July 27, 2009

The Gadson Review Tackle's The Latest Developments in the Gates Saga

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates has ballooned into a much bigger controversy than I expected, so I couldn’t help weighing in on the latest developments. There are a few issues I want to address...

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  1. I think Obama's insertion of himself into the Gates affair has been an unmitigated disaster. He gained nothing except greater friendship with the exceedingly arrogant Mr. Gates at the expense of it being the favorite Obama-bashing soundbite by the law-and-order right. As you correctly point out Marcus, that press conference was to talk about health care and all that effort went down the toilet with a single question.

    The fact that the home was owned by Harvard and not Mr. Gates is more relevant than it gets coverage for being. Gates broke into someone else's property and was acting belligerently therein. If I broke into my dorm room on campus and proceeded to scream and berate the responding police officers, there is a great chance that I would be arrested. You read in The Dartmouth's police blotter all the time of drunk, of-age students taken into protective custody due to their drunken belligerent behavior.

    I also saw on MSNBC this morning that the media reports saying that the white caller warned of "two black men" breaking into the house were exaggerated. She merely said that there were "two men" breaking into the home.

  2. I think the fact that the caller did not make claims as to the race of the people breaking in is telling. Given that she didn't make those claims, why is it being reported that "The Globe also says the Cambridge police commissioner confirms that account, although the police report says Whalen observed “what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the front porch’’ of the house."? It seems like this reinforces the idea of racial profiling.

    Beyond that, though, I think that it's hard to fully draw the rental analogy in this situation. Being drunk in public is not quite the same thing as being justifiably pissed that you're being questioned in what is, for all intents and purposes, your own home. Also, we enjoy less rights stemming from Dartmouth dorm rooms, presumably because some clause in the contract says so. I can't verify this, but if it wasn't true, the logical extension of it would be that anyone who does not retain legal ownership of their place of residence does not possess full rights associated with that. Not only would that include the large number of people living in rented properties, but presumably it would also include spouses and dependents who do not have title to the place they live in.

    With regards to Obama, probably true that he could have used more statesmanlike language. But frankly, if he made a mistake, it seems that the mistake was in backpedaling. To me, the only reason for a retraction would be if the case was not what it seemed; that an innocent person was wrongfully arrested for no other reason than irritating a police officer. Call a spade a spade.