This Henry Louis Gates arrest story has just preempted my Michael Vick post, but I guess Vick can wait, seeing as he isn't likely to be doing a whole lot just yet after getting his ankle bracelet off yesterday.
I read the Gates arrest police report earlier, but after chairing a grand jury last year, I figured I might want to wait until more information came out. I went to The Root right away, because you might as well call it "The Blog Skip Gates Built", but nothing was there - my man The Field Negro must have popped over there right when they were finally posting a statement from the Good Post Hole Digger's people.
So we've got two stories. And you know how these "he said, he said" deals work.
...about three months ago, when the kitchen sink stopped up one evening, I walked over to the neighbor's house to my right in that dusky hour before it got completely dark and knocked on their front door. My neighbors on both sides each have fully stocked professional tool chests, which I have come to see as a sort of tool "library" if you will, places where I could check out specialized tools, like the pipe wrench I was looking for that evening to loosen a too tight coupling underneath our sink.
I knocked once on the door of the house on the right, waited a few seconds, then knocked again. I stood there in front of the full length glass panels that flanked their solid wood door until I figured they must not have been home. The other neighbor answered right away, probably to escape for a few seconds the crying child I'd heard wailing when I knocked on their door, and produced the massive wrench I was looking for in seconds.
I was underneath the sink in the kitchen five minutes later, about to unscrew the u-shaped joint under the sink, when the doorbell rang. S. was doing something that made me the closest one to the door, so I got up, dried my hands, and trudged reluctantly to the front door.
The woman of the house to my right stood there, her feline Puerto Rican eyes flashing concern. "Is everything alright?"
"No," I said. "The damn sink is stopped up."
She turned and yelled to her husband, a white, Seattle bred tree hugger who is nonetheless a pretty nice guy, "they're okay."
Now I was confused. As the husband walked up to the door, the wife explained. "I saw someone at the door earlier. When my husband asked me who it was, I said 'its some black guy.' It didn't come to me that it might be you until after you'd left. Then we wondered why you would be knocking on our door - we wondered if it was an emergency - so we came over."
The husband laughed sheepishly. "I sent my wife to the door. I stood back just in case someone needed to run for help."
I've lived next door to these people since 2006. We don't have as intimate a relationship as we had with our last set of neighbors, who could give us a running account of who was at our house, how long they stayed, and what kind of car they drove, even if it was in the middle of the night. But I make small talk with these people - with the husband at least twice a week while he's outside, and with the wife whenever I run into her, which is a few times a month.
Yet I was "some black guy", just like that.
I guess Dr. Gates has even less of a relationship with his neighbors than I do with mine if one of them can not only mistake him for a burgular, but sustain this belief long enough to call the police, and THEN refuse to intervene when it becomes obvious that the black man in question is the actual owner of the house.
If I was Dr. Gates, I'd save my indignance for her trifling ass.
Gates is probably never home. Probably has a gardener to do his yard, a handyman to do the little things that need doing around a house. Probably gets his car washed at a local detailer. His neighbor may have had a better chance to get to know him through his TV specials than by speaking to him across the hydrangea bush.
But unless she moved there in the last month or two, it's mighty mighty hard to believe that she had NO IDEA what he looked like. Mighty, mighty damn hard.
I trim our hedges, tackle a few of the things that need to be done outside (so long as they aren't too high off the ground) and wash the cars myself, often while smoking a cigar. Actually, most of the stuff I do outside is while smoking a cigar.
So my neighbors, like it or not, see me and smell my stogie while they are walking the dog, going out to dinner, or welcoming guests into their homes.
My neighbors really had no excuse, even if it was approaching dark, to claim that they had mistaken me for someone else, not with the large, distinctive head shape I've got.
I believe there is something ugly going on between Gates and his neighbor, possibly something that he may not even be aware of.
I'll start the bidding at "she hates his highly educated, often celebrated Afro American guts, and wishes with a blazing fervor that he would just carry his black ass back to West Virginia, or whatever African country his DNA says his ancestors came from."
And Doc, the next time the cops show up, SHOW THEM YOUR I.D. OFF THE RIP!
We've got a long way to go, not only here in America, but around the world, to get to where we actually start living those ivory tower ideals you like to talk about when you are on PBS.