Sunday, August 2, 2009

Link Arrested!

Author before arrest as a young and unwelcome hippy
** Last week I never would have believed I would have anything I wanted or needed to add about the Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley dust up and Obama’s unscripted characterization that the police acted stupidly.
I was extremely hacked off to read this morning that one of my “links” was arrested in similar circumstances in NYC recently. Ravi Shankar, poet, professor at Central Connecticut College and editor of Drunken Boat was arrested as police were on the look out for a 140 lb white male. Shankar, whom I met recently at the Wesleyan writers conference, happens to be a 6’ 2”, 200lb Indian man. The tale of his ordeal in police detention is worthy of clicking over for the brief read.
While charges were dropped in both cases no one should be surprised that racial profiling is alive and well in America. Shankar, while of Indian origin, appeared somewhat Middle Eastern and was referred to as a “sand nigger”. As I’ve read various accounts and opinions concerning the Gates/ Crowley incident I find that every black author has a similar police experience to relate. Not so with white commentators who seem to focus on whether Obama should have reigned in his thoughts until all the facts were in.
My own dust ups with the law concern mostly protest rally incidents although I did have a dubious but frightening arrest in North Carolina in the early 70’s. Pulled over for “crossing a (non-existent) double yellow line” I was held overnight in county jail until money could be wired to pay my fine. Although I was just an unwelcome long hair hippy to shake down, this did give me a vicarious taste of profiling and marginalization by authority.
I wonder if the White House Beer Summit really did any good. Gates may have been disrespectful, but Crowley used his authority to prove he could make you have a really bad day. Race or testosterone? I’m thinking a bit of both, but it’s foolish to believe we are in a post racial America.
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