While the media spotlight is swinging away from the Gates incident, it is still catching some light. The latest focus in on Lucia Whalen, the woman who called the police “on” Gates.
When she called the police, she said that she saw “two larger men, one looked kind of Hispanic, but I’m not really sure, and the other one entered, and I didn’t see what he looked like at all. Interestingly, she now has a lawyer speaking on her behalf. Her attorney claims that Whalen never spoke with Crowley and that Whalen never used the word “black.” Although the police report apparently includes an alleged conversation with Whalen and allegedly asserts that she uses the word “black”, her attorney says, “I’m not sure what the police explanation will be. Frankly, I don’t care. Her only goal is to make it clear she never described them as black. She never saw their race. … All she reported was behavior, not skin color.”
Oddly enough, the tape of Whalen’s call does include reference to one of the men looking Hispanic, but perhaps being Hispanic is a behavior. However, she does not seem to describe the men as black in her call, so that part seems true. At least in regards to the phone call.
This latest turn shows, once again, that race does matter a great deal. After all, Whalen seems to be extremely concerned to claim that she never mentioned “black” in her call or her alleged conversation. The fact that she has a lawyer handling her statements also seems to show how important race is. Normally, Whalen’s involvement would be over-she just called in what she thought was a break in attempt and she seems to have made a perfectly honest mistake. After all, it is a fact that Gates and his driver tried to force the door-and that certainly would look like a break in attempt. Perhaps Whalen is worried that she will be accused of being a racist. She might even be afraid of being subject to a lawsuit.
Another interesting fact is that Whalen’s lawyer seems to be trying to get her client classified as not being “a white woman in the traditional sense.” In a statement that might strike some as a bit racist, the lawyer said, “The fact is, she’s olive-skinned and of Portuguese descent. You wouldn’t look at her and say, necessarily, ‘Oh, there’s a white woman.’ You might think she was Hispanic.”
Imagine if someone said something like that to assert that Obama was not a black man in the traditional sense. Would that not sound a bit racist? In any case, the attempt to re-classify Whalen might be an attempt to preempt any charges of racism. After all, one popular assumption is that a member of a minority cannot be racist. So, if Whalen is re-classified as someone we might think of as Hispanic, then surely she cannot be a racist. Naturally, this whole sort of maneuver seems to be rather racist-assuming that is what is going on. The fact that it is being brought up does, in any case, say a great deal about race in America.
Since I do not know Whalen, I have no idea if she is racist or not. However, there is nothing in her call or her alleged conversation with Crowley that seems to be racist. She reported what looked like a break in because, it seems, it looked like a break in. Even if she did see Gates and his driver and describe them as black, that hardly indicates racism. If Gates had entered his home normally and someone called in saying something like “I saw a black man go into a nice home, so he must be breaking in!”, then that would be racism. But, that is not the sort of thing that happened.
In response to the incident, Cambridge is setting up a special panel on race. I certainly hope they also address the racism against whites (and perhaps Hispanics) that has been made evident in this incident. This incident certainly has been an educational one and has shown that racism is not just a matter of whites being racist against blacks. Racism in America also involves racism against whites and that also needs to be dealt with before we can claim to be even close to being post racial.