Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yes, Americans Need More Social Equality

Different strokes for different folks is sill alive and well in the United States. Sadly enough, the latest incident with Professor Gates in Cambridge, Massachusetts highlights the ubiquity of the problem. A police officer arrested a householder without reading him his Miranda rights, believing said householder had broken into his own home. This highly respected African-American friend of the President wants to publicize his mistreatment, and rightly so.

Living in America for the last thirty years, I like to think racism isn't as prevalent in Canada, my "country of origin". I believe we all tend to view our own countries with affection and tend to rewrite our memories with happier translations. Perhaps racism is a feature of living that we recognize in others when it happens, but rarely recognize it in ourselves. It has to be pointed out to us to change it. Americans needed to be reminded of how easily racism slips in.

What bothered Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" today about the Gates arrest, was how easily it happened.

What I find rather disturbing is the lack of police supervision. The President last evening in his press conference said that the Cambridge police acted "stupidly". Barbara Walters on "The View" took issue with it, saying that it was his choice of wording that is disturbing. She says that what bothers the press is that he could have used another word, or supposedly phrased it more diplomatically. But why should the President have done that? Expressing his sentiment less forcefully would have sounded supportive of this police action.

President Obama called it as he saw it. He himself holds the position of Chief Enforcement Officer in the United States, with ultimate titular responsibility for all the actions of the local police forces in the country. What an immensely improbable and aspirational title this is. It seems to me that police forces in this country are generally not accountable to a higher authority. After all, the President can't answer for all police officers, and there isn't another layer of supervision in between! While I am someone who has respect for the police, in general, I have to say I often wonder whom they fear. Local police in the next little town to us has "Personalized Police Force" painted onto their cars!

It is true that there is still inequality all over this country, despite the homogeneity of the culture. Some areas, as another example, have less frantic, more personalized postal attention than others. Yes, some in America get better attention than others. Does that have to be the way it is? Social equality is a value that defines a democracy.

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