dialogue. Their admission that it is possible for blacks to foment racism just as much as any white supremacist would go a long ways toward resolving the race problems we have. This boil needs to be lanced.

I expect that some readers will say "you should walk a day in my shoes, I'll show you what discrimination looks like. . ." and I have no doubt that you have experienced blatant racism. But somebody has to admit that racism comes from the black community as well. In some cases it's incredibly overt. In the Gates/Crowley incident, it's obvious that Gates had a chip on his shoulder from the very beginning. Of course, he sees it differently and that's exactly why I think this can't be swept under the rug.

If you're trying to keep a plumbing shop running smoothly, the situation that our president stirred up might be a good conversation starter, especially if you sense that there are some underlying issues that are working against the team work of your crews. I don't recommend pointing accusatory fingers at any particular person/s. Instead, let the Gates/Crowley incident serve as the focal point. Here's the exercise: Read the police report and remove any reference to "black" by any party. What you then have is an incident where a citizen verbally attacks a police officer who is just doing his job. If the disorderly conduct continues, would the officer be justified in cuffing the irate homeowner? In some cases, I would think so, and it probably happens hundreds of time every day across the country where innocent citizens overreact to an officer. So, why does this time have to be about race? 


The way to turn this story into a positive experience is to use it to highlight the importance of personal respect to one another. Respect is color blind. When your crew builds respect for each other, there's no room for racism. You won't have to eradicate racism because it won't exist. I have listened to statements made by both Gates and Crowley. It's clear to me that Gates assumed that Crowley was going to be an oppressor. Gates also assumed that his helpful neighbor called the cops because he was black, and presumably wouldn't have called had he been white. This is where respect began to break down. Gates, being accustomed to treatment according to his lofty status as a professor and pal to the president, didn't appreciate being treated like everybody else. Then, the issue becomes a battle of wills. Crowley expected Gates to respect the badge so it became ego against authority and it ended badly. Note: I'm not saying that we should assume that a badge means someone is not a bad guy, I'm just saying that our preconceived notions go a long ways toward fanning flames unnecessarily.

Besides respect, we all need to learn not to take ourselves too seriously. When I make a mistake, I should own up to it. I don't always do that so it's an area that I have to work on. When race is injected into the situation, fessing up becomes even more important. If your pigment happens to be darker than that of some of your peers you can do a lot for the relationship and respect by admitting a blunder. Believe me, depending upon the area, some whites feel that they have to walk on eggshells around their peers of color because they're afraid of how a criticism can be misconstrued. (As I'm writing all this, the whole idea of specifying "color" is becoming absurd to me. . .why do we have to do that????) The same is true if you're so called white (pink, tan, whatever. . .). Be quick to own mistakes then they don't become fodder for misunderstandings later. This is especially true in situations where one person has some authority over another, color or no color. The boss should be extra quick to assume responsibility for errors. This earns and builds respect.


And one final, color blind note: A soft answer turns away wrath. Take the time to diffuse the heat before responding to an insult on your pride.

1 comment:

jhouman said...

Wow! If I was ever to site a real world example of objectivity in action, your article on professor Gates would have to be the best one I could think of. Down to earth. I belive that you really hit the nail on the head (right on target) with your perspective. People are people and if either you nor they can get past that, somebody is really missing out. Thanks Jack Houman, Dacula, GA