Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gates Incident Implicates More Than Racial Discrimination

The more I listen and read about the arrest of Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr. a man I’ve known about and read since I was a kid, the more I conclude that there is a deeper issue in play besides racial discrimination. More so than being considered a violation of civil rights, I’m beginning to see this as more of a freedom of speech issue. Let me clarify…

As we already know,Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, a popular charge given by cops, when the citizen has spoken words that the officer is unhappy with, or in our case, stepped out of his/her place. Many supporters of the arresting officer feel as though Gates was wrong for verbally disrespecting the officer, who was merely trying to do his job. Supporters of Gates have stated that the Professor should have been able to say whatever he wanted, short of threatening the officer, given the fact that he was in his own home. I say, no matter where Professor Gates was in the US of A he was protected under the first amendment, which gives one the right to say whatever he wants, short of a threat, or what JD would call “fighting words.”

In short, the real question is whether or not what Professor Gates said to the officer was vicious enough to be considered disorderly conduct and worthy of an arrest. Since we know that he did not threaten the officer and at the very worse and by the officer’s own account, only yelled insults and accusations of racism then the answer is a resounding NO! However we also know that a white officer would almost certainly have much less tolerance for any back talk coming from a black man than he would a white man… Think, “Do The Right Thing” when the guy is sprayed by the fire hydrant and he proceeds to curse the officers out. So a sprinkle of racism and a whole lotta free speech violating seems to resonate with this case.

So as to not draw this out, I would like to open up a new discussion about this case. What are we dealing with here...Is this just racism, or are we as ordinary citizens expected to keep our mouths shut when we see the badge and the gun? If so, then why doesn't the constitution make that clear??
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