July 30, 2009

Profiling vs. perception

With the "Skip" Gates controversy/situation/mess coming to a head today (the Messiah will have Gates and "racist" officer Crowley at the White House today for that beer), former Secretary of State Colin Powell made an interesting comment the other evening on the "Larry King Show" (people still watch him?):

King: Were you ever racially profiled?

Powell: Yes, many times.

King: And didnt you ever bring anger to it?

Powell: Of course. But, you know, anger is best controlled. And sure, I got mad.

I got mad when I, as a national security adviser to the president of the United States, I went down to meet somebody at Reagan National Airport and nobody recognized -- nobody -- nobody thought I could possibly be the national security adviser to the president. I was just a black guy at Reagan National Airport.

And it was only when I went up to the counter and said, Is my guest here whos waiting for me?, did somebody say, Oh, youre Gen. Powell. It was inconceivable to him that a black guy could be the national security adviser.

King: How do you deal with things like that?

Powell: You just suck it up. What are you going to do? It was a teaching point for him. Yes, Im the national security adviser. Im black. And watch, I can do the job. So you have this kind of -- there is no African-American in this country who has not been exposed to this kind of situation. (h/t to Taranto.)

With all due respect to General Powell, this is the best example he could come up with of him being racially profiled? Because someone (or even multiple folks) did not recognize him as national security adviser? Frankly, that's rather weak.

If it's any consolation to Powell, your average American wouldn't even recognize the freakin' vice-president, (most Delawareans excluded at present) let alone the Speaker of the House and other high-ranking politicians. And Powell was ... upset because people didn't know he was [just, at the time] national security adviser? Why does Powell feel it was due to his race? He'd have a much better point if someone had approached him and asked him to take his bags, or something equally noxious. But this doesn't seem like a definitive instance of profiling; if anything, it was more an instance of Powell's perception of an innocuous moment as profiling.

Honestly, considering Powell's age (he was born in 1937), I would have expected a much more concrete example of racial profiling from him. Nevertheless, I've no doubt that the general has been the victim of profiling, if not outright racism. But perhaps this anecdote from him shows how far we've come as a society from the era of Powell's youth -- where racism is perceived when it merely may be an example of average American political apathy. Certainly the Gates matter was not an example of profiling, despite Larry King's insinuation of it as such by his question to Powell. No wait -- actually it was. It was Gates' who racially profiled Officer Crowley. Gates immediately saw a white cop, and assumed the worst ... shouting at Crowley racially charged spewings.

And that's the problem with this "perception is reality" mantra (a favorite phrase of my blog nemesis Perry) is that it makes racism out of where there is none, and as such demonizes people who may not have a racist bone in their body. (Although this won't mean a thing to hardcore, radical racial educationists -- among others -- who believe that ALL white people are inherently racist.) Like Officer Crowley, for instance. Like the woman who made the [Gates] 911 call in the first place. In education, this philosophy can be quite destructive as white educators may try to alter behavior (supposedly "racist" attitudes, mannerisms) that there's in actuality no reason to change, and it gives African-American pupils an excuse to not work (why, after all? The teacher's racist!).

Dennis Miller had, as usual, an interesting take on American race relations last night. Are they getting worse? My take is that, overall, they are not. However, incidents like those involving Gates where the "R" word is instinctively and automatically tossed out are as big a problem today as real instances of "old-style" racism (for example, if this local story is accurate, whoa). Unfortunately, there is an industry devoted to "seeing" racism where there ain't -- to perpetuating the "perception is reality" philosophy -- sustained by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and yes, albeit it to lesser degree, Professor Gates.

Posted by Hube at July 30, 2009 10:16 AM | TrackBack

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Lashley's Letter To Crowley
Dear Jim,

Would you be so kind as to mention the following to Mr. Gates and President Obama during your meeting with them:

One of the major problems stemming from the events of July 16 is that I, now known as 'the black Sergeant', have had my image plastered all over the Internet, television and newspapers. Subsequently, I have also become known, at least to some, as an 'Uncle Tom.'

I'm forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and collegue, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage.

Please convey my concerns to the President that Mr. Gates' actions may have caused grave and potentially irreparable harm to the struggle for racial harmony in this country and perhaps throughout the world.

In closing, I would simply like to ask that Mr. Gates deeply reflect on the events that have unfolded since July 16 and ask himself the following questions:

'What can I do to help heal the rift caused by some of my actions?; What responsibility do I bear for what occurred on July 16, 2009? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the damage done to the reputations of two respected Police Officers?'

Thank you in advance,

Your friend,

Leon K. Lashley

Posted by: annoni at July 31, 2009 12:01 AM