Day before yesterday, right after I got to work and as I was sitting at my desk, three or four of the guys were standing a few feet away talking about the Henry Gates arrest in Cambridge and subsequent controversy. Needless to say, they were doing little more than confirming to each other Sgt. James Crowley's version. I didn't say anything.
When they were done, one of them, a close friend, turned to me and asked, "Have you ever supported the white guy in a situation like this?" I guess it was because he figured liberals would always accept the black guy's version - regardless of the circumstances.
Truth is, I hadn't formed an opinion because I didn't have all the facts then - and I still don't.
Here we have a black professor: well known, physically unimposing, unarmed and with no history of violence whatsoever, claiming to be a victim of racial profiling, police intimidation and false arrest on trumped up charges. On the other hand we have the account of the officer, a man apparently without a history of racial confrontation, who claims he made the arrest because he feared for his life.
Both men are probably telling some of the truth, but one of them is guilty and I don't know which. This got me to thinking.
Much as we would like, we will probably never know the entire truth about what happened that day. Its the typical "he said she said" moment. Are there bigoted white cops out there who abuse their commissions to commit acts of racism? You bet there are. Are there blacks out there who, in situations like this, would cynically manipulate a history of racial prejudice to avoid guilt? Ditto. So in this case, I guess the best you can do is just roll the dice and take your pick.
I'm not going to end this with some kind of namby-pamby, catchall version of this affair where we conclude that both were honorable men, both over-reacted and neither of them is to blame. Hogwash. As I said, one of them is guilty - but only they know which.
If there is anything to be learned here, it isn't who was guilty and why. It is who we chose to believe and why. And, having made that choice, no manner of additional information, up to and including a complete, video recording of the entire event, is going to change most people's minds. Its just in our nature - and that's the saddest part. What do you think?