Did you hear the one about the black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was arrested for trying to break into his own home? No, this is not the beginning of a joke.
The whole thing had me thinking about Chris Rock’s “How not to get your ass kicked by the police” video which I had recently posted on this blog.
My aunt’s a cop so when it comes to police officers, I have a definite bias. I grew up hanging around them, visiting my aunt at the police station and even going to theme parks with groups of cops. But there is no question that cops are humans like everyone else, perhaps even more susceptible to racism because of the jobs they do and the racial factionalism on the job.
Do check out: “Professor’s Arrest Tests Beliefs on Racial Progress”
Incidentally, this whole incident sparked a nasty, nasty argument at the Shabbos table today. One the one side, one person was arguing that it was understandable how the professor responded because as a black man, he is probably sick of finding himself in these types of situations. Who hasn’t read a story about “driving while black” or “walking while black”?
On the other side, I heard comments about blacks “always trying to pull the race card” and Obama being “stupid” for his comments on this situation. Well, obviously, whether or not this situation was racist, it was racially charged enough to start a racially charged discussion that ended in tears.
I left the Shabbos table shaking, whether from anger or horror I’m not sure. In one fell swoop, I went from feeling like just another Jew to being the only person of color in a heated discussion about race that made me increasingly uncomfortable. I am not sure when, if ever, I will fully recover from it.
Honestly, the worst comment I heard was someone who said, “At least, Jews don’t try to use slavery as an excuse never to work the rest of our lives.” In response to a Tweet I wrote about this comment, @ChrisMacDen, a Jewish Twitterer, wrote back “No, some Jews just use Shoah as excuse to…oh, never mind.”