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Bob Herbert Gets It Wrong

John on August 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Bob Herbert admits he considers Henry Gates a friend, so I guess it’s too much to expect him to be unbiased. Still, his column yesterday is a bit much:

If Professor Gates ranted and raved at the cop who entered his home uninvited with a badge, a gun and an attitude, he didn’t rant and rave for long.

Actually, the ranting started before Crowley entered his house. And of course Crowley didn’t know it was his house at that point.

The message that has gone out to the public is that powerful African-American leaders like Mr. Gates and President Obama will be very publicly slapped down for speaking up and speaking out about police misbehavior, and that the proper response if you think you are being unfairly targeted by the police because of your race is to chill.

He was targeted now? Did the cops know who he was? No. Did they know they were going to a famous black professor’s home? No. Did the caller even identify the men as black? No. So where was the targeting exactly?

Professor Gates did absolutely nothing wrong. He did not swear at the officer or threaten him.

It depends how you define swearing. Yo mama! comes pretty close in my book, especially when yelled. As for threatening, it’s true Gates didn’t threaten to harm Crowley. He did, however, try to reach the police chief on the phone and intimate that Crowley that he was going to regret the incident. In other words, he was at least trying to threaten Crowley’s job and reputation. Is that a real threat? Yeah it is, as we’ve seen.

At worst, if you believe the police report, he yelled at Sergeant Crowley.

If I believe it? In addition to the report by Crowley, we have the other officers on the scene who back him up. Even the woman, Ms. Whalen, who called the police said that their description of Gates behavior at the scene was accurate. Should we just assume that none of these white folks can be believed, Bob? Is that where you want to go with this?

Saying all Gates did is yell is the dumbest thing in this very dumb column. I yell at players when I go to a basketball game, sometimes I yell at the guys on my team (the Lakers btw) and sometimes at the guys on the other team. Sometimes yelling is meant as an encouragement, i.e. “Take it to the hole, Kobe!” Sometimes it’s meant as a rebuke “Flopper!” What I don’t ever do is start yelling things like, “You’re a racist ref! Get off the court you racist!”

That’s a little bit different.

Bob Herbert has no problem insinuating that America is an essentially racist place, where the deck is stacked against black men. But in a case like this, where a black man assumes a cop is a bigot because he’s white, all Mr. Herbert can do is distort the facts and try to minimize the offense by reducing it to nondescript yelling. Problem is, that’s not justice. That’s bias.

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