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Police Authoritarianism and White Defensiveness

    I find it difficult to express how angered I have been by the reaction to the Skip Gates arrest, and some other racial incidents recently.  I am starting to feel like our language has truly been turned inside out.  Suddenly, the word “racist” has come to mean pointing out racism. Obama’s statement that it is “just a fact” that there is a long history of discrimination against blacks and Latinos by law enforcement, which should be remarkable only for its obviousness, is suddenly “playing the race card.”  The fact that, to use the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates , “officers are well within their rights to arrest you for sassing them,” is terrifying, and has gotten lost in the “was too!”/”was not!” bicker over whether the officer was racist.1  I have been absolutely appalled by how many whites have rushed to the officer’s defense.  I don’t know what’s in Officer Crowley’s heart; I can’t say whether he’s racist or not.*  But the fact of the matter is that he arrested a man for talking back to him.  We cannot let this fact get lost in the discussion.  This is far from uncommon, and it indisputably happens more to members of less-powerful groups than it does to wealthy white ones. 

    I desperately wish that we could take this incident and turn it into a discussion of issues that are distinct but overlap so much they are frequently thought of as the ...

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