My thanks to my friend, Suz, for pointing me toward an MSNBC piece, re-posted from a blog where Dr. Boyce Watkins, an African-American author and professor at Syracuse University, is a contributor. Tuesday, Professor Watkin took on the recent arrest controversy revolving around Dr. Henry Louis Gates.
In his post (“Consider this before crying ‘racial profiling'”, which MSNBC retitled “Why I don’t feel sorry for Henry Louis Gates“), Watkins questions the race aspects of the case and in doing so he plays the “class” card:
“America is far more capitalist than it is racist, so a distinguished Harvard University Professor like Gates is likely to get more respect than the average White American. The idea that he is somehow the victim of the same racism that sends poor Black men to prison simply doesn’t fly with me, and Gates should be careful about appearing to exploit the plight of Black men across America to win his battle of egos with the Cambridge Police Department.”
Exploit the plight of Black men? Far be it from me, a caucasian, to say so, but isn’t THIS the plight of black men?! – If I’d shown a valid ID to a cop that would have been the end of the matter, period. Prof. Watkins implies some sort of snootiness on the part of Professor Gates in saying that he shouldn’t be questioned this way.
Further on, Professor Watkins offers this little gem:
“Dr. Gates, in all of his frustration, might have been served well to remember that the officer has a gun…”
As if black men, nay Dr. Gates, need to be reminded of this; and as if in the very sentence the author doesn’t realize that he’s reinforcing the very mitigating factor whose presence he’s trying to deny: if there was a class disparity here it was not between an “elite” Harvard professor and a lowly cop – it was between an un-armed man trying to lawfully get into his home and an armed officer who demanded more proof because the very color of the suspect’s skin made him more suspect. The very presence of the weapon outweighs any power Prof. Gates might have had in the situation due to his status as a professor at Harvard.