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"Is it because I is black?" was the catchphrase of Ali G, Sacha Baron-Cohen's spoof black character, who managed to dupe worthy and po-faced members of the pussyfooting public into taking him seriously. Because he was perceived as black, and maybe even Muslim, no leftist could take him to task when he came out with the most outrageously sexist or idiotic comments. And more than once he used his bogus blackness to question the motives of a policeman. Only on that occasion did he get a dusty - or dusky? - answer. "Is it because I is black?" "No, it's because of what you're doing." Content of character is all - a black man said that, so it must be true.
Sergeant James Crowley showed the same professional detachment in dealing with Henry Gates, when the latter was disorderly and abusive. Henry Gates is black and a "Harvard scholar", but Crowley showed neither fear nor favour. For this the police has been criticised by another overpromoted black mediocrity, Barack Obama. Rightly, Crowley refuses to apologise; nor should he, for he has done nothing wrong.
I have only just caught up with story. Hugh feels strongly about it and has posted on a number of occasions. I particularly like this comment:
Identity politics, identity academic politics, identity everything. That’s the world we live in. Don't tell me what you know or what you think. Tell me, please, your race, religion, ethnic background, and what you like to do, as Nabokov once wrote, with your "poor little genitals." Then, and only then, will I be able to decide if you even have a right to express a thought or an opinion about this, or about that.
Today Roger Kimball weighs in, and is similarly scathing about pleading racism:
What, in that policeman’s shoes, would you have done? I would have done exactly what the chap in question did: “Wot’s all this?” followed by a demand for some identification.
Here comes the outrage, and the embarrassment. 95 percent of it belongs to Harvard’s famous Professor of Afro-American studies, who responded to the request for identification with “Why, because I’m a black man in America?” and then, having produced the requested documents, embarked on making a loud scene with the police outside his house. Result: arrest for disorderly conduct, handcuffs, and a free ride in a police cruiser.
You can scarcely find a mention of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that does not assure you of his eminence and scholarly distinction. Don’t believe it. To call him second rate is a calumny upon respectable mediocrity. He is a desperately pedestrian scholar who, except for the accident of skin color, would be lucky to be teaching at the University of Southern North Dakota, Hoople. Instead he is the Yada-yada-yada Professor of racial grievance &c &c at Harvard. Some future anthropologist will set the record straight.
The second point concerns Gates’s favorite (really his only) intellectual gambit: playing the race card. His scholarship is concerned with nothing else, and he has just demonstrated that his academic interests are all of a piece with his amour propre. Gates claims to want to push beyond racialism, but his every move, personal as well as intellectual, depends upon and reinforces it.
More and more, I am coming to the conclusion that anyone who uses the word "racism" should be summarily disbelieved and dismissed as a fool.