Archive - Jul 24, 2009

I Know From Stupid

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Memo to Barack Obama: I GOT YOUR BACK ON THIS.

But I also have a bit of other business, so what the hell, let's call it META SPASTIC TOPIC MONKEY FRIDAY!

Yesterday, we shifted YAD over to a different server on my host. And when I say "we", I mean Sir Mikes-A-Lot, a.k.a. Baby Got Back End, did most of the moving and I nodded encouragingly or pointed out broken stuff. Most things will be the same. A couple of things will be better. That calendar inside the post body will be gone, unless you can't see it, in which case it's gone already and was never an intentional redesign. This is why, by the way, the RSS feed did what it did twice yesterday. Sorry about that. Search should also work better, since we re-indexed the entire site (again, see definition of "we" above). If you notice anything weird or broken, by which I mean anything weirder or more broken than it was two days ago, drop me an e-mail.

So we're gonna do this Gates thing? Really? Big-ass press conference on health care reform, the most important news topic of the summer, and we're going to have a two-week discussion about how President Obama dared to call a cop stupid? FUCKING GREAT. So let's do this. Because while I don't agree with Obama about a lot of things, and take small comfort that I would agree with his opponents even less, he was dead-on with this call, and frankly, it was one of the most real, honest moments we've seen from a politician in ages.

If you don't know the backstory, Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Harvard professor. He's also black. He couldn't get his front door open so, he had his cab driver help him open it. Neighbors reported two black men breaking into a house to the Cambridge police, who investigated, then arrested Gates for disorderly conduct after he showed them proof he both was who he said he was and lived where he said he lived. Obama was asked about this at the press conference last night, and here's what he said:

"Well, I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys. He jimmied his way to get into the house. There was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place. So far so good. Right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger in -- well, I guess this is my house now, so it probably wouldn't happen. Let's say my old house in Chicago. Here, I'd get shot. But so far so good."

So far, so good indeed. He's established the parameters of what he knows, said upfront that he's reacting to how a friend of his was treated, and cracked a joke, although I don't think he should sell Chicago short. They'd probably shoot him there, too.

"They're reporting, the police are doing what they should. There's a call. They go investigate what happens. My understanding is at that point Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I'm sure there's some exchange of words but my understanding is that Professor Gates then shows his I.D. to show that this is his house. And at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped."

Guess what? Again, all true. Facts of the case as they were known at the time (and still known now). So what are people shitting themselves over? This next bit.

"Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that 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."

A lot of people don't like that response. A lot of people can, coincidentally eat shit and like it, because you know what? This WAS a stupid move. It might have been racially motivated, or it might have been the general post-millennial police attitude where anyone who dares question the authority of the man in uniform in the slightest is lucky when they don't get Tasered. Might have been a bit of both. Doesn't matter. You know where disorderly conduct happens? In public. Or maybe at someone else's house. Yelling at someone inside your own home isn't disorderly conduct.

It -was- stupid. And while there are still a ton of things I wish Obama would do differently, it's so goddamned refreshing to see someone step up and unequivocally call a stupid thing stupid. And even better, tie it in to the historical abuse of power by police against minorities, because even if this particular incident wasn't motivated by race (and we all know it was, but let's pretend), it certainly lives in the same neighborhood as decades of racial profiling. Which is what Obama said, and what he's getting yelled at for, because cops, like troops, are assumed to be perfect any time they're not investigating a Republican.

And he'll probably walk it back, and maybe even half-heartedly apologize for it, and that will be stupid and irritating and maddening because everything he said was right and the people yelling at him for it are all opportunistic assholes who should get kicked in the balls, not pandered to. But for now, at least, the President of the United States not only told the truth, but told an uncomfortable truth about stupid people. Credit where credit is due.