Monday, July 27, 2009

"Dis"Respect the Hierarchy

by Cavebat

I've been there.

When the police – thankfully – show up because they've gotten the word of a possible break-in. In my case, it's been the alarm company alerting them, rather than a nosy neighbor. But it's still the same story, a warning to the people willing to save me that I might need to be saved.

I didn't.

But they still came.

More than once. (*cringe*)

What I've done (more than once) is put the alarm on, forget about it, and take the dogs out. So there I am when the police roll up in their cruiser, standing outside my home, in the yard, in the dark. I explain to them over the 2 barking dogs that I forgot about the alarm. I'm mortified, I'm apologetic, I'm thankful, I'm respectful.

But I'm not black.

They listen, they mask their irritation, they roll off. They don't ask me for ID, they don't grill me, they don't actually do anything to make sure my story is true. They accept me at my word and move on.

But I'm not black.

Which begs the question, why do we allow that to matter? If I happened to be innocently speaking with any of my neighbors who are black, would the police be allowed to treat me differently when they arrived? If the young black man who lives next door happened to be walking up to HIS house at the same moment, would that turn our idyllic mise-en-scène into a potential crime scene? With him hand-cuffed outside his home, and all parties reduced to barking wildly at each other?

My young, gentlemanly neighbor may very well know that he has one option in that scene, and that is to act subservient, do not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form, and say "sir" as many times as possible.

Our President certainly knows that that is his only option.

He forgot it for a moment.

He thought that speaking precisely would obviate his status as a black man who needs to bow before the hierarchy, knowing full well that even a highly intelligent person can "act stupidly." So that saying someone acted stupidly is not equivalent to calling them stupid. Nor does saying that when one person acts stupidly in their job it means that every other person in that job in the entire country is stupid.

But the President got the message loud and clear that he forgot his place and acted uppity.

Now he has remembered. It took one phone call with a cop to remind him that his
only option is to act subservient, do not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form, and say "sir" as many times as possible.

Now, to the President, his "brother" is no longer justifiably outraged. The brother forgot to hang his cane on the doorknob and bow down. The brother forgot to be set aside his PhDs and lifetime of service and pretend to be subservient. The brother forgot to say "sir."

In the President's view, this grown man is not allowed to be exhausted from a long journey, be irritated and aggravated at his stupid door that's stuck AGAIN, he's not allowed to be FED UP with a lifetime of injustice and just be allowed to get into the sanctuary of his own home, to be left alone, take a hot shower, and go to bed.


He has to shuffle. He has to be nice. And passive. And say "sir" as many times as possible.

I have a saying at work – it keeps me in line, and I repeat it for others who need it. "Respect the hierarchy. Even if you don't respect the person." But the reason we need to repeat that, the reason that we are obligated to follow those words at work, is because we have VOLUNTARILY joined that hierarchy. If you work in a corporation, then you voluntarily join that hierarchy. So you have no choice but to respect it.

But it doesn't apply to society. It doesn't apply outside of those who voluntarily joined. There's no hierarchy in life that says that I have to say "sir" as many times as possible, and that if I don't it's a crime.

Those who take the job to protect me deserve my utmost respect for the job that they do, and they have it. They are willing to put their lives on the line to keep me safe. They have my undying gratitude and my sincere respect.

But when one of them fails in their duties – when they abuse the power I have entrusted them with, then in return they lose my respect.

And when someone on the receiving end at that abuse of power gets hauled away in handcuffs, guilty of being black, then we are one step closer to anarchy. And all of us, those that might get hauled away, as well as those who never will, need to stop tolerating that behavior.

How do we end the cycle of abuse when we placate the abuser, and insult the victim as having "overreacted?"

Because nothing is more discouraging about seeing an end to racial division and inequality in our lifetime than seeing our President be put back in his place, again required to be subservient to that power, bowing to that abuse of power. Publicly playing out his one option to not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form.

And saying "sir" as many times as possible.


Anonymous said...

The police report says that Professor Gates said something about the policeman's mother. I don't care who you are, if you say something about a policeman's mother in any situation you are making trouble for yourself.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you believe the police report AdamH! The things I can tell you about police reports.

I guess it's possible that Gates did this; but have you ever heard Gates debate? He's a pretty smart guy. I'm surprised he would use this tactic in a disagreement.

Anonymous said...

I take it that AdamH is trying to be funny. Ha ha. But that's really about the stupidest comment I could imagine anyone making on such an astute posting. In fact, it really pisses me off to hear such trite stupidity! Makes me want to find out who you are, put on my cop uniform and come to your house and throw your ass in handcuffs! And you better not be black because I don't know what else I'd do if there are no cameras around...

But seriously, no cop should be so thin-skinned as to become vindictive toward a person for exercising their right to cuss them out from inside his own home. Free speech is free speech, baby - even if it is inflammatory. If you don't have it inside your own home, it doesn't exist. If it does still exist then arresting Gates can only be seen purely vindictive and stupid. All those cops should have just gotten their asses off his god damn property after he proved that it was his property.

Alfalafool/ said...

A current article at is one of the most insightful analyses I've ever read on the collective mindset that so much of "white America" buys into. I am a product of that mindset myself - though in no way do I ever feel compelled to propagate it.

It is not "white guilt" that I feel. I just do not understand why so many white people find it so hard to denounce racism except when they feel it affects "their own race" in some perverse idea of "reverse" racism.

What do any of US get out of that? How do whites ever feel like we all have anything in common other than our imaginary sense of superiority. Superiority owing to what? I don't get it.