Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trying to understand

Racist eggs [sigh]

I don't really want to write about this...but feel I need to.

This morning, I read a column that my pal Lisa had posted on Facebook. It was from the Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, and I know he's one of Lisa's favorites. He's one of mine, too. I always find his columns thought-provoking, and I think he tries to get people to understand where others might be coming from. This particular column from Pitts was about the recent arrest of Professor Gates and the subsequent brouhaha, culminating tonight (at least for now) in what is being called the Beer Summit, when the President, Prof. Gates, and Officer Crowley sit down at the White House for a beer and some talk. My friend Milwaukee Dan #1 is calling it Beer Bong Thursday, and I kind of like that!

Anyhoo, Lisa's thread got a little out of control (partly my fault) when someone posted that they thought the police did nothing wrong, then someone else posted that they felt it was mishandled and Gates should never have spent four hours in jail, then I posted and said that it's naive to think that race did not play a part in this, even if it was a matter of assumptions on the part of the neighbor, or on the part of the police...then the original poster wrote that they always side with the police and that they think Gates was the racist here.


That made me a little sore. I wrote that I suspect my cousin might disagree with such blind faith in the police, since he was shot in the back of the head on his prom night by a police officer, who dumped his body in the woods. He would probably disagree with that...but he's dead. Lisa, I apologize if things got out of hand, and just say the word and I'll remove my comments. My cousin was indeed murdered by a police officer about 40 years ago, and it's something that my family rarely talks about because it was and still is so painful. Apparently there was a girl cousin was dating a girl that the cop had a thing for, and none of us will ever know exactly what happened that night. The cop did go to jail, though. For about a year. ONE YEAR.

Maybe that's why I tend to not have blind faith in any given profession. There are crummy accountants, crummy doctors, crummy microbiologists, and yeah...there are crummy policemen. I think the majority are not, and I have great respect for those who protect and serve. But I'm certainly not going to assume that they were in the right merely because they were wearing a badge and uniform. I'm not saying that the officer involved here was racist, or that he's a crummy officer, because I just don't know. It's also quite possible that Gates over-reacted, but I think Mr. Pitts was trying to make a point that so many people just don't seem to get. Those of us who are not black will never understand the fear that blacks carry with them because of racist behavior on the part of others. How can we know that? We can't. I would imagine that the frustration of trying to get into his own house (apparently after returning from an overseas trip and probably travel-fatigued) and having the cops called on him was maybe just the final straw.

Racism Can we not put ourselves in his shoes? Maybe it was all finally too much, and he snapped and yelled at the cop. I just don't know, because I wasn't there. The police reports say that he was belligerent and shouting at them. The fact of the matter is that racist behavior has taken place in our past and is still taking place today. Wouldn't that make you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder? It sure would me.

Ken and I watched a movie the other night called "The Great Debaters" with Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. It was excellent, and I highly recommend it. It tells the story (based on truth) of a black Southern college debate team in 1935. Part of the movie deals with the racism they sometimes faced, and in one scene, as the team is driving to another college for a debate, they come upon a lynching, a man hung from a tree and set on fire. The lynchers spot them in the car and go after them. This is part of our history, people. A shameful one, but it cannot be denied. Do we honestly think we can say, "Oh, that was in the past--get over it already" and people will say, "You know what? You're right." We may not see lynchings today, thank goodness, but there is still mistreatment and racism happening. The racism ingrained in those people who would string up a man and set him on fire does not disappear with a snap of the fingers.

The election of a black man to the Presidency seems to have stirred up many of those feelings again. I get the impression that President Obama welcomes the dialogue, and his speech on race was quite eloquent. I believe that we do need to talk about this and make it, as the President said, a teaching moment. Part of the process needs to be to understand that the experiences of white Americans are different than that of black Americans or Latino Americans or other ethnic groups. I cannot say that I know what it feels like to fear that I will be stopped by the police for the color of my skin. But I acknowledge that it does happen to others, and that is a fear that others carry around with them every second of every day. To ignore this is to lack empathy for what others have had to deal with in their lives, and are still dealing with.

To top it all off, we get this from Glenn Beck:

Hey, Beck? Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on. No, not the horse...I like horses. So fuck you two times. How dare he say such a thing? I've sent my email to Faux News saying that Beck owes the President an apology and every single American an apology. His remarks are incredibly offensive. They're also incredibly stupid and full of shit. In the space of a few seconds, he goes from saying "Obama hates white people" to "I'm not saying he dislikes white people" to "Obama is a racist." What the fuck? Pardon my language, but this is the kind of crap that needs to stop. Do I believe that being Caucasian is a requirement for being a racist? No. There are racists of all colors and stripes. But for some pasty-faced blow hard to start calling Barack Obama a racist is the height of ignorance and does our country no favors. If you would also like to voice your displeasure, you can write to Fox at This insanity is inflammatory and needs to stop.

Okay, I think I'm done. I guess I'd reached my snapping point, too, and had to write about it. My plan is to return to lighter fare tomorrow...of course, at Nutwood, anything can happen!


  1. I signed the petition. What the hell kind of bullshit is this? I wrote that "President Obama is no more of a racist than Ghandi." Give me a flipping break. The last thing we need is more racist-inspired rhetoric by "trusted" journalists. Glen Beck was one the only right-wing commentator I could tolerate. Not any more. That leaves, let me think, oh right... no one!

  2. people who think cops are always right scare me. i agree, no profession (or calling) can be placed on a pedastal. with power comes the opportunity to abuse it.

    i am sorry about your cousin beth. justice was not served for him and your family because of an abuse of power.


  3. I've dated people in law enforcement, including federal law enforcement and I have dated and known people who feel they have been wronged by law enforcement. I have a very high opinion of law enforcement officers in general, and that isn't just backed by dating(though the ones I dated were very committed to the public good & had work lives~in homicide~ a hell of a lot tougher than I do), it is also backed by my experiences in life. You've had a relative killed by an officer and I have had relatives and friends saved by them. To an extent that shapes our opinions differently, and all of us are guilty of leaving a hot comment or two, but you are not a mean or argumentative person, Beth, and we all know that.

    There are lousy cops, lousy civilians, racist cops and racist civilians. No one corners the market on that. Gates over-reacted. I don't see that as the end of the world(& I do know profiling is very real in some cases), but I do see our president, his "friend," getting involved as pretty dumb and definitely uncalled for with his "stupidly". ~Mary

  4. You can't have blind faith in anyone, let alone any profession. There are good and bad in everything. Glenn Beck is an asshole along with 99% of him Fox colleagues. Ugh.

    This must have been very hard for you to write Beth. {{ Beth }}

  5. I agree with everything you said Beth and I heard Beck. I think also that even though Obama is president he is human and in my mind the person that asked that question was an inflammatory question and she knew it. I am sure he is like any of we normal??? humans, Mary, and wished he had the words back no sooner than they were out. People , congress, senators, some REPUBLICANS have set out to cut him off at the knees since he was elected and I am white.

  6. oh, where to start.

    i decided when i went to FB that i was not going to argue. I have had enough of "THAT" on blogs and journals. I have quite a lot of people in my FB page and the chick who first started the Pitts turmoil this morning is one who i disagree with on just about everything. She is a coworker. We once went to the same church but i had to leave because unless you were white and made good money you did not seem to fit in there.
    She wants to argue with me because she is a die hard Republican and thinks she knows it all.

    well, i want to THANK YOU for writing everything you wrote...for once you and Cary were on the same page which made me laugh out loud....

    back in the day, before computers, my mom would snail mail me Pitts columns from the newspaper and write terribly insulting things about him in the margins. That made me like Pitts even more. When i went online his page was one of the first bookmarked. I feel his article that i posted was dead on and you said how i feel much better than i can say it. I am not black and i can not imagine what a black man goes thru...he is black and has had his friends racially profiled again and again. But he also saw it from the white police officers angle and feels that Gates over reacted.
    You know that no one is perfect and that even cops can be rotten and the fact that your cousins death equaled a year in prison for one such rotten cop is a travesty. I am sorry about that.
    Beck sat right there and called the President a racist. WOW. And someone pays that AH to be on TV and spew that shit outloud? I bet my mom and my coworker that started in on Pitts today both will follow Beck blindly into the sunset, believing in HIS racist comments just because of his political beliefs. Even i am not that damn dumb.
    PLEASE always feel free to comment on anything with me. I enjoy it.

  7. A neighbor sees someone trying to enter a home through force and calls the police. WHEN did this suddenly become a bad thing? I think that Gates over reacted, and I think Mr. Obama made it all the worse for his poorly phrased comment. It is unfortunate that something that should not have made this much national impact continues on and on and on. UGH.

  8. Just once, once, ONCE, I wish you would state how you feel :o)

    On a serious note, you know how I feel about this whole mess. Obama showed he is human, and the conservative right wing fanned the flames.

  9. I'm kinda flowing along the stream of Estela's commnet "A neighbor sees someone trying to enter a home through force and calls the police. WHEN did this suddenly become a bad thing?" There was a time when if your neighbor didn't call the cops in this situation the whole block woulda been pissed.

    The bottom line is only people that were present know what happened. Maybe there was racism involved. Maybe there was misunderstandings. I don't know either of them...perhaps they're both just a-holes that passed in the night.

    I do know that if someone called in a suspected break in at my house and I REFUSED to show id and I verbally abused a cop my kiester would have been in cuffs too.

  10. Hi Beth,
    I'm not sure what to say about the Gates incident. It could have been racism, the potential is definitely there, but most of what I've seen is just speculation on one side or the other. I haven't followed it closely enough, but I can't help thinking the policeman should have handled it differently. Isn't it easy enough to prove whether or not someone is telling the truth about who they are and where they live?!? As for Beck, I fear that he's getting exactly what he wants: A lot of attention by intentionally making hateful, idiotic remarks.

  11. It's getting to the point where I'm so tired of all this and so angry that I just want it to go away. Needless to say, I am in complete agreement with all the points you've made in this, another excellent post. Hopefully people like Beck, who foment hatred rather than promote understanding, will eventually lose their platforms. Thinking people won't stand for it very long, and I like to think that America is made up of a majority of citizens who are thinkers rather than sheep.

  12. Great entry Beth!
    Glenn Beck's marbles are rolling on the floor as we speak.
    As one talking head said last night, these right-wing racists are projecting their own racism onto Obama for the benefit of ratings, and I think many, many people are seeing right through it.

  13. Beth,
    Once again you've hit the nail on the head. I, too, read Leonard Pitts' column and can see where the frustration that many in the black community have toward the police. It's hard not to, when you can get stopped for doing nothing because you're a black man in an expensive car; when you are assumed to be guilty because of your skin color. How can any of us who are not black understand this?
    And then you have Glenn Becks who says something, retracts it, then says it again, and there are no consequences.
    It's hatred and racism and bigotry and ignorance and stupidity all balled up and airing on your cable channel.
    As for the lynchings, let us not forget Matthew Shepard, beaten abd tied to a fence and left to die; or the black man in Texas, and I hate that I cannot remember his name, who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged down a country road. Lynching still happens in this country, on fences, behind cars, and with the words of a foolish foolish man on television.

  14. You know, I've been all over the map with regard to this issue. When I first heard about it, I thought it was completely racist. Then, the more I heard, the more it began to sound to me like two males pissing in each's sandbox. Gates popped off and pushed back against the officer ( which is a bad idea under ANY circumstances ) and the the cop got pissed off and decided to teach him a lesson.

    While I don't think this was a case of racial *profiling,* certainly there was a racial element involved -- how could there not be?

    I think both these people lacked common sense and restraint. Of course, as I pointed out to my only conservative friend ( yes, I do have one), and as Beth pointed out here, I can't begin to know what it's like to be 60, years of age, male and black.

    By the same token, I can't know what it's like to be a cop, either, and to deal with the danger and dregs of humanity day in and day out. It's a crappy job, and they aren't all that well paid for it.

    There's no question that it was a bad arrest -- it was thrown out immediately. The fact is, Gates committed no crime, except for mouthing off, and mouthing off is NOT a crime.

    So I think Gates did lose his temper, and the cop made a bad arrest.

    And for people who think that race has nothing to do with this, I suggest you read Justin Barret's email, which got him suspended from the Boston police force:

    He says he's not a racist. What I want to know is, how do you make that argument? "Uh, sure I called him a banana eating jungle monkey, but I'm no racist!" Yeh, I'll bet some of your best friends are black, right? Riiiiight.

    As for Glenn Beck, God knows I don't advocate violence. But gone are the days when you could someone's legs broken for the right price.

    Those days ARE gone, aren't they?. . . yes? No? I feel a bad Mel Brooks Italian joke coming on, and I'm entitled, I'm half Italian!

  15. Ah Beth, you have the unique ability to make me laugh and bring tears to my eyes. Even in your indignation, your wonderful wit comes through loud and clear, making me smile, while your heartfelt empathy brings tears to my eyes. You are an extraordinary person and I am so enriched for having met you in these pages. That goes for your wonderful husband as well.

    I think that people who get fixated on whether or not Gates over reacted miss the point. It doesn't matter whether he did or not; he did not break any laws. He did nothing illegal. You can't arrest people just because they mouth off. I don't know if the officer is a racist, but I can't help but wonder if Gates were white, behaved exactly the same, would he have been arrested on trumped up charges?

    I really appreciate your point about blind trust in the police. My father was a police officer for 25 years. He was among the first four black officers to integrate the Wilson City police force. Like you, I don't hate or distrust all police officers, but neither do I believe that theie uniform means that they always do right. Your cousin's tragic encounter with an officer is an example of how for some the badge becomes a license to abuse the law, not uphold it.

  16. I had no idea the amount of racism that is out there today, until I had a black friend. I was definitely raised that color doesn't matter. And maybe I was a little sheltered from the world of racism because I honestly felt as I was growing up that we were moving past it as a nation. My friend is harrassed by police on a regular basis. You KNOW me Beth. I don't hang out with people that do shit they're not supposed to. The guy doesn't even go over the speed limit and he still gets pulled over all the time. He's the guy that never drinks at parties (even though he would like to) because he knows his friends aren't responsible enough to find another DD to drive them home. I'm more trouble than he is and yet, because of the color of his skin, he gets proflied as a trouble maker. And when it comes to the issue of law enforcement in general, in our area we have seen a lot of behavior than is unbecoming of an officer and worse. I have a friend who is a police officer and he will admit that there are some on the forces in this area that aren't always on the up and up. But the wall of blue stands true and tight. They don't turn on one another, ever.

  17. Dear BEth,
    gee I am very very sorry about your cousins' death.
    These are scary times....
    hugs, natalie

  18. Beth
    your story was very moving


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?