This Blog’s Wrapup of Cambridge–Obama–Gates–Crowley

The mainstream news media, too much of its reporting/commentating flawed and insipid, may continue for a while to follow wrinkles, small or big and mostly frivolous, and only if those wrinkles of this race drama register on their radar, such as the alcoholic content of the beer of the Obama-Gates-Crowley confab and try to make something of it, like the insipid humor of CNN’s Campbell Brown’s farce yesterday evening, July 31.

She opened the COGC segment with music/lyrics from the situation TV comedy Cheers [it died 16 years ago] accompanying a montage of transposed images of the three protagonists as well as snippets of commentaries and jokes from news and comedy shows. “We couldn’t resist,” she tells the audience, a bathetic smirk on her face that should have made many more than this writer cringe, but it was a succinct reminder that much of mainstream, corporate broadcast news is theatrical, insipidly theatrical.

Nevertheless, the parody, stupid, could have used a fourth protagonist, injecting black humor with verve, that is, a personification of the realities of America’s racial malaise (as revealed in studies about racial profiling and Driving While Black as well as job and housing discrimination statistics, to name a few of the manifestations). An effigy in powdered white face of American racism should have been Brown’s fourth protagonist. 

Would have loved it if it had been done wisely and savagely.

Episodic eruptions of historical moments like this – I’m talking about those in-your-face race moments so sprawling that they cannot be denied (and this one was comparatively peaceful unlike the Rodney King inferno), jarring public consciousness and sensibilities – can be and are used to spotlight America’s racism and bigotry and its institutional matrices. The latter allow millions and millions and millions to deny that the demons exist or that they are not as bad as they are portrayed – as the race troglodytes Rush Limbaughs/Bill O’Reilly’s and their minion want everyone to believe.

The beast, so say the Cassandras, is far more hideous than America will admit.

Some points:

  1. From The Criminal Justice Journalists’ News Center. I didn’t see anything like the following on any broadcast news shows: Unconscious Racial Bias And The Gates Arrest

    The Boston Globe interviewed experts on the social psychology of the Henry Louis Gates case, concluding that “regardless of people’s stated attitudes about race, unconscious racial biases can influence their behavior in surprisingly powerful ways.” People who are not racist may unknowingly behave in ways that reflect racial stereotypes, even when they may disagree with such ideas. One study found that when participants in a computer simulation were told to shoot criminals but not unarmed citizens or police who appeared on the screen, more black than white men were incorrectly shot.

    It’s impossible to know whether hidden bias caused Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley, a white man who teaches courses on how to avoid racial profiling, to arrest the African-American Gates. Research indicates that a large majority of white people, and about half of black people, are quicker to make positive associations with white people and negative associations with black people. Boston Globe story here.

  2. It was good that the President called the Cambridge Police Department’s actions “stupid.” He was trying to stir things up and was successful. He knew he would have to deal with its consequences, that is, back off his original comments.  He grew up in America and he understands its machinations regarding race and racism.
  3. This may be only a footnote but Lucia Whalen’s experience shows the risks that decent people face, that they can’t escape the beast no matter how decent they are.
  4. America’s race troglodytes – the legions of blithers, Glenn Becks, Bill O’Reillys, Et. Al. – are far more sinister than anything that the President could say or do. And it’s so obvious.
  5. Two of the wimpiest pieces I’ve read:

    Headline: President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Sgt. James Crowley aimed to fix their mistakes. By Errol Louis. Also by Errol, headline (which was better than the column): Arrest of Prof. Gates puts focus on biased police stops: “if we are lucky, Gates will use his experience as an opportunity to enlighten us all about how to view one another as neighbors and citizens, not stereotypes.”

    Police department are the paramilitary enforcers of city, state and federal governments. Errol could have written this: “If we are lucky, Gates will use his experience as an opportunity to enlighten us all about how to deal with American institutions, elected and otherwise, that abuse their citizens and residents of color.”

  6. I wonder how the international news media reported on the race drama and also wonder, albeit tongue-in-cheek, why the American journalists news media didn’t report on what their sisters and brothers overseas were saying about the drama. I don’t have time to check so. I did get this following description from Carla Barcaro, a former WORD writer who posted the following on the WORD’s Facebook page. Barcaro, Brazilian, wrote:

    “Ok, there has been some coverage about the incident, mostly involving a bit of sarcasm. The headlines were somehow around these lines: Harvard professor arrested for breaking into a house, making excess noise and mess. Detail – the house was his own.

    It was of course “ironized” that all this happened in the land of uncle Obama. I don’t know much more about it. All I know is that racism is still very much present in America. I am in NYC right now, and I can’t help comparing how feelings and emotions and ideologies differ from country to country, even if slightly. Racism in Brazil is more subtle, yet not least hurtful and damaging. In Brazil people say they are all friends, tap each other on the back, and they really mix together very well with all races.

    Yet go to the slums and you will see that most people living in the favelas are from Afro Brazilian descent.”

    And in another post on the page, she wrote:

    “At the university I am attending in Brazil we do have some great black professors who have not had an easy life in spite of their talent.

    Anyway… I guess prejudice and racism will go around whether the president is black or an “uneducated” man from humble background, like Lula.”

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