Monday, August 03, 2009

Obama Racial Profiling and Elitism & "Rankism" & The Beer Summit

"A Man's A Man For A'That & A That"
Robert Burns


Obama and racial profiling -Does Obama only object to racial profiling when it involves upper class Blacks.

Yes Obama is Black but does he also have an elitist point of view-

Is this why Obama is able to surround himself with white , Black and Hispanic elitists

Is Obama able to step outside his own privileged position to understand or be empathetic to the concerns of average Black and Hispanic Americans and their experiences of being racially profiled by police and other people in authority

Some critics argue that African-Americans are deluded if they think Obama will make bold moves to help ordinary African-Americans. Barack Obama appears to actually believe that the race issue is no longer as serious as it was thirty years ago. Obama like other well off or privileged Black American is the spokesperson for the upwardly mobile African-Americans and tends to blame ordinary blacks for their problems or that ordinary African-Americans are blowing the race issues all out of proportion.

In the recent incident involving the police and Professor Gates Obama quickly labeled the incident as one in which the police acted "stupidly". Was Obama merely pointing out the injustice of racial profiling of Blacks and Hispanics & others or did he mean something else by his remarks. Glen Ford argues that to Obama the incident was unjust and stupid because the African American involved was a professor at a university and is obviously part of the upper middle class and is well connected-these facts should have been obvious to the police officers involved and should therefore acted appropriately.

The question which arises is whether Obama would have been so quick to judge the police in a similar case involving a working class or a poor African-American. In other words does Obama buy into the same erroneous stereotyping of African Americans as do white Americans. Are other upper middle class and privileged and wealthy African Americans as prejudiced as white Americans in the way they perceive lower class or poor African Americans.

It reminds one of the notorious idea of what is referred to as "the brown paper bag test" by which those African Americans who see themselves as superior to African Americans who are darker in skin color and so they keep those of darker skin color out of their exclusive schools and country clubs etc. The test as it were they use is if the individual African American is darker than a brown paper bag they are not allowed to join these exclusive clubs or schools. Obama's prejudice is similar in the sense that he using material and professional success as a means of judging which African Americans are more worthy or more equal than others. If this is true then Obama is not a true Egalitarian but holds to a different set of prejudices.

Professor Fuller in a recent article in the Huffington Post offers a slightly different explanation which he refers to as "Rankism".

But first Glen Ford at The Real News Network.

The Real News Network The beer summit and race in America
Glen Ford: Upward mobility for black elite has not translated into a better life for ordinary blacks July 31,2009

Rankism: The Elephant in Professor Gates's House by Robert Fuller at Huffington Post, July 27,2009

We were quick to look at the Gates affair through the lens of race. But it soon became clear that race was not the whole story. To bring things fully into focus, we need a second lens -- that of rank. The lens of race highlights the well-known injustices of racism. The lens of rank reveals the less well recognized indignities of rankism.

Rankism has not received the attention that racism has. Perhaps its time has come. But, before looking through the lens of rank, a common misconception must be cleared away. Rank, in itself, is not the problem. Like race, rank is just a fact of life. Rank tells us who's in charge. Used properly, it's a useful organizational tool. The problem lies not with rank per se, but in rank abuse. By analogy with racism, sexism, and ageism, abuse of the power signified by rank is rankism. Once you have a name for it, you see it everywhere.

Rankism is the principal source of man-made indignity. As indignities accumulate, it becomes harder to repress the indignation they seed. Beyond a threshold that varies according to personal history, indignation erupts. It is not hard to understand why Professor Gates felt humiliated by treatment he interpreted as another instance of the racial profiling that has long dogged African-Americans and others lacking the protections of social rank. On top of that, a pillar of common law has it that "a man's home is his castle." Homeowner Gates might reasonably have assumed that he outranked a law enforcement officer on his home turf.
While giving vent to his indignation can be questioned, it's not difficult to understand his anger.

Now turn the lens of rank on the attending police. Police are trained to assume command of unruly situations. While on duty, the understanding is that our guardians outrank us, precisely so they will have the authority they need to stabilize volatile situations. We expect the police to exercise their authority according to strict rules that safeguard individual rights and the public interest. On those occasions when our guardians do abuse their rank, victims' only resort is to take the matter to higher authority. That minorities and the poor, more than others, must pursue justice in this way is evidence that rankism falls disproportionately on them.

The Gates affair, and the discussion it has provoked, were incubated in America's racial history and aggravated by confusion about rank and its proper use. To reach a judgment on the Gates affair, one must decide whether or not Professor Gates improperly attempted to assert his rank -- as a Harvard professor or as homeowner -- over the policeman. It is equally germane to ascertain whether or not Sergeant Crowley overstepped his legitimate authority in arresting Professor Gates. My purpose here is not to rehash, let alone try to pass judgment, but rather to find, in our obsession with the incident, a clue to the crux of the matter. The Gates affair is that rarest of teachable moments -- one that provides an opportunity to drive home an old lesson while offering us a new one.

The Gates affair reminds us of our sorry history of racial profiling and gives new impetus to ending it. It also suggests that we're more likely to eradicate profiling if we show our guardians the same dignity that we seek for ourselves.

But, more important than assigning blame in the case is turning the lens of rank around and seeing what it tells us about ourselves and our relationships. The clash between Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley grips us because it mirrors our own struggles with rank and its rightful use.

How much deference is due our boss, our spouse, elders, children, teachers, doctors, religious leaders, and elected officials? Where does the proper use of rank end, and rankism begin? When it is we who are outranked, do our superiors treat us respectfully? If not, why not? In those areas where we hold rank over others, do we protect their dignity as we would have them protect our own?

At long last, we've got racism in our sights. But rankism is still largely below the radar. Like racism and sexism before they were identified, rankism is endemic, ubiquitous, and seemingly impregnable. It's an unrecognized source of dysfunctionality in families, schools, the workplace, religious institutions, and heath care. Like the more familiar isms, now finally on the defensive, it too will have to be rooted out of our social institutions if we are to perfect our union.

The Gates affair offers an opportunity to widen our lens so as to take in all varieties of rank abuse and to recognize the indignities that arise from them. The professor and the policeman will have served us well if the incident with which they are identified is seen as a milestone towards an America in which, without exception, everyone -- the public and the police, employees and employers, students and teachers, blacks and whites, young and old, gays and straights, everyone -- is accorded equal dignity.

Anna Deavere argues that there is a long way to go to eliminate racism in America. Police are still involved in racial profiling of African Americans, Muslim Americans and Hispanic Americans. The perception of America Blacks and other ethnic groups have about America is different from that of White Americans. White Americans and even upwardly mobile black Americans either do not understand that racial profiling is a serious issue with serious consequences in which an innocent black American is treated unfairly by the police or is beaten or even killed . Are these middle class & upper class privileged African Americans unwilling to face or accept that racial profiling is a real problem in contemporary America.

Before We All Have A Beer Anna Deavere, Huffington Post, July 30,2009

Will we all be having a beer tonight? As soon as the first stones from the edifice of post-racialism began to tumble, the media labeled the conversations of excited onlookers as "a heated national debate about race." That suggests to me that Professor Gates, Officer Crowley and President Obama haven't been the only ones talking. We've all been involved. Maybe theirs won't be the only beer. Will the media folk be raising a toast, for example about a story well told? A word of caution before the wrecking team slaps high fives over their own cold beers in newsrooms, blog rooms, chat rooms, radio stations etc, and erupts in a national "Way da go!" If "way da go" means we have a long way to go, I'd take a suds too. If it means "job well done", the job's hardly begun.

and she talks about an incident in Phoenix Arizona:

...Phoenix, Arizona: I spoke to a middle class white woman - an executive in a well known national non-profit who was stopped for drunk driving just as she was leaving the parking lot of a bar after a happy hour event with people from her office. Her alcohol level was slightly above what is allowed in Arizona. The police were being rougher with her than her boyfriend thought was necessary. He intervened. He had been drinking in the bar too, but he was not driving. The officers immediately threw him onto the ground with such force that she thought for sure his head would crack open. They threw handcuffs on him. When he would not agree to a sobriety test, arguing that he was not driving - they threw him into the police car and took him to a hospital. In an open ward, they strapped him to a gurney, and catheterized him to take urine. When he screamed out in pain - the white officer said to him, in the presence of his colleague, a black officer, "Stop acting like a nigger."

The woman was sentenced to go to Sherriff Arpaio's "tent city" jail. She acknowledged throughout her talk with me that she was wrong wrong wrong to drive under the influence regardless of how few hundredths of a percentage her blood was above the acceptable level. Arpaio's jail is fashioned after what he says soldiers can endure in Iraq. It is a series of tents in hot sun, or cold nights. Whatever the weather in Phoenix provides. The inmates wear striped uniforms and pink underwear in case they try to escape and in doing so take off their uniforms. There is a large neon VACANCIES sign over the jail. One would gawk at the theater of many aspects of the sheriff's policing if it weren't so serious. Her boyfriend was traumatized and the relationship ended.

Arthur Delaney points out that the problem of over reaction by Police is an ongoing concern for even some white Americans. The police use certain laws such as "disorderly Conduct" as an excuse to harass and arrest citizens who for whatever reason they want to punish for their behavior or their speech. So if a police officer is annoyed by something someone says it appears that in many US cities the police have the authority to arrest such a person and few dare question the police officer's decision.

Disorderly Conduct: Conversation About Gates Arrest Precedes Arrest by Arthur Delaney, at Huffington Post, July 29,2009

A lawyer who moments earlier had been complaining to friends about police overreaction in the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., got a taste of the Gates treatment himself after loudly chanting "I hate the police" near a traffic stop in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington's hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. "We'd been talking about it all day," said Tuma. "It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they're being pushed around," Tuma recalled saying.

Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.

"That's why I hate the police," Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, "I hate the police, I hate the police."

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma's song. "Hey! Hey! Who do you think you're talking to?" Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. "Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?" the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma's companions.

Tuma said he responded, "It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It's not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street."

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn't talk to police like that.

"I didn't curse," Tuma said. "I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?"

Within minutes, the officer had cuffed Tuma. The charge: disorderly conduct -- just like Gates, who was arrested after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at his home and Gates protested their ensuing behavior.

D.C.'s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything "in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others" or by shouting or making noise "either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons."

The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said that the city's disorderly conduct law is "confusing, overbroad, frequently used by police to harass disfavored individuals" and that it "violates constitutional rights of free speech, assembly and petition."

But over-reaction by police is nothing knew and there are examples of it everyday as police use Taser's on people for no apparent reason which sometimes results in death. But according to the Law and Order crowd anyone stopped by the police or tasered or beaten and handcuffed and arrested must have done something wrong and therefore deserve whatever treatment police rationalize as necessary. The police as it were are more embolden as they come to believe that they are a law unto themselves and can act anyway they want to.

The Gates Affair: Was it Racism or Rankism? by Byron Williams Huffington Post July 30,2009

What should we make of the incident involving Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department now that the calming balm of time has offset the outbreak of emotion?

There is an undeniable absurdity associated with a story that involves arresting a disabled man, as is Prof. Gates, who is sitting in his home with proper identification, because a neighbor mistakenly thought he was breaking in.

But such absurdity is not beyond the comprehension for scores of men of color. For black and brown men, in particular, it is almost a rite of passage into manhood to have a part of your day interrupted by local authorities because you "fit the description," regardless of guilt.

The lens of race by which many view this fiasco is legitimate, but may not fully explain why this story rose to national prominence. While much of the conversation around Prof. Gates' arrest has centered on race, we might also examine the role "rankism" plays into this conundrum.

Rankism, a term coined by former president of Oberlin College, Dr. Robert Fuller in his book "Somebodies and Nobodies," is an abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behavior towards people who have less power.

Rankism underlies many of the social ills of society such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, but it is also based on an abuse of power inherent to one holding a superior rank in life.

As Dr. Fuller recently wrote on the Huffington Post, "Rankism is the principal source of man-made indignity."

and so it goes ,

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