I was researching sleep-deprivation last week so missed the fooferaw. I did my best to be fair to both parties in my Sunday column here. John McWhorter is, as often, worth reading on this:

My conclusion, more explicit here, is that whites and blacks need to work together to keep cops from encountering black men at all any more than they encounter whites, and to help dispel stereotypes that are not entirely disconnected from fact -- for reasons that do not lend themselves to blame but are real nevertheless (on this, see again Glenn’s piece).

Loury's fair point:

I find laughable, and sad, Professor Gates’s declaration that he now plans to make a documentary film about racial profiling. Is that as far as his scholarship on the intersection of race and policing in America extends? Where has this eminent scholar of African-American affairs been these last 30 years, during which a historically unprecedented, politically popular, extraordinarily punitive and hugely racially disparate mobilization of resources for the policing, imprisonment and post-release supervision of those caught up in the criminal justice system has unfolded?

But MoDo is still right, I believe, in this summary:

No matter how odd or confrontational Henry Louis Gates Jr. was that afternoon, he should not have been arrested once Sergeant Crowley ascertained that the Harvard professor was in his own home. President Obama was right the first time, that the encounter had a stupid ending, and the second time, that both Gates and Crowley overreacted.

Maureen's dad was a cop and she knows people like James Crowley. I do too. And Obama is right that cops like Crowley are good men in general (although I can't pass a judgment on someone I don't know). I also believe in being respectful and polite to policemen as a rule, and do not recall any moment in my life when I haven't been. But I do think it's necessary to remember that policemen are our servants, not our masters. We pay their salary - and they'd better treat us right. And I find the many comments that we should always show deference to the man with the gun and the badge and never publicly criticize cops to be alarmingly authoritarian in its implications.

If a cop gives you trouble in your own home after it is perfectly clear that no crime has taken place, you have every right to tell him to get the hell out of your house; and he has no right to hang around. You also have every right to give him your opinion of his police work or his haircut if you so wish.

There is a distinction, in other words, between a deference to cops based on trust and a deference based on fear. I find the idea that mouthing off to a cop in your own home is enough to get you arrested a disturbing feature of the post-9/11 police state. My gut sense of the interaction is that Crowley - used to total deference and fear from those he interacts with - was simply appalled at being harangued so vituperatively, especially by a black man (but race was not the only factor), and quickly realized he had no grounds to arrest Gates in his home, and so lured him outside to get the pretext of "disorderly conduct" in front of seven people. Yes, Skip over-reacted after a long flight and an embarrassing battle with his door; but Crowley - a cop who declared that he was a Republican to the media for no apparent reason - got the man who didn't kowtow to him in cuffs as revenge. The very fact that the charges were dropped tells you who was in the wrong, according to the Cambridge police.

I don't know about you, but I prefer societies in which the exercize of free speech in your own home does not lead to being arrested - especially just to teach you a lesson on how to be deferent to police.

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