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Arrest of Harvard professor was a case of poor communication

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is taken away from his home in handcuffs. The photo was taken by a neighbor after a confrontation with police who were investigating a possible break-in. 

Times files

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is taken away from his home in handcuffs. The photo was taken by a neighbor after a confrontation with police who were investigating a possible break-in. 

>Black, white, and read all over | July 24, story

A case of poor communication

I find this story to be greatly disturbing and yet simultaneously enlightening about the state of current race relations in America.

I respect and empathize with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. He had just gotten home from a long trip from China, had difficulties opening his front door, and then the cops showed up suspecting that he was breaking into his own home.

Professor Gates was having a rough day. And yet, when the police showed up to protect his property, he accused them of racial profiling and refused to prove that this was indeed his house. One could also understand why the police became frustrated as well.

What really happened, we may never know, but a smart black man is accusing a white police officer, known for being fair and just, of racism. Now there are lawyers, unions and even the president of the United States involved, and no one can admit what they did wrong to cause this ugly situation.

I sincerely hope that these two intelligent, hard-working men can sit down one day and agree that a bad situation turned into an arrest because both parties were unable to communicate effectively. Without this conversation no healing will ever take place.

Melissa J. Albee, Tampa

Black, white, and read all over | July 24, story

Police were just doing their jobs

This arrest became a racial issue because some people wanted it to be. Let's take another scenario:

Two men are seen forcefully entering a home by a neighbor. A neighbor reports this to 911.

Police are dispatched and find one of the men inside the house. When asked by the officers to identify himself, the man arrogantly refuses to produce ID showing this to be his home and belligerently accuses the police officers of harassment.

Officers concede the man's point, wish him a good day and depart, making note in their report that the man stated repeatedly that he was the owner of the home and seemed credible.

(The real owner returns later to find most of his valuables missing, but does nothing after finding that the officers thought the burglar appeared credible.)

The police were doing their jobs. If you make all of the players the same color or no color, it just looks like good police work.

Bill Davis, St. Petersburg

Cooler heads were called for

President Barack Obama should not have castigated the Cambridge, Mass., Police Department without hearing both sides of the story and having more facts. The truth of what happened that Thursday probably lies somewhere in the middle of the events depicted by the professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the version proffered in a rebuttal by the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley.

Obama is right about one thing, though: Cooler heads should have prevailed, but this observation should apply to both men. No doubt the egos of both men got in the way during the confrontation and tempers flared. Gates could have been more accommodating and understanding that the officer was trying to do his job in investigating a potential break-in, and Sgt. Crowley should have realized that Gates was not your usual home burglary suspect and was harmless and innocent.

Both men could benefit from taking an anger management class. As for President Obama? He could benefit by spending one day in the dangerous and tedious shoes of a police officer.

Henry J. Weese, Palm Harbor

A middle path

Normal behavior for police Sgt. James Crowley: "I am reasonably certain you live here, Mr. Gates. Sorry to have bothered you."

Normal behavior for professor Henry Louis Gates: "Yes, officer, I would be happy to show you my picture ID with this address. I realize you are just doing your job."

Normal behavior for a president: "Somewhere in the middle of any argument is the truth. Both people could have handled the situation better."

Claude Hensley, Clearwater

Doctor chastised over Obama image | July 24

The prevalence of racism

When I first read of Barack Obama's negative comments regarding the Cambridge, Mass., police, I was very angry at his thoughtless defense of his friend, professor Henry Louis Gates. I was disappointed at what appeared to be the immediate response that the police were racist.

However, Dr. David McKalip's e-mail illustrates just how prevalent racism is. The president of the United States was depicted with a bone in his nose! If his high office commands so little respect and McKalip is so confident that at least 150 people would find that equally funny, that response is not so unrealistic. Unless, of course, McKalip is secretly working for the Democratic Party.

Claudia Ruddy, St. Petersburg

Doctor chastised over Obama image | July 24

Race isn't the issue

We're seeing more of this "censorship" in the media all the time. Anyone who opposes Barack Obama's policies is a "racist."

I believe Dr. David McKalip when he says he opposes the health plan proposed by Obama. I've seen this e-mail and thought it was funny (if not somewhat truthful), not even thinking about the race aspect.

If this type of e-mail had gone around about former President George W. Bush there would have been no outcry. I've seen worse in your own political cartoons. It's too bad we have to watch Fox News or read e-mail to get the rest of the news. Now you're trying to censor those.

It's time to quit complaining about race when people are actually fed up with massive spending. If we oppose it, we have a right to say so.

Donald W. Light, Dunedin

Doctor chastised over Obama image | July 24

Slights are too frequent

Dr. David McKalip's picture of Barack Obama as a witch doctor really is intolerable. And he's certainly not the first to racially denigrate our president. Recently an aide to a Tennessee state senator sent an e-mail showing the faces of the U.S. presidents. The exception was Obama whose picture was black except for the whites of his eyes. And then there are those who refuse to believe that Obama is a natural-born citizen and thus is not really the president. White people exhibit this attitude of supercilious condescension with alarming frequency.

Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. While we were treated with great kindness and hospitality, I had some small, superficial inkling, for the first time in my life, of what it's like to be a minority. I cannot imagine what our African-American brothers and sisters have had to endure every day of their lives, living in a largely white society that has tried to thwart them at every turn.

Whether we support or oppose the president's policies, we all need to seriously reflect on portraying those views in such an outrageous racial manner. And we all need to exhibit more compassion and inclusiveness for the basic humanity of our fellow citizens.

Mark W. Brandt, Dunedin

As history unfolded | July 19, Commemorative edition

Serving community

I am so grateful to be able to claim the St. Petersburg Times as my local paper. I can recall my prophetic and compassionate former pastor, Jim Holmes, poring over his morning copy and exclaiming to me that the Times was indispensable reading for us Tampa folks.

Later, I came to have a deep appreciation of writers like Peggy Peterman and Bill Maxwell. I only regret that I wasn't able to read and reflect upon the pioneering work of Samuel Adams.

Your lead article last Sunday on the health care "debate" by Susan Taylor Martin is typical of your cutting-edge reporting. And can one say enough about the courageous and eloquent words penned by Robyn Blumner?

Nelson Poynter's belief that the ownership of a newspaper is "a sacred trust and a great privilege" far overriding the need to maximize profits was what true community values are about. Indeed, he did give it all away. It was in that act of personal sacrifice that we begin to understand what it means to serve others.

John Gallo, Ruskin

Commemorative edition

Forgotten again

The St. Petersburg Times has finally convinced me that the Korean war really was the "forgotten" war. Your commemorative edition's time line strangely skips from 1947 to 1954 with no mention of the intervening years.

Where were you during those years? Did publication cease? I know where I was: in Korea on a machine gun with the 1st Cavalry Division, yet for the entire period of that conflict you found not a single event worthy of a headline? What am I missing?

James C. Bitter, Homosassa

Arrest of Harvard professor was a case of poor communication 07/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 25, 2009 8:40pm]
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