Thursday, July 23, 2009

“Gatesgate”: A White Rodney King Moment?

Sometimes in history, seemingly small and circumscribed moments turn out, later by hindsight, to have triggered a chain-reaction of events that eventually resulted in a much larger, if not cataclysmic sociopolitical process.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 was one such moment in history that at the time, while of course a shocking tragedy, seemed circumscribed. Nobody could have dreamed it would set off a chain-reaction of events leading to World War One.

On a much smaller scale—though still sociopolitically significant and convulsive—was the videotaped arrest of Rodney King in 1991. No one at the time could have dreamed that less than a year later, when the verdict insufficiently punishing key police officers involved in his arrest was publicized, that major race riots would ensue and a new “discussion” of race in America was infused with more urgency.

I could be wrong, but I get a sense that “Gatesgate” may be just such a seemingly small and circumscribed moment that will trigger a chain-reaction of events leading to a much larger sociopolitical convulsion and reconfiguration: the beginning of the process of a sufficiently representative segment of white America in effect saying:

“Ok, enough is enough with this eternal whining about “racism in America”: shut up and enjoy the least racist, most prosperous (even with our current financial crissis) and most just society in the world—and then we'll talk about continuing to improve and “change” America for the better. Capisce?”

Just to pluck a couple of examples out of a purple pimp hat, there were the intolerable incidents of comedian Michael Richards (“Cosmo Kramer” of Seinfeld) and radio pundit Don Imus, whose careers were ruined by tiny slip-ups of public remarks that seemed racist. Even after Richards issued several abjectly grovelling apologies, practically on his hands and knees, it still wasn’t enough. He has been forever relegated to the outer limbo where neo-Nazis, skinheads and the KKK reside. It is preposterous, absurd, and infuriating that America allowed this to happen.

Reading the over 800 comments about “Gatesgate” on the official Boston Globe website certainly indicates (if those commenters are representative, that is) that most Americans are getting fed up.

The best source for information and analysis on the recent melt-down of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates is on Lawrence Auster’s website. The reader can just go there and scroll down to sample the dozen plus articles he has posted, and continues to post every day. The reader can also go directly to this overview which Auster has provided as a collection of the most important links and discussions.


If this is a white Rodney King moment, will whites rampage in various cities around America in race riots, and then follow that up with 20 years of intolerable demands and expectations, laced with lynchings and other violent crimes against blacks, as a disturbing number of their black fellow citizens have in fact done against whites? No. We don’t roll that way. Too many of us in the past did roll that way. But apparently we are capable of that novel sociopolitical virtue: evolution. All we want is for the pendulum to be moved back toward the center from its ridiculous extreme. How can that process begin? One important way is for the discussion about race to become honest, candid and free, without the ever-present threat of being called a “racist” and having one’s career ruined (or worse) whenever one makes a small mistake in locution that angers the Big Brother guardians of the PC Newspeak.

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