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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gates – But not Bill

Henry Louis Gates was just arrested (and released) when neighbours called in an attempted break-and-enter into his own house.  He had been away and neighbours did not expect him to be present.

Gates provided identification to police, but was non-compliant in their requests.  Both sides are telling slightly different stories (Gates insists the officer wouldn’t identify himself, the officer reports he did, etc).

I think the whole thing is terrible…on both ends.  It sounds like the cops got a little bit ragey here, and if anything Gates is suggesting is true than there were likely some issues with race.  On the other hand, Gates is already planning on doing a documentary on PBS.  Insane.  It starts to feel very quickly like he’s trumping up allegations against the police.

What really bothered me about his story was his comment about the police officer:

He should look into his soul and he should apologize to me. If so, I will be prepared to forgive him. I think that poor people in general and black people in general are vulnerable to the whims of rogue cops, and we all have to fight to protect the weakest among us. No matter how bad it was going to get, I knew that sooner or later I would get to a phone and one of my friends would be there to help.

Two things bother me about this:

  1. Gates has already made the assumption that one particular officer is evil, riddled with hate and contempt for another race.  He is unwilling to accept that any other lens from which one might have viewed the scene could be plausible. What I mean by that is simply that an officer can’t let a man go if he simply says ‘I live here’ after breaking through a front door.  The context that Gate refuses to see is an officer called to a scene by a neighbour who didn’t recognize a man who busted through a front door.  Honestly, he’s lucky things weren’t worse as he turned and walked away from the officers and went into the kitchen.  This could’ve ended waaaaaay worse.
  2. The more disturbing thing to me is something that is telling of Gates’ character: he won’t forgive unless someone is sorry.  Forgiveness isn’t an emotion or a response, it is a choice.  If your brother told you off and then got killed in a car accident, wouldn’t you forgive him?  Or would you carry your resentment towards him to your grave?  Forgiveness is a much better response to situations like this than media attacks on the person, judging their soul or condemning them without knowing anything about their life.  When someone lives in a world where they are not able to forgive without someone else’s apology, I think they are the ones who, ultimately, will suffer.

When you can’t let go, when you can’t forgive someone…that’s a grudge.  And that can be a terrible burden to carry.  It’s the kind of thing that leads to retaliation, descent, and misappropriated energy.

This is terribly off-topic for my usual techie posts!  Here’s the link to the Washington Post article.

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