Green Room

Raising the Racial Standard

posted at 10:28 am on July 23, 2009 by

After a week in which the accusations cut like knives on Capitol Hill as the Obama administration targeted Republicans for everything from his failing healthcare bill to the nosedive in his approval ratings, it was time to raise the standard.

During the Roman Empire Caesar’s standard was carried with pride into battle, but sometimes a little misdirection was called for as Wikipedia illustrates:

“In military stratagems it was sometimes necessary to conceal the standards.[17] Although the Romans commonly considered it a point of honour to preserve their standards, in some cases of extreme danger the leader himself threw them among the ranks of the enemy in order to divert their attention or to animate his own soldiers.[18] A wounded or dying standard-bearer delivered it, if possible, into the hands of his general,[19] from whom he had received it signis acceptis.”[20]

On July 16th 2009 a routine follow up about reports of suspicious activity allowed the administration to raise the standard of racism and divide America. According to the Associated Press:

“It took less than a day for the arrest of Henry Louis Gates to become racial lore. When one of America’s most prominent black intellectuals winds up in handcuffs, it’s not just another episode of profiling — it’s a signpost on the nation’s bumpy road to equality…

“The 58-year-old professor had returned from a trip to China last Thursday afternoon and found the front door of his Cambridge, Mass., home stuck shut. Gates entered the back door, forced open the front door with help from a car service driver, and was on the phone with the Harvard leasing company when a white police sergeant arrived.”

As an American who happens to be black, I can understand all of the feelings that are associated with unjust treatment, but I can not ignore the facts of polite society and what constitutes unruly behavior. After all, in the past, I have protested wars, and marched in front of the Federal Reserve, as well as engaged in other acts of civil disobedience.

The one thing that you learn when you protest is that jail is always a possibility. Yelling and erratic behavior that can not be controlled by the requests of officers can land you in jail for disorderly conduct.

When the Sergeant at the scene did his job, he was not worried about “who the professor was” or the color of his skin, it seems that Gate’s behavior and/or the character that he displayed gave the officer pause.

In a break neck response time (when compared to the Iran crisis) President Obama seemed to stoke the fire of racial discord:

“Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof he was in own home,” Obama said during a prime-time news conference that otherwise focused on the health care debate.

“What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” Obama said. “That’s just a fact.”

It seems a little presumptuous to comment on a situation when he admittedly does not have all the facts, especially given the way he throws the men and women sworn to protect us under the racial bus.

While there may have been miscommunication by both parties involved, it is a regrettable situation that could have been avoided in a number of ways. However, one side seems eerily ready to throw out labels that turn the heat up on an already simmering pot. As the “right wing” increasingly becomes appealing to middle of the road Democrats, it appears that using the preconceived fear of some inherent right being violated becomes a way to control the debate. Rally the people around a cause and then push through your agenda.

Gate’s arrest seems to have provided a spark to certain demographics that had dropped off after the election. It was followed by the predictable appearance of the Reverend Al Sharpton. At a time when America is in peril, the adminstration is content to use “political theatre” and avoid the real issues.

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