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Susan Estrich
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An Educational Moment


"They don't know that you teach at Harvard when you're at Fenway Park," my friend Harry Edwards used to say about living in Boston in the late '70s. Back then, Boston did more than its share to earn a bad reputation among black professionals.

Today, Massachusetts has an African-American governor. The Celtics no longer go out of their way to make sure they have white players. Black fans try as hard as everyone else to find a ticket to Fenway.

And every black I know, male or female, will tell you that black men are treated differently by the police than white men every day of the week.

Why wouldn't they be?

Police departments look very different than they did 20 or 30 years ago, more like the communities they police. You see more women and more minorities, and far more emphasis on community involvement, community policing and building trust.

All of that is definitely better. Tensions have been reduced. Police can do their jobs better as part of the community than from the outside looking in.

But none of that matters very much so long as three-quarters of the inmates are black and Hispanic men.

Assume you're a police officer and you get a report of a possible break-in, you go to the house and find an angry black man.

It might be his house. It might not be. Probably he won't kill you.


Would it have been different if it were my home? Sure. Not long ago, the police came to my house because a neighbor behind me saw someone (my handyman) going in my backdoor. Everyone couldn't have been nicer. I wasn't angry. I would've offered coffee if I'd made some. There was certainly no reason for the police to be afraid, once they saw me. All very pleasant.

I don't blame Professor Gates for reacting to the confrontation with all the anger and hostility you build up after years of putting up with slights, confronting stereotypes, trying to tear down brick walls gracefully while all the time being viewed as someone who might have been wearing a prison jumpsuit in the not-so-distant past. But his anger was directed at the wrong target. I wish Professor Gates and other black leaders would get mad not at the police who behave rationally but at the young, and not so young, hoodlums and hooligans who make it rational to treat black men differently.

There's a great song in "Avenue Q" about how "everyone's a little bit racist sometime." We all are. An afternoon in the Loehmann's dressing room will prove that, in a multilingual chorus. But the most pernicious racism, in the long run, is the kind that is rooted in undeniable reality. The challenge is not to change our attitudes, but to change the reality. Doing that will take more than a few beers on the White House lawn.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



12 Comments | Post Comment
I could not disagree more. To place the blame on black leaders, and by extension, black criminals is not only patently offensive, it is intellectually dishonest. How about reading a black columnist writing that he'd wish the Fratenal Order of Police would stop directing their anger at the black community but at those few, racist cops and the history they all share (and are culpable for). Again, one of the things that I despise is when your positions are filtered by your limousine liberalism. You want to acknowledge our viewpoint but refuse to lay down your steadfast belief in the inalienable goodness of whites. As long as white Americans hold on to this fallacy, we will never get past these issues.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Therren Dunham
Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:44 AM
Better yet, THIS is why I'm teaching my kids to clutch their wallets and purses every time they come across an old white woman; THIS is why I'll teach my sons not to assume the police to be public servants working on their behalf; THIS is why I'll have every interaction with law enforcement videotaped. THIS is why every negative connotation that my people face by those like you, I intend to turn back on its ear: what projects unto me will reflect back to you. It may not matter with onesies and twosies, but at least some of you will know how it feels to be profiled.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Therren Dunham
Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:49 AM
The only thing that I am certain of is that Prof. Gates HAD to have done something wrong. Police don't handcuff people , especially an elderly man, unless they have done something very much out of order. I am NOT STUNNED that analysis of this non-story break down along racial lines. The white pundits favored the police version of events and the Black pundits gave the edge to Prof. Gates. I suspect that the general public would break down in the same manner if polled. And the answer lies in of all things, PROFILING. Blacks tend to have an ingrained distrust of all policemen. Whites tend to look upon police as their friends. When stopped and questioned by police, whites tend to be more co-operative and polite in their dealings. Blacks, from my own first-hand observations, tend to react negatively to any police action that they are involved with. More often than not, they talk themselves into tickets and arrests rather than speaking politely and tamping down situations.
If there is any "TEACHABLE MOMENT" for blacks , it is that they should break free from long held beliefs that a policeman is always the enemy. A little respect goes a long way. Once after being pulled over for a traffic stop in New Jersey, I was able to talk my way out of a speeding ticket. A black friend of mine who was travelling with me, was astounded at how polite I was with the officer and how the officer responded to me. He said that he never could have held his tongue if he had been driving. He hated cops and regarded them as the enemy. A couple of months later, it was his turn to be driving us and he got pulled over. I told him to be very polite and he was. The officer returned the courtesy by giving him a warning ticket . As we resumed our business trip, he commented that he never would have believed that he would not have given a ticket. A lot of these so-called racial profiling arrests happen because blacks show that chip on their shoulder to the police. In effect, they fit the PROFILE.
Comment: #3
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:46 PM
So how is it that the other half of the prison population, that is white criminals, doesn't somehow overwhelm police such that they are incapable of acknowledging law abiding white citizens? In non-major urban areas, the criminals are predominantly white. Would it be safe to assume that there, where the police are dealing with white criminals and not black ones, that blacks wouldn't be profiled? I can tell you right now that neither situation is the case. Did you know that most drug dealers and users are white ... how is it then that most arrested dealers and users are minority? It is because of profiling that blacks overwhelmingly populate prisons, while similar criminal activity is decriminalized among whites. Racism never starts with facts, but with the opportunity to establish oneself as inherently superior. With that belief system in hand, and where the law, tradition and resources allow, the "facts" will then follow to support the belief. It is very sad to witness the absence of a historical perspective in your arguments, as well as your apparent lack in critical thinking ... just what you'd expect from a blonde woman, perhaps?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Debora Beverly
Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:58 PM
Re: robert lipka
Hi, Robert -- reading your comments makes me think of the quote that says the only thing required for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. I'm sure all that you report is 100% true. What you cannot report on are the things you have not witnessed or experienced. In 1976, my 18 year-old brother was surrounded by several police cars and was told to drop to the ground. He obeyed immediately, not saying a single word. A shotgun was placed to his head while an elderly woman looked at him. She told the cops that as she had mentioned earlier, the man who snatched her purse was only a little bit taller than herself and was wearing a jogging suit. She was about 5'4" tall ... my brother was 6'8" tall. So Chicago's finest couldn't discern one black man from another despite an 1-foot difference in height. He was waiting for a bus near Pulaski & Archer Avenue, which at the time was still a "white" area. He was returning from a tutoring assignment. He was wearing a blazer, white shirt, a tie, and black wing tips, his uniform for avoiding police harrassment, and was carrying his differential equations book. At the time he was a freshman attending MIT on scholarship. The knowledge that he could have been severely beatened or killed was not lost on him, nor on the rest of my family. Regrettably, my brother had been so shaken by the incident that he couldn't remember anyone's name or badge number, although he attempted to do so. I experience the violation of this even while retelling this story to you ... I wish I had done more to report that situation. Twenty years later, my son was driving and I was a passenger in his car. We were returning from a wedding in Winnetka. We were stopped around 1 a.m. traveling well within the speed limit. The cop approached the car shining his flashlight directly in my son's eyes. Despite being blinded, my son immediately rolled down his car window and in a clear, calm voice asked, what's the trouble officer? The officer leaned towards the window and while shining the light first at my face and then slowly down the length of my body, asked whether "we were out having a good time"? When my son replied that "my mother and I just attended a wedding and are on our way home," the officer's entire demeanor changed. He asked, "that's your mother"? When my son said yes and again asked what the problem was, the officer said he suspected that my son might be drunk. After administering the appropriate test, he encouraged us to "get on home." Needless to say our joy at attending a friend's wedding had been greatly diminished. Neither of us had had much to drink that evening because my son was driving, and I only drink on occasion. I made the decision to forgo demanding that officer's name and badge, which we couldn't see, for fear of what might happen to my 6'6" son if the situation escalated, particularly as my son has a rare condition involving missing vertebrae in his cervical spine. He could be easily crippled or killed by a blow to the neck. These thoughts raced through my mind as my son said the alphabet backwards. Have you ever had thoughts like those? I can't describe to you the shame and humiliation we each endured in those few minutes. My son was attending Wharton at the time, while I held an MBA from Kellogg. Because the men in my family are all over 6'3", have dark complexions, and deep booming voices, NONE of them EVER loud talk police officers. Yet, these are only TWO such cases of racial profiling that have occurred within my immediate family -- there are literally dozens. The animosity that you witness towards the police by some comes from the fact that many blacks feel that you are going to be harrassed regardless of what you do, so why cooperate -- why be a "punk" AND be harrassed, too? Looking for the genesis of that backlash, please consider that back in my very poor Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago, I witnessed many times, at least five that I can remember specifically, during the early '60s where the cops would pull up suddenly, blocking the streets from both ends, and randomly line up young boys playing in the neighborhood ... usually 5 or 6 guys at a time, 10 to 14 years old, the boys conditioned by their parents not to run from the police ... making them drop their pants and hold their ankles while they were searched. During this process, the police would make vulgar and harrassing comments about the boys, their mothers and their sisters, and then the police would simply drive away. These were the nice boys in our neighborhood who attended school and church, and got good grades and scholarships to college, later. I suppose Dr. Gates responded as he did because he was incensed that no matter what he does, no matter how long he lives, no matter how much he gives back, there is nowhere in this country ... not even his own home, the home of a Harvard professor ... where he is safe from profiling. I do not condone his angry diatribe at that moment, but I share his resentment, disgust, and fear. I believe, too, that if you knew me, my son, and my brother, personally, that you would not want us to have had our lives marred in this way ... that you would stand up for us. It is not up to black leaders to solve this problem, it is up to you ... to all good people to solve this problem, and I have no doubt that you will get the job done, once you decide to do something.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Debora Beverly
Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:15 PM
“Eternal Bull---- from a Liberal Mind”, Staring Susan Estrich --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When it comes to the issue of racism, Liberals are more full-of-it than normal, literally. In my over 40 years of experience, growing up less than a mile from a “black neighbor” in the South, going to the same schools as my black friends, I have come to undeniable truth: he most racist race of people in America is the Black race. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Blacks may have a right to be angry (and I dispute that), but they certainly do not have the right to be angry at me. I have never harmed anyone, including a black person. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The only discriminatory policies backed by the government are in the favor of blacks. Consider my black high school friends. I played football. Our quarterback was black, the running backs were black and wide receiver. Since I lived less than a mile from a “black neighborhood, many of such players lived close to me. I had a car and I would give them a ride home every day after practice. One white guy and three or four black guys in a 1965 Ford Mustang. Those were the days. The other players would make fun of me and say: “There goes the driver of the Soul Train.” I did not care, such guys were my friends and had been from childhood. We went to the same schools, lived in the same general area, and had the same opportunities (which were few), we even dated the same girl on one occasion. But when it came time to go to college, and my black friends and myself applied for college, all of the sudden, to the Admissions office, I was an evil white dude who had been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In contrast, these poor black kids had been discriminated against and not only need to be admitted to college over more qualified whites, such black kids should not have to borrow money like white kids, blacks should go to college free from charge. You talk about putting a bad taste in someone's mouth, I have had to struggle to keep from despising Liberals since that time. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Indeed, Liberals like Susan cannot help but fan the flames of racism. Professor Gates is a hate filled racist, of that I have no doubt. Even more, I contend that he has absolutely no excuse for being a racists; I do not care what is life story happens to be. That said, the most likely rational explanation for gates is that Liberals have made people like Gates hate white people. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But such does not stop Liberals like Susan from propagating their brand of hate usingl grossly unsound logic. Consider this statement by Susan: “But none of that matters very much so long as three-quarters of the inmates are black and Hispanic men.” Such is race bating at its worst by either an (1) IDIOT or (2) an evil person engaging in race bating. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Susan gives absolutely no evidence that even one of such Black or Hispanic men did not commit the crime for which they are serving time (the hidden variable). Liberals never let the facts get in the way of a good story and they love torturing numbers until they confess. Extreme Statistical Manipulation is sport for Liberals and they should teach the subject at their universities. The key to such manipulation is hidden variables. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Consider the following example. Suppose there is data that indicates that in this Southern town having all white firefighters, the more firemen sent to a fire at a building owned by a black, the more damage. The liberal conclusion - - - you guessed it, those evil white racists firemen. The real answer to the puzzle– the bigger the fire the more firefighters that are required and the more property damage done. The statistic that dishonorable Liberals keep from you so they can race bate is the size of the fire. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Back to the racists Professor gates - Susan goes on to state: “I don't blame Professor Gates for reacting to the confrontation with all the anger and hostility you build up after years of putting up with slights, confronting stereotypes, trying to tear down brick walls gracefully while all the time being viewed as someone who might have been wearing a prison jumpsuit in the not-so-distant past.” More liberal bull crap. How bad could Gates' have been for him to end up a professor at Harvard, probably an undeserved affirmative action position? He has been given more of a helping hand than I have ever been given. Indeed, where are all these White Men just waiting to give me stuff? I look and I look and I just cannot find them. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Finally, Susan concludes: “The challenge is not to change our attitudes, but to change the reality.” Wow, more Eternal Bull---- from a Liberal Mind. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The biggest challenge we face in life is to keep Evil from making us Evil. The Black race in America has lost this battle as they (as a group) are the biggest racists in our country. As for me, I have my own demons to fight. I have to focus every day and keep idiot Liberals and blacks from injecting my heart with hate. I am fighting the good fight and I am happy to say that I can still honestly contend I do not hate either.
Comment: #6
Posted by: SusansMirror
Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:23 PM
Re: Therren Dunham

Go ahead, feed your kids hate. You do that and you will only hurt your kids.

Comment: #7
Posted by: SusansMirror
Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:56 PM
Analizing Reality in Cambridge Mass.

At her recent press conference on the Cambridge Common, Ms. Whalen, the 911 caller, says she was initially alerted to the suspicious activity at the Gates house by an “elderly woman. So now we have the introduction of a mysterious "elderly woman" as the cause of it all (it's always wise to hire a lawyer in situations like this). The media will trace down the "elderly woman" and find that her DNA is 100% white and that she's a Republican. We'll finally have our racist and be able go about our business again with the assurance that all is as it should be. But wait, is it possible that there is a history of animosity between persons of Portuguese heritage, as Ms. Whalen, and people who “look kind of Hispanic” as she stated in her 911 call?

Comment: #8
Posted by: mjayr1
Sat Aug 1, 2009 11:27 AM
When I was 17, I entered my parent's home, not realizing they had armed their alarm system. They were expecting me, but I arrived early. The police were there in moments. And there I was, a white, upper middle class kid, surrounded by police. It was quite clear that had I put up any resistance to the questions they were asking me, I would have been led away in handcuffs. If I would have started yelling about being discriminated against because of the way I looked, or become in any way confrontational, things would have gone south in a hurry. And I am glad they would have, because had I been anyone but me, the police would have prevented a crime. I am not surprised that Gates tried to get as much mileage out of this as he could. He will exploit any opportunity to broadcast his beliefs, even if the opportunity has to be stretched a little, as this one clearly was.

Comment: #9
Posted by: Bridget
Sat Aug 1, 2009 2:08 PM
Dear Deborah Beverly,
How coincidental that your last name and the name of my black business partner are the same. He often told me stories similar to what your brother encountered. I have been aware of racial profiling for many years BUT I also know that HOW a black responds to police situations goes a long way to explain the end result of a traffic stop or a street stop. Blacks MUST begin to change their attitude toward the police. One thing that is helping in that effort is that police of ALL different races are now being hired by police forces throughout the land. When police forces reflect the population in many areas, the incidents of racial profiling will go down. But blacks have to help in that effort by changing attitudes from distrust of the police to regarding them as their protectors. Have a nice day.
Comment: #10
Posted by: robert lipka
Sun Aug 2, 2009 4:27 PM
I have been following this case since my husband is a retired police sgt. I agree with you Susan the anger should not be at the police officer but those of the black race who commit the crimes. I am a high school nurse in AZ and I am originally from Camden, NJ. I had a black male who had the attitude that he wanted me to be afraid of him. I confronted him and told him I am not afraid of him to cut the attitude and talk. We did talk and he stated that is his defense from living in Detroit and having to be on guard for his life all the time. We discussed the inter city mentality and survival and now he comes to see me all the time just to chat. He finally realized he did not have to be that way anymore especially here where I work. He is a respected basketball player now and is enjoying his high school years. I blame Al Sharptom and Jessie Jackson along with the media for keeping racism alive just for money. Al and Jessie make money off those of their race and take advantage of their own people in the name of justice. I do not know how they can call themselves Rev. and don't fear God. I worked in a inter city doing homecare and I loved it and the people of all color loved me. It comes down to respect. The news media and our politicans even this president is using the race card when things do not go their way. This is teaching the younger to do this instead of taking the issue and dealing with it. We are responsible for our actions and deeds.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Mon Aug 3, 2009 7:50 AM
Ms Estridge...Really..!, your article ( the Gates-Gate incident) doesn't surprize me. You "creatively" spread icing on the "cake" in a manner to promulgate racism in this nation... ( my opinion) . Your doing so in my opinion ( and others) is "pissing" off a lot of good black / minority cops.... and whites as recorded / aired by the honorable black female cop who personally knew the white officer involved for over 15 years. Maybe your column was written BEFORE you had the "facts" as Obama had done? There were present a (1) white, (2) hispanic and (3) black officer at the "Gates" incident. Ms Estridge, I've often read your know my "enemy" as I've always known your socialistic views since the 1970's. But, you're allowed free speach. I.E "The Constitution & The Bill of Rights". Perhaps your now opinion is "divide & conquer". Due to immediate "news" available today....not like in the 60's when you 1st came "about", the times have changed. Ordinary "folks"....those that eat "cake" know what's going on and don't listen to the general ( gov't BOUGHT) media....BUT choose "other" believeable media. No Susan.. IF I may...Gates PLAYED THE RACE CARD!.....because of his arrogant attitude and the FACT that he HAD to OBEY THE LAW!....Race had NOTHING to do with his arrest. He WANTED to CHALLENGE the officer..aND the law! PERIOD! Gates has a "questionable" background anyway.. which many of the readers here ..probably.. will never search about. For one, he is a "closet" communist.. socialist...and marxist teaching in one of this "Capitolistic" nation's most notable collleges. Also.. he's a TRUE "affirmative-action LOSER "butthead"! Condolezza Rice has more credentails in her "pinky finger".. than this guy! .. AS does Justice Clarence Thomas and MANY others such as Dr. Thomas Sowell, or Prof. Walter Williams... all NOTIBLE blacks.. which you NEVER mention in your writings... do you? Susan?...WHY?....Might you mention WHY? What's his ( Gates) "preaching" to the young minds in his classrooms?........more US destabilization? Obama ( NObama) was taught by his "REV. Wright"? Have a nice day, Ms Estridge... there are THOSE of us "watching" and listening to folks like you in your rhetoric. .. "we" keep" our ears to the ground. We pay SIGNIFICANT TAXES! Actually, I think as time is passing, you are "melllowing" in your anarchistic views ( my opinion) about OUR country. After all... you get a good CAPITALISTIC salary.. as an educator and a writer!.......what more could one ask for?...Believe it or not... I've noticed that you are "maturing" in your hatred for our nation which has brought you prosperity and continues to do so. Would you think that could be done in South America today? For reference sake, I'm only slightly older than you....and , perhaps have an income about the same. I wish you the best , Ms Estridge. ( Susan, If I may). Regards Dudge.
Comment: #12
Posted by: dudge
Mon Aug 3, 2009 6:52 PM
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