Race relations. Now we’re talking.
The policeman, the professor and the president are each playing to type. Each is playing his role in the American narrative.
I think the president reacted to his own past experiences with the humiliation of profiling. The professor certainly reacted to the historical sting. The cop responded to his experiences with black crime in the streets.
Was the confrontation inevitable?
Control. That’s part of the police DNA. Get control of the situation. That’s what the Cambridge cop was trying to do. Subdue the subject if necessary.
It didn’t help that the professor has a mouth on him. Loud, high-toned, angry—all markers for uppity. But it is not against the law to be angry with a policeman. Nor is it against the law to be loud in your own living room.
But the professor forgot “the code” that comes into play when black men deal with white cops: be deferential, speak with a soft voice, say “sir” a lot, don’t look the policeman in the eye. Black men have been taught this since they were children. Have little white boys? I wasn’t.
Most people say the president should have danced around the issue. At least, he should not have used “stupid” to describe the police.
Certainly, President Obama could have been political and ducked – but I like him better when he is human.
OK. As it has been for hundreds of years, race relations are back on the table. Complicated stuff but, please, let’s not retreat into fearful defenses.
Are we smart enough to find solutions? Or are we too stupid?