Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gates & Crowley - It Takes Two To Tango

Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley could both benefit from an honest look at the behaviors that each of them contributed to their recent arrest fiasco and the subsequent media circus.

In my mind, racism and its related open wound, are key factors in the whole matter. But, other factors, and some big fat male egos, come into play too.

Would the woman who called-in the initial 911 report have called the police if the men she saw breaking-into Gates house were white? Honestly, we will never know how much of the motivation behind the woman's call came from racial profiling and how much was from her concern as a neighbor.

Likewise, we don't have a video tape of the arrest scene. So we will never really know how things played out when Crowley showed up. However, my 20 years as a mediator has taught me that in almost every human conflict, it takes two to tango. So I believe that both men contributed to the escalation of the conflict. And, while race is one of the factors that influenced both men before, during and after the arrest incident, power and ego also came into play.

Gates is calling for an apology. And, at this point, in the court of public opinion, Crowley would be wise to offer one. Here is what he could say and still save face:

"Needless to say, this incident was most unfortunate and I am sorry that it has caused Dr. Gates suffering and stress. I was called to the house for a reported break-in and sadly things escalated before it became clear that this was Dr. Gates' home. I hope that Dr Gates knows that it was my intention to protect this home, as I would want to protect any home in Cambridge. I can understand how upsetting it must have been for Dr Gates to have the police show up on his doorstep, especially since he was already dealing with the frustration of being locked out. Under different circumstances I believe that Dr Gates would have conveyed the facts to me and we would not be here now. Once again, I am sorry for the suffering and stress that Dr. Gates has endured in relation to this incident."

Likewise, Dr Gates can take this mishap and turn it into an opportunity for opening up a worthwhile and meaningful dialogue on race and racial relations. Hopefully, he will choose this path and avoid putting himself into the whinney victim stance that we often see in reaction to feelings of dismissed, discounted, disrespected, or disenfranchised.