Both Sides Made Mistakes...

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Yeah. Pick your cliche of even-handedness to characterize this report on Gatesgate:


Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the police sergeant who arrested him last July after a confrontation outside his home both missed opportunities to "ratchet down" the situation and end things more calmly, according to a review of the case released Wednesday.

The independent review said "misunderstandings and failed communications" and a "certain degree of fear" each man had for the other led to the six-minute dispute that ended with the renowned black scholar being arrested by the veteran white Cambridge police sergeant....

Neither man, in interviews with the panel, said he would have acted differently.

The incident was a "textbook example of how a police officer and a member of the community can clash if they do not share a sense of responsibility," according to the report.

This is all rather amazing to me. On a macro level, we seem to have reached a point where we will give cops the power of to inflict death and detention, but not the corresponding responsibility. There are probably deep societal reasons for why we've made that decision. But the implication here is that the guy empowered by the state to use lethal force has no more responsibility than the unarmed citizen.

With that said, what is most striking to me is the notion that neither one of these gentleman "would have acted differently." That is shocking. I believe everything I've said about the police, but there is the world as it should be, and the world as it is. Nothing in the public record indicates to me that, in the world as it is, that Gates handled the situation well. 

It should be safe to walk down any street in New York, and should you be mugged the perpetrators should be prosecuted. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn the land, and adjust your behavior accordingly.

Hat-tip to Adam.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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