Behind Bars

Beyond a Beer With the Boys

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

If the arrest, humiliation and resultant brouhaha over the case of Harvard scholar, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, has taught us anything, it is that we still dwell in separate worlds—ones which rarely meet.

And while some wags have rushed to tell us that the case shows us the continuous clash of class, I beg to differ.

If anything, it shows us just the opposite. When it comes to Black people, of whatever wealth, status, class or prominence, the normal rules don’t apply.

Indeed, Blacks are the ever-present exceptions to the rules.

Consider this: Americans have said and believed for the better part of a century, that saying, “A man’s home is his castle.”

Not Black men.

How else could “Skip” Gates get busted on his doorstep—for disturbing a non-existing peace?

In law, a homeowner’s property rights don’t end at his front door. It extends to the street, at the curbside. This is an appurtenance.

Imagine if a person slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of a home. That person has a claim on the homeowner, not the city.

“Skip” Gates was busted not because he violated the law, but because he violated the emotions of the cop who entered his house. He angered him when he initially refused to exit his house and he angered him further when Professor Gates demanded the cop’s ID.

President Barack Obama was right when he called the bust “stupid,” but, as usual, politics prevailed when American rednecks responded with howls of protest. (One need look no further than the email sent by a Boston cop in response to the Gates case, where the distinguished educator was described as a “jungle monkey”—no, a “banana-eating jungle monkey,” if memory serves! Furthermore, imagine what it takes, not just to write this—but to write this to a reporter).

They took it personally—just as the cop in Gates’ home took it personally.

Will a beer with the boys put this fire out?

I doubt it. For it ignores what happens everyday, in dozens of states, to countless men and women who don’t have Harvard PhDs, or friends in the White House.

The sad truth is, being Black in America is akin to being born low-caste in India, where separate and unequal rules remain, despite promises in their constitution.

Obama’s election hasn’t changed reality, but may mask it, by providing cover for the ugly things that Blacks endure in a nation where the elites claim a false “post-racialism.”

A few brewskis ain’t gonna change that either., July 30, 2009