The arrest of Professor Gates and Obama’s comment on the event have stirred up quite a media storm. On national TV, Obama stated that although he was unware of the facts, he believed that the police had acted stupidly and implied that race was a factor in the event.
I was a bit surprised when Obama made these remarks. After all, he began by stating that he was unware of the facts. At that point, he should have simply said something on par with what he knew and expressed general support for his friend. Leaping to condemn the police without being aware of the facts seems to be, if one wants to toss around charges of racism, a bit racist. After all, he certainly seemed to assume that the officer was acting on racist motivations despite his admission that he lacked the facts.
Obama was, of course, quite correct in his assertion that blacks and hispanics are treated unfairly by the police at a rate higher than that faced by others. That is, of course, a point of great concern. However, as his reaction showed, there is also a problem of racism on the part of minorities. After all, to assume that the police must be acting unfairly or on racist motivations is itself a racist view. Sure, there are racist police officers. There are also many officers who are not.
The evidence seems to be that the officer who arrested Gates acted correctly in his initial actions. The officer arrived in response to a call of a possible break in and acted to determine what was going. Gates seems to have over-reacted to the officer’s questions, which seem to have been the sort of questions that he should have asked. After all, he needed to be sure that Gates was, in fact, who he claimed to be. Even after identifying Gates, the officer also had to be sure that Gates had not come home to a house that was being robbed. Imagine the outcry if the officer had simply left and Gates house was really being robbed.
Whether or not the officer should have arrested Gates is, of course, a matter of controversy. If Gates broke the law, then he should have been arrested. If Gates was arrested simply because he had annoyed the officer, then the officer acted wrongly. However, Obama also acted wrongly in leaping to condemn the police without even knowing the relevant facts of the situation.