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II. De l'égalité entre citoyens : l'affaire Henry Louis Gates Jr

Associated Press scribebat :

“CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Cambridge police commissioner says his department is "deeply pained" by President Barack Obama's statement that his officers "acted stupidly" when they arrested a renowned black scholar in his home.

In his first statement since the arrest, Commissioner Robert Haas on Thursday commended the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley. Haas said Crowley's actions were in no way motivated by racism.

Crowley, who is white, has been criticized for arresting Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week. Police say Gates flew into a verbal rage when officers asked him for identification while investigating a report of a break-in.

On Wednesday, Obama said officers "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates. On Thursday, he softened his stance and said cooler heads should have prevailed.

* *

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The white police sergeant criticized by President Barack Obama for arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his Massachusetts home is a police academy expert on understanding racial profiling.

Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley has taught a class about racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy after being hand-picked for the job by former police Commissioner Ronny Watson, who is black, said Academy Director Thomas Fleming.

"I have nothing but the highest respect for him as a police officer. He is very professional and he is a good role model for the young recruits in the police academy," Fleming told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The course, called "Racial Profiling," teaches about different cultures that officers could encounter in their community "and how you don't want to single people out because of their ethnic background or the culture they come from," Fleming said. The academy trains cadets for cities across the region.

Obama has said the Cambridge officers "acted stupidly" in arresting Gates last week when they responded to his house after a woman reported a suspected break-in.

Crowley, 42, has maintained he did nothing wrong and has refused to apologize, as Gates has demanded.

Crowley responded to Gates' home near Harvard University last week to investigate a report of a burglary and demanded Gates show him identification. Police say Gates at first refused, flew into a rage and accused the officer of racism.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped Tuesday.

Gates' supporters maintain his arrest was a case of racial profiling. Officers were called to the home by a woman who said she saw "two black males with backpacks" trying to break in the front door. Gates has said he arrived home from an overseas trip and the door was jammed.

Obama was asked about the arrest of Gates, who is his friend, at the end of a nationally televised news conference on health care Wednesday night.

"I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said. "No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 — what I think we know separate and apart from this incident — is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact."

In radio interviews Thursday morning, Crowley maintained he followed procedure.

"I support the president of the United States 110 percent. I think he was way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts as he himself stated before he made that comment," Crowley told WBZ-AM. "I guess a friend of mine would support my position, too."

Crowley did not immediately respond to messages left Thursday by the AP. The Cambridge police department scheduled a news conference for later Thursday.

Gates has said he was "outraged" by the arrest. He said the white officer walked into his home without his permission and only arrested him as the professor followed him to the porch, repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number because he was unhappy over his treatment.

"This isn't about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America," Gates said.

He said the incident made him realize how vulnerable poor people and minorities are "to capricious forces like a rogue policeman, and this man clearly was a rogue policeman."

The president said federal officials need to continue working with local law enforcement "to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias."

Fellow officers, black and white, say Crowley is well-liked and respected on the force. Crowley was a campus police officer at Brandeis University in July 1993 when he administered CPR trying to save the life of former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis. Lewis, who was black, collapsed and died during an off-season workout.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who is black, said he was troubled and upset over the incident. Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, who also is black, has said she spoke with Gates and apologized on behalf of the city, and a statement from the city called the July 16 incident "regrettable and unfortunate."

The mayor refused Thursday to comment on the president's remarks.

On Thursday, the White House tried to calm a hubbub over Obama's comments by saying Obama was not calling the officer stupid. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama felt that "at a certain point the situation got far out of hand" at Gates' home last week.

Police supporters charge that Gates, director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, was responsible for his own arrest by overreacting.

Black students and professors at Harvard have complained for years about racial profiling by Cambridge and campus police. Harvard commissioned an independent committee last year to examine the university's race relations after campus police confronted a young black man who was using tools to remove a bike lock. The man worked at Harvard and owned the bike.

(Associated Press writer Melissa Trujillo in Boston contributed to this report)”

(Associated Press, Mass. police deeply pained by Obama's criticism, 23 juillet 2009, news.yahoo.com/...)
Céans, le mardi XXVIII juillet MMIX

Voici le pendant nord-américain de l'affaire Lumbroso (De l'égalité entre citoyens : l'affaire Daniela Lumbroso). Nous y retrouvons la même attitude de la part du membre courroucé de l'élite : ne manque pas de faire valoir ses hautes relations ; exprime un fort mécontentement de se voir traité comme le pékin moyen ; argue, a posteriori, que son aventure est symptomatique d'une situation générale ; suggère le pire si d'aventure les faits devaient concerner un individu de seconde zone.

Évidemment, dans un cas comme dans l'autre, les paradoxes foisonnent : nul ne peut d'emblée se dire membre d'une caste supérieure se situant au-delà du droit commun et ensuite prétendre pouvoir donner un exemple d'une mésaventure pouvant arriver à n'importe qui - car la prétention liminaire et explicite d'appartenir à une haute extraction influe nécessairement sur la suite des évènements ; les mésaventures d'un bourgeois, proche du président des États-Unis, devrait rassurer sur l'égalité des citoyens en droit ; la seule trace de racisme dans cette affaire réside dans le postulat que le policier blanc est nécessairement raciste - alors qu'aucun de ses actes ne peut en être rapproché, alors que rien ne permet de suggérer que son comportement eut été différent face à un bourgeois blanc.

Les suites judiciaires, elles, méritent attention. Pas de garde à vue pour l'une, abandon des poursuites pour l'autre appuyé par une critique publique de la police de la part du président des États-Unis. Cette critique est particulièrement malvenue quant on songe à la notion de séparation des pouvoirs, d'indépendance du pouvoir judiciaire - drôle de vision que celle du président d'une superpuissance mondiale exprimant un avis lapidaire sur une procédure judiciaire concernant un de ses amis.

#1 > Le mercredi 29 juillet 2009 à 22h31 par Enclume des Nuits :

« To the already long list of improbable White House get-togethers - Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Princess Diana and John Travolta - we will be able to add the names of a black professor and a white policeman at the centre of a national uproar over race relations.

Cambridge police sergeant Jim Crowley and Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard scholar he arrested after responding to a report of a possible break-in at Mr Gates's home, will sit down with Mr Obama on Thursday for a conciliatory beer.
Admittedly, it is tempting to view the invitation as the ultimate conflation of the age of Obama and the age of Oprah.

Aside from the choice of beverage, there is something very daytime television, something very soft focus, something very soft sofa, about this attempt to defuse the controversy.

Mr Gates was held for disorderly conduct, after he allegedly criticised police behaviour during the incident at the scholar's home on 16 July. President Obama - a friend of Mr Gates - got involved in the case, saying the police had acted "stupidily".

Yet startling and novel as Mr Obama's attempts to defuse the controversy are, he is merely upholding a long tradition. Presidential racial politics have often been conducted with gestures, symbols and photo opportunities, and this is but the latest example of a well-worn genre.

Obvious gestures:

Ever since the war, when black voters - or the Negro vote, as it was then known - became a potentially election-deciding force, presidents have embraced symbolic gestures, for the simple reason that they allow them to appeal to blacks without alienating whites.

Often the gestures have been rather obvious. Sometimes they have been so subtle as to be almost subliminal.

Alert to the growing strategic importance of the black vote in key northern battleground states, Dwight D Eisenhower invited the black contralto, Marian Anderson, to perform at his 1956 inauguration. It was a gesture especially redolent with meaning, since in 1939 she had been barred from singing at Constitution Hall in Washington.

His successor, John F Kennedy, happily extended a White House invitation to the world heavyweight boxing champion, Floyd Patterson, hoping it would compensate for his stubborn refusal to offer similar hospitality to Martin Luther King.

Not to be outdone by President Eisenhower, JFK also invited Marian Anderson to sing at his inaugural, but then went a few notable steps further by dancing with black women at the balls later on that night.

This kind of imagery has also been used in reverse, using more harmful symbolism.

Ronald Reagan delivered the first major speech of his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi - the town memorialised in the Hollywood movie, Mississippi Burning - where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered in 1964.

The subject of his speech was "states rights", for some a euphemism for white supremacy.

In 1992, the then Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, famously attacked the black singer Sister Souljah; and, more infamously, made sure he returned home to Little Rock mid-campaign to oversee the lethal injection of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain damaged black man who had killed a police officer.

Fears and grievances:

These kinds of techniques are so commonly deployed, largely because they can have such a dramatic effect.

Even as black leaders attacked him for his timidity on civil rights, Mr Kennedy enjoyed high approval ratings among black voters, partly because they had been such full participants in his inaugural celebrations.

Nothing underscored Bill Clinton's moderate, New Democrat credentials better than his attack on a black hip-hop artist.

So history suggests it would be foolish to underestimate the reconciliatory potential of this Budweiser moment, however dubious it sounds.

After all, conflict resolution often turns on the mutual and public acknowledgement of each side's fears and grievances, along with the photo-opportunity that accompanies it.

By extending this invitation, Mr Obama also appears to be signalling that neither Prof Gates nor Sgt Crowley was wholly in the right or wholly in the wrong.

The beer at the White House, then, marks an attempt to balance white fears about black lawlessness, whether real or imagined, with black middle-class grievances about white racism, whether real or imagined.

Throughout the campaign, Mr Obama deliberately de-emphasised his race. To be a history-defying candidate he became a history-denying figure, and left others to attach racial meaning to his candidacy.

Since winning the presidency, however, he has been much more expansive on the issue, starting with his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago, where he located his achievement in the context of Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, the climactic moments of the civil rights era.

During his recent speech before the civil rights group, the NAACP, he made reference to these events to emphasise his theme of black self-improvement.

"I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere," he said accusingly.

Biblical language:

The Gates controversy has been harder for him to deal with because it deals with more awkward history and touches on the ambiguous legacy of the civil rights era.

White support for the civil rights movement started to wane when blacks demanded affirmative action and reparations. Conversely, racial profiling is an area where blacks feel they are still treated as second-class citizens.

This controversy not only taps into that milieu, but inadvertently brings together two unlikely protagonists: Prof Gates, one of America's most eloquent advocates of affirmative action, and Sgt Crowley, who for five years taught a class on racial profiling at a local police academy which cautioned against stereotyping.

When you reach back into American history, you often find that racial progress has come when the case for reform or reconciliation has been framed in Biblical language or used faith-based allegories.

Rev King's I Have a Dream speech is the most obvious and glorious example.

Now Barack Obama is conjuring up a modern-day parable: the story of the professor, the policeman and the president. But can he turn beer into progress?

(Nick Bryant is the author of The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality) »


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