FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Racism in Obama’s Post-Race America?

The farcical arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for “disorderly conduct” and President Obama’s recent “re-calibration” of his initial criticis, in which he accurately concluded the Cambridge police department behaved “stupidly,” reminds us that apparently the only way to transcend racism is to ignore its existence and place blame equally on the victim and the offender.

The police, led by arresting officer Sgt Crowley, arrived at the Gates’ residence responding to a call reporting suspicious behavior and attempted burglary in a predominantly white, middle class neighborhood. The blogosphere, infotainment channels and talking head commentators are riled in passionate debate over whether President Obama should have opined that the police behaved “stupidly” for arresting an allegedly loud and vocal Gates, the house’s resident.

The acclaimed professor’s crime was to accuse the police of unequal treatment, based on his skin color and his refusal to not immediately step out on the porch when asked. Despite Gates having already proved his identity by showing the police his ID, they continued to doubt him.
One wonders what chaos would erupt if Obama had explicitly called out the arrest for what it actually represented: stupidity and racism.

Apparently, President Obama’s election has transformed racism into a verbal “Voldemort” – a word that must not be mentioned lest we, as a society, have to actually acknowledge its existence in order to forcefully confront and overcome its pervasiveness.

This hesitation persists despite a very thorough, recent ACLU report submitted to the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, which concluded: “Racial profiling remains a widespread and pervasive problem throughout the US, impacting the lives of millions of people in the African American, Asian, Latino, South Asian, Arab and Muslim communities.”

The naive and well-intentioned white commentators on the cable news channel MSNBC discussed Gates’ arrest with two African American commentators, Carlos Watson and Harold Ford, and passionately defended the police, incredulous as to how President Obama or anyone could label the arrest “stupid” considering that Gates “act[ed] in a tumultuous way.”

Apparently when men of colour voice their anger at unequal treatment, bias and hypocrisy, it’s labeled “tumultuous,” formerly known as “uppity,” but when loud, belligerent white male commentators bark it on talk radio, they can make millions for simply “telling it like it is.”

To many, Obama’s bi-racial features and multisyllabic, Arabic name project a globalised, “United Colors of Beneton” poster for a new, diverse America that has “moved beyond race.” Thus, any mention of racism or racial profiling by ethnic minorities, such as Latinos, Africans Americans and Arab Americans, is immediately rebuked as whining victimhood by many commentators – yes, even the progressives – who point to Obama’s election as proof that we now live in an enlightened “post-racial” society.

This erroneous belief continues despite last year’s presidential campaign, where Obama was routinely smeared by a litany of fear-mongering involving racial and religious hysteria, employed by both Republicans and his Democratic opponent Senator Clinton. They associated him with Islam, Palestinians, socialism, Louis Farrakhan and black radicalism. The media pilloried Reverend Wright, a passionate and vocal preacher whose temper and politically incorrect comments were far less incendiary than previous presidential allies such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, yet nonetheless earned Wright honorary titles such as “crazy,” “angry,” and “anti-American.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama played it cool and calm, rarely showing indignation or anger like his opponent McCain, and tried desperately to avoid confronting any mention of racism until the shameful Reverend Wright hazing – and a subsequent drop in Obama’s support among white middle class voters – forcing him to give his eloquent yet substantively shallow “transcendent race speech” in Philadelphia.

However, President Obama bluntly confronted the issue of racial profiling and unequal treatment in his initial, off-the-cuff comment on Gates’ absurd arrest, saying: “Any of us would be pretty angry … that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.… There is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact.”

Yet, with declining poll numbers and a habitual tendency, or perhaps necessity, as to not appear too angry as to worry the middle class white electorate, Obama stated that he regretted his initial words, praised the arresting officer as “outstanding,” suggested both the police and Gates overreacted, and seemingly apologised for helping to contribute to “ratcheting it up” – “it” being the accurate analysis of the police’s conduct as “stupid” and the pressing need to have critical dialogue on racism and racial profiling. President Obama continued, “I could have calibrated those words differently.”

Perhaps President Obama should heed the advice of his Attorney General, Eric Holder, and “re-calibrate” law enforcement policies, considering both Obama and Holder have publicly stated ending racial profiling is a priority and that profiling is “simply not good law enforcement.”

In addition to its ineffectiveness, racial profiling forcefully reminds many Americans that despite their academic achievements, Harvard degrees, publications or scholastic achievements, their skin color continues to reward them with “reasonable suspicion” and unequal treatment by law enforcement. For example, the New York City police department’s 2008 statistics on their “stop and frisk policy” showed a record 531,159 stops – over 80% of which were of black and Latino New Yorkers.

If President Obama’s multicultural America truly wants to “transcend” racism, then it must be willing to “ratchet it up” and at least confront the existence of a policy that that frequently torments her citizens of color. In the case of Gates’ arrest, we must acknowledge the racial undertones provoking the event, as evidenced by the polarising viewpoints and reactions from minorities who cite such police conduct as familiar occurrences and others who sometimes, despite the best of intentions and without malice, fail to see blatant racism staring them in the face.

At the very least, we all should be able to call it “stupid.”

WAJAHAT ALI is a Muslim American of Pakistani descent. He is a playwright, essayist, humorist and Attorney at Law, whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders” is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at http://goatmilk.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail