On and off today, I took part in an interesting though distressing set of comments at a FaceBook site that were spurred by this weekend's bizarre confrontation and arrest of Louis Henry Gates by Cambridge police. Mark Cohen, an erudite Pennsylvania State Representative got the ball rolling by posting a link to his commentary on this issue at the Daily Kos. See Mark's piece here. It's an excellent drawing together of a number of the more bizarre race-related incidents that we've seen 'round here over the past several weeks.
The kurfuffle coming out of this Gates incident is the question of whether it is a blatant example of racial profiling. I usually try not to get involved in commenting on people's posts to their FaceBook sites, but I really liked what Mark wrote and so I paid attention to other people's comments on and off as their additions rolled into my email box. By the end of the day there are 40 comments and the entire discussion seemed to have turned into some folks claiming that racism is an evil that must be confronted wherever it is found in America, while others were arguing that perhaps acknowledging racism is a way of making it real.
Anyone who knows me or who has read this little blog of mine will know that I do not buy into racism on any level and that I choose to believe that life is about people living in the world as individuals. I strongly believe that folks cannot speak intelligently about race and prejudice because these issues are based on false premises, lies, and the funk of group hypnotism.
There is no question that there is a power system at play in America, and there is a case to be made that it is run by "whites," but trust me, there are no "whites" in power. This is the 21st century. Who the hell is white? Generally, those in power are the ones with educations, particularly law degrees, money, connections, and hustle. You're only as powerless as you feel. If you're going to argue with cops, they're going to more often than not take you in for a sit down visit and call to your parents or your lawyer.
Most important though, all of this points me towards music, comedy and intelligent poetics. Take Gil Scott-Heron's little ditty that I ran into this morning at Peter Rothberg's blog at The Nation Whitey On the Moon. I don't agree with the "Whitey" sentiment Mr. Scott-Heron so expertly wields, but it's important to pay attention to his message anyway: exactly what are we spending money on in this country?
My final word to Professor Gates, a man whose thoughts and persona we should all deeply love?
Dude, be pissed that the cops messed with you in your home! Don't let other people's stupidity work to manufacture and sustain the ugliness of racism.