Some issues are black and white

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It’s easy to imagine the scene — a neighbor observes a man making a “forced entry” into a home. When the police arrive, they find the man inside the home. When asked to provide officers with proof of residency of said home, said man refuses — repeatedly.

We’ve all seen “COPS” on TV, so it’s easy to predict what happens next.

Said man goes to jail. It’s that simple.

However, the recent incident between Cambridge, Mass., police officers and a black Harvard professor has demonstrated that in this case, it was not so simple — especially when one interjects the issue of race into the equation.

When I was growing up, there were certain parameters that the LeMaire children lived by — you knew to choose right over wrong; you always brought home good grades and you had a healthy respect for authority. It didn’t matter if that authority figure was garnishing a ruler, wearing a badge or toting a fly swatter, which my granny was known to do sometimes. You said, “Yes, sir,” or, “Yes, ma’am,” and complied when an edict was issued.

And as for race … when I was growing up, race was never a factor in the equation.

In the Cambridge, Mass., situation, this is what we had: a man inside a home who allegedly refused to prove to police officers how he had a right to be inside that home.

Yes, the man was black. Yes, the police officer was white.

Now let’s look at the law — it too is in black and white. Refusal to cooperate or cooperate with law enforcement is a punishable offense for which a person can go to jail. It’s called disorderly conduct.

With that said, as an adult of reasonable intelligence, I find it absolutely flabbergasting that grown man — a Harvard professor, a.k.a. a really, really smart man — didn’t realize that the officers weren’t there to harass him, they were there to protect his property.

How much of a stink would it have raised had someone broken in and robbed Mr. Gates blind because the officers arrived on scene and took a criminal at his word when he said he was the owner of the home without making him give proof of his alleged homeownership?

I’ll tell you how much — those officers would have lived up to President Obama’s description of having “acted stupidly,” and it would have been splashed over mainstream media. I could have even written the lede — “The home of a Harvard scholar was burglarized (insert day) after police gave the burglar the ‘OK’ to be in the home,” or something like that.

And on a similar note, why is the president even commenting on something like this? Last time I checked, we’re got more pressing issues for him to worry about than what kind of beer to serve on the White House lawn.

In my opinion — and today is Wednesday, so I get paid to express it — the whole situation resembled a strange grey snowball that is taking too long to melt.

The incident should have never made the Cambridge, Mass., news — let alone national news and, by way of default, The Andalusia Star-News.

Now, I’m done with it.