We can’t talk

July 26, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

We can’t talk. Or, rather, we can only talk in canned narratives, as Glenn C. Loury writes in the NYT:

[T]his convenient story line is reflected in an all-too-familiar narrative: “Here we are, 45 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with a black man in the White House. And yet, it is still the case that a distinguished Harvard professor, standing on his own front step, can be treated like a common criminal simply because he’s black. Obviously it is way too soon to declare that we have entered a post-racial era … .”

As far as I am concerned, the ubiquity of this narrative shows that we are incapable of talking straight with one another about race. And this much-publicized incident is emblematic of precisely nothing at all. Rather, the Gates arrest is a made-for-cable-TV tempest in a teapot.

Therefore, as many people use the Gates incident to teach lessons about race, the reality is that objective people are left to wonder whether the police officer’s conduct had anything at all to do with race.

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Category: American Culture, Bigotry

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erika Price says:

    I'm not sure if the incident is about any single thing, but it could be about many things. Maybe it is about race. Maybe it's about racial sensitivity. Maybe it's about sensitivity to being called a racist when one is not. Maybe it's about two stereotypes- one of cops, one of black men- clashing.

    It can also be a case about the way that authority changes a person's behavior. It can be about a question of civil liberties and what exactly the bounds of "disorderly conduct" are. It can be about two tired, burned-out people having two terrible days which neither will ever live down. It can be about the import of having big-name friends who can draw attention to your troubles, troubles which occur to hundreds of other people every day and go unnoticed.

    The direct, obvious racial component is less compelling to me than the more subtle ways that context have determined everything about this case. Even if we had a videotape of exactly what went down, start to finish, we could see a variety of twisted little narratives play out all at once.

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