Henry Louis Gates, Trayvon Martin, and the Race Card Busted (Part IV)

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 How to Play the Race Card–and Lose

…by Jonas E. Alexis

 

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

When Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested by Sgt. James Crowley in the summer of 2009, the immediate reaction among many was that Sgt. Crowley was a racist and a bigot, arresting Gates merely on the basis that he was black.

(The police, investigating a suspected burglary, were involved in an altercation with Gates over his identification and finally arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct.)

People without the slightest idea of what police officers deal with every day to protect themselves and the populace were consulted as experts, fully equipped to comment on the “racial” event. Crowley’s name was all over the media, the catalyst for furious speculation about racial profiling in America.

Yet in the midst of all the confusion, many blacks spoke in Crowley’s defense, including Colin Powell and a black police officer by the name of Leon Lashley, who was present at the time of Gates’s arrest.

Lashley declared that he supported Crowley “100 percent.”[1] Powell acknowledged that the situation would have been better had “Skip” (referring to Gates) come outside and talked to the officer.

E. Denise Simmons

But the facts were largely ignored by those eager to take offense at the mere idea of racial profiling. Cambridge Mayor E. Dennis Simmons declared that “race plays a role in everything.”[2]

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was of a similar opinion, and declared that as a friend of Gates, he was “troubled” by his arrest.[3]

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Ryan S. King, a policy analyst at the Sentencing Project, was so convinced that the event represented a clear example of racial profiling that she declared,

“If you look at every stage of the criminal justice system from initial police contact all the way through sentencing and incarceration, you see that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by each stage. What we ultimately see as disparate incarceration rates are contributed to by all of these factors.”[4]

Jelani Cobb of Spelman College agreed with her.[5] Charles Ogletree of Harvard, a close friend of Gates and a lawyer who represented Gates as his attorney after the incident, argued that it was after Gates produced “both his Harvard University identification and his Massachusetts driver’s license with his photo and address on it” that Gates was eventually arrested.[6]

According to Ogletree’s argument, Gates was presumed guilty before the evidence was examined. Yet this does not fit the facts.

Charles Ogletree

First, Ogletree based his argument on the account of a single eye-witness: Gates himself. Even Ogletree admits that is a challenging position, saying “as Professor Gates’ attorney, I am aware that I present one person’s perspective on the matter,” but justifying that “my conclusions are also based on decades of experiences in courtrooms, classrooms, and public and private forums.”[7]

Although impressive, Ogletree’s impressive resume cannot by itself be used as a substitute for legal evidence. As Gates’s lawyer, it was his duty to present facts proving that the police judged Gates on a racial basis or arrested him unlawfully.

 Yet Ogletree provided no hard evidence and even admitted that there was nothing in Sgt. Crowley’s record to show that he was a racist, for Crowley “is well respected by his African American former coach at CRLS, George Greenidge.”[8]

 Second, Sgt. Crowley had other officers with him, including Lashley, who defended Crowley’s actions. All officers at the scene testified that Gates only produced his identification after he was arrested.

Third, Sgt. Crowley’s prior record showed no hint of racism. With the central argument for his case falling apart, Ogletree’s last resort was to cry racial profiling, desperately marshaling the inarticulate and demonstrably ridiculous thesis that blacks are arrested because they are black (hence the much-quoted phrase driving while black).

Yet Crowley was promoted to his position as an instructor at the police academy by a black police commissioner. He even gave mouth-to-mouth to black athlete Reggie Lewis after he suffered a heart attack in 1993, when Crowley was working as security at Brandeis University.

Reflecting on that event, Crowley noted,

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being.”[9]

Laura Schlessinger

The arguments claiming a racial motivation for officers arresting blacks are simply arguments without arguments, since they have little factual foundation.[10]

A similar incident took place in 2006 when charges of rape were filed against some students at Duke University, members of the men’s lacrosse team.

Thomas Sowell declares that those who came to the defense of the students—primarily the members of the women’s lacrosse team, including a black woman, who had had regular contact with the accused students and knew their character—were dismissed by the media as “dumb” and “ignorant or insensitive.”

This, Sowell writes, “was a classic example of the presumption of superior knowledge on the part of intellectuals with less knowledge than those whose conclusions they dismissed and denounced.”[11]

This issue came into focus again in 2010 when radio host Laura Schlessinger commented that blacks frequently use the “N” word and no one has ever gotten offended by it.

Yet when whites use it, red flags are immediately raised. That, to Schelessinger, is a double standard. Although her conclusion was rational and balanced—not promoting racist sentiment at all—the media jumped on her.

Mary C. Curtis, former writer and editor for the New York Times, wrote a ranting response, declaring, among other things, that “this is the word that people with ropes used as they lynched men and women for an afternoon’s entertainment.”[12]

Mary C. Curtis

 Yet Curtis fails to actually address the point Schelessinger was making. Instead of responding logically and rationally, she attacks purely fueled by outrage. If the word indeed has such a horrific connotation, then why do rap artists, for example, keep using it? Curtis’s only answer is that “most black people I know hate the word and never use it.”[13]

For example, listen to the lyrics of the song “Fuck tha police,” by the defunct ganster rap group N.W. A.:

 Fuck tha police
Comin straight from the underground
Young nigga got it bad cuz I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority

Fuck that shit, cuz I ain’t tha one
For a punk muthafu$ka with a badge and a gun
To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
Fuckin with me cuz I’m a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin my car, lookin for the product
Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotics

(The last time I check, members of the group did not get chastised for those lyrics.)

Instead of attacking Schelessinger for her observations, why doesn’t Curtis write an article denouncing all the individuals who have used the word carelessly, if she cares so much about the issue?

From a rational standpoint, these clumsy, emotionally-based reactions eventually lead to a thought police mentality. Like “anti-Semitism,” “racism” has been weaponized.

Paula Deen

Historically, the word negro was not controversial until the latter part of the twentieth century. Black intellectuals during the 1950s and onward had no problem with it whatsoever, and the word was properly used in scholarly and academic works.

Harold Cruse’s influential book is entitled The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual; Henry Allen Bullock’s ground-shaking work was named A History of Negro Education in the South. Claude McKay used phrases such as “Nigger Hell” in his widely-read Home to Harlem.

Jewish writer Norman Mailer had a famous essay entitled “The White Negro,” and Norman Podhoretz wrote one entitled “My Negro Problem.” It would be historically irrational characterize those men as racists.

Moreover, Cruse was a black professor at the University of Michigan; Bullock was a black historian and sociologist at the University of Texas; McKay was a Jamaican-American writer.

The words “Negro” or “Nigger” were not born out of racism, but simply described the language and context of the time.

Knee-jerk reactions like Curtis’s do not invite rational discussion, but, as Schlessinger rightly put it, merely display “hyper-sensitivity.” Schlessinger, however, apologized for her comments and shortly thereafter made the decision not to continue her radio program.

More recently, Paul Deen has been a victim of the race card. The poor lady had to call “Reverend” Jesse Jackson and sort of begged for forgiveness.[14]Jackson says if Deen is willing to acknowledge mistakes and make changes, ‘she should be reclaimed rather than destroyed.’”[15]

The poor lady had to go on television crying and saying that she was not a racist.[16] She made a powerful point that her accusers completely missed,

If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wished they could take back, if you’re out there, people pick up that stone and throw it so hard that it kills me.”[17]

What a coincidence that Kanye West released his newest album Yeezus on the same month that Deen was accused of using the “N” word. Here are just a few lines from the song I Am God:

 So here’s a few hating ass niggas who’ll fight you
And here’s a few snake ass niggas who’ll bite you
I don’t even wanna hear why some niggas like you
Old niggas mentally still in high school
Since the tight jeans they never liked you
Pink ass polos and a fu$king backpack
Everybody know you brought real rap back
Nobody else swag nigga we the rat pack
Virgil Pyrex, Don C snapback
Ibn diamond, Chi-town shining

 The last time I check, West hasn’t apologized for writing these lyrics. Kanye West is making millions of dollars for singing about “niggas,” and Paula Deen was demoted and sued for saying the word “negro.” Are we being serious and honest with ourselves here?

Trayvon Martin Vs. George Zimmerman

Trayvon Martin

We see similar ideology in the news media.  On the 26th of February of last year, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot in the chest in Sanford, Florida, by 28 year-old community watch coordinator George Zimmerman.

As a community-watch coordinator, Zimmerman’s job was to watch for suspicious activity in the community and, as secretary of homeowners association Cynthia Wibker declared, Zimmerman “once caught a thief and an arrest was made. He helped solved a lot of crimes.”[18]

The community was also known for break-ins and “unsavory characters. Ibrahim Rashada, a 25-year-old African American who works at U.S. Airways, once spotted young men cutting through the woods entering the complex on foot, and later learned items were stolen those days.”[19]

Rashada continued to say that Zimmerman seemed to be a friendly and helpful individual and a “pretty cool dude. He came by here [Rashada’s house] and talked about carrying guns and getting my wife more involved with guns.”[20]

Zimmerman was widely known by the police that he would make a call if he saw something suspicious—an activity that went back all the way to 2004, where it is recorded that he had made 46 calls.[21] 

Moreover, it was his job to watch out for suspicious individuals who walk around the neighborhood. During his fight with Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman declared that he pulled the trigger in self-defense, and blood was coming out of his nose; he was also wounded on the back of his head.[22]

George Zimmerman

When police came on the scene, Zimmerman told them that it was self-defense. After much investigation, the police declared that there was no evidence in Zimmerman’s statements which contradicted his self-defense claim.[23]

Hence Zimmerman was not charged. But he was later arrested because the news media drilled on this issues for days and thousands of people took the street in protest.[24]

 Florida Governor Rick Scott turned the Zimmerman-Martin case over to Angela Corey, and by April 11, 2012, Corey charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder.[25] Things got a little complicated when autopsy was done on Martin’s body and it was discovered that he had mariuana in his blood on the day he was shot.[26]

 It must be stated that the Zimmerman-Martin case reached almost the entire Western world in a matter of days. Every major news outlet in America had a grip of the story.

Even the president had to say something about the event. The New Black Panther leader offered $10,000 to anyone who could capture Zimmerman, and the movement circulated a poster which said that Zimmerman is “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

Spike Lee himself searched for Zimmerman’s house on twitter.[27] In support of Trayvon Martin, Jamie Foxx wore a T-shirt with Trayvon’s picture on it.[28]

It just so happened that in March of 2012, a 13 year-old white boy was being followed by two 16 year-olds who happened to be black. The 13 year-old was about two blocks from his home, and he was doused with gasoline by those two 16 year-olds.

The mother of the 13 year-old told reporters, “They rushed him on the porch as he tried to get the door open,(One of them) poured the gasoline, then flicked the Bic, and said, ‘This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy.’”[29] 

 At the same time, a white guy from Alabama got into an argument with some youth in Mobile, Alabama, at a basketball court. The man’s sister declared that the argument started because some of the youth stole an item from the neighbor’s porch.[30]

Larry Elder

The youth left and the man went home, thinking that everything was over. Shortly thereafter, at least 20 other adults got into the man’s “front doorstep” where he was beaten with “chairs, brass knuckles, pipes and paint cans.” Some of the adults were chanting that it was a form of revenge for what happened to Trayvon Martin.[31]

 Did this news reach the entire country? No. Did The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Atlantic, Fox News, ABC News, do some investigation on this? No.

Moreover, these are not isolated incidents. Similar incidents happened in Norfolk, Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Colorado, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles, among other places.[32] So much for objectivity in the media.

In conclusion, the West, as we have argued over and over, was based on Logos, the very essence and foundation of reason and rational thinking in both its metaphysical and practical sense. The absence of Logos includes many things: ideology, delusion, falsehood, irrationality, intellectual dishonesty, historical distortion, cultural subversion, and in many cases outright lies, fabrications, and thread-bare hoaxes.

The word “racism,” as used in the media for ideological ends, seems to be a delusion. It is high time that people grow out of that delusion. As the show host Larry Elder pointed out a few years ago, “Racism provides a convenient way of avoiding serious examination of issues.”[33]

 Elder has a chapter in one of his books entitled, “Three Things that Need to be Said to Stupid Black People: Grow Up, Grow Up, Grow Up.”


[1] Barrie McKenna, “Obama Tries to Defuse Racism Controversy,” Globe, July 25, 2009.

[2] “Patrick ‘Troubled’ by Harvard Professor’s Arrest,” Boston Area News, July 22, 2009.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Krissah Thompson, “Harvard Professor Arrested at Home,” Washington Post, July 21, 2009.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Charles Ogletree, The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class, and Crime in America (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010), 10.

[7] Ibid., 11.

[8] Ibid., 17.

[9] Laurel J. Sweet, Marie Szaniszlo, et al., “Officer in Henry Gates Flap Tried to Save Reggie Lewis,” Boston Herald, July 23, 2009.

[10] See Heather MacDonald, Are Cops Racist? (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003); ; D’Souza, The End of Racism (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 250-253.

[11] Sowell, Intellectuals and Society, 22.

[12] Mary C. Curtis, “Dr. Laura’s Rant on Race Begs the Question: Just who Needs a Doctor?” Politics Daily, retrieved August 19, 2010

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Rev. Jesse Jackson Says Paula Deen Is Seeking His Help to Mend Damage over Racial Slur,” Washington Post, June 26, 2013; Cheryl K. Chumley, “Jesse Jackson to Help Paula Deen: She’s Worthy of Redemption,” Washington Times, June 27, 2013.

[15] Tammy Webber, “Rev. Jesse Jackson: Paula Deen Can Be ‘Redeemed,’” Huffington Post, June 26, 2013.

[16] Cheryl K. Chumley, “Paula Deen: I’m Not a Racist—‘No, I’m Not,’” Washington Times, June 26, 2013.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Frances Robles, “Shooter of Trayvon Martin a Habitual Caller to Cops,” The Miami Herald, March 23, 2012.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] for reports on this particular story, see for example Vivian Kuo, “Fatal Shooting of Florida Teen Turned Over To State Attorney,” CNN, March 15, 2012.

[23] Sari Horwitz and Josh White, “Martin Family’s Attorney Seeks Justice Dept. Investigation into Police Actions After Shooting,” Washington Post, April 2, 2012.

[24] Larry Copeland, “Trayvon Martin Rally Draws Thousands in Call for Arrest,” USA Today, March 23, 2012.

[25] “George Zimmerman Charged, Hearing Expected Thursday,” CNN, April 11, 2012.

[26] Richard Luscombe, “Trayvon Martin Postmortem Reveals Traces of Drugs in 17-Year-Olds’ System,” Guardian, May 18, 2012.

[27] Patrick J. Buchanan, “Douse the Flames, Mr. President!,” American Conservative, March 26, 2012.

[28] Jessica Chasmar, “Jamie Foxx: Actors Wears Trayvon Martin T-Shirt to MTV Movie Awards,” Washington Times, April 15, 2013.

[29] Meena Hart Duerson, “Teens Set Kids on Fire for Being ‘White Boy,’” New York Daily News, March 4, 2012.

[30] Chuck Rudd, “Victim’s Sister: Mobile, Ala. Black-on-White Beating Sparked by Theft, not Basketball,” DailyCaller.com, April 26, 2012.

[31] “Matthew Owens of Alabama Allegedly Beaten by Mob in ‘Justice for Trayvon’ Rage,” The Huffington Post, April 24, 2012.

[32] Thomas Sowell, “A Censored Race War?,” The American Spectator, May 15, 2012.

[33] Larry Elder, Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card—and Lose (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008), 26.

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