Thursday, July 23, 2009

An excerpt from Henry Louis Gates' writing

From “THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK MAN,” published in The New Yorker on October 23, 1995.
The author, Henry Louis Gates was recently arrested inside his own home after a white neighbor allegedly called up the cops on him on suspicion that he was a thief...

Yet you need nothing so grand as an epistemic rupture to explain why different people weigh the evidence of authority differently. In the words of the cunning Republican campaign slogan, "Who do you trust?" It's a commonplace that white folks trust the police and black folks don't. Whites recognize this in the abstract, but they're continually surprised at the depth of black wariness. They shouldn't be. Norman Podhoretz's soul-searching 1963 essay, "My Negro Problem, and Ours'' - one of the frankest accounts we have of liberalism and race resentment - tells of a Brooklyn boyhood spent under the shadow of carefree, cruel Negro assailants, and of the author's residual unease when he passes groups of blacks in his Upper West Side neighborhood. And yet, he notes in a crucial passage, "I know now, as I did not know when I was a child, that power is on my side, that the police are working for me and not for them." That ordinary, unremarkable comfort - the feeling that "the police are working for me" - continues to elude blacks, even many successful blacks. Thelma Golden, the curator of the Whitney's "Black Male" show, points out that on the very day the verdict (here he is referring to the O J Simpson's guilty verdict) was announced a black man in Harlem was killed by the police under disputed circumstances. As older blacks like to repeat, "When white folks say 'justice,' they mean 'just us'."

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