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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dear human beings on Earth

The cop who arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr. should apologize for being an idiot. And the neighbor that called the cops should publicly apologize for being a racist.

Do you know who shouldn't be even ASKED to defend themselves? Gates and the President. Who are simply acting like rational people in the face of all-too-typical bias and abuse of power.

Sometimes, the press just makes me want to puke.


Thomas Garvey said...

Did you mean from your post title that you are not actually on earth? Perhaps! I think it's fairly clear by now that the cop was certainly pissed off by Gates's behavior, but was not racist. If you insult a cop, he has the discretion to arrest you, whether you're black or white. Plus, now that the existence of tapes of the exchanges in question has come clear, Gates has turned down the volume, which should tell you something. Perhaps he's begun to realize that he might look very bad once the actual facts are made public, and this whole imbroglio may not turn into the cultural (and literal) payday he was probably hoping for. Even the woman who put in the call, it turns out, did not mention the race of the men involved (there's proof of that on file, too). So this was definitely not racial profiling. Looking back, the whole thing looks rather ridiculous, and somehow insulting, I think, to the actual victims of real racial profiling.

Freeman said...

I guess I meant (in my clumsy way) that those who think there is some debate to be had about the incident are living on some other planet.

I find it odd that Gates, getting into his own home, was considered breaking in. One has to wonder if the woman that called saw a black person and assumed a crime was being committed. I think that's a fair question.

Either way, arresting Gates was absurd. He turned down the volume in order to make it possible to be discussed. He didn't back off from his feeling that his arrest had a racial element, and neither did Obama.

Thomas Garvey said...

Matthew, you are almost adamantly not paying attention. It came out three days ago that the woman did not mention in her call the race of the people she believed were breaking into Gates's home. And we can't judge whether or not arresting Gates was "absurd" without direct evidence of their exchanges (alas, despite the rumors, the tapes don't clearly reveal Gates's behavior, although the officer sounds calm and professional on them). I understand that to you a possible element of racism - silly as that seems in Cambridge, Mass. - is the salient point about this incident. But to many other people, it's more about respecting the authority of the police, and their discretion to do their jobs. There's also a much more obvious dose of class prejudice, rather than racial prejudice, going on here. The liberal defenders of Gates are, indeed, acting like "elites" - they're practically following the Republican playbook without even being asked. Until they understand that and adjust course, Obama's efficacy as a president will be compromised.

Freeman said...


I find the idea that the police, in this circumstance, have an authority that is to be entirely respected is a bit absurd. First of all, when Gates showed without any doubt that he was, in fact, in his own home, and was not breaking any laws, then that should have been the end of it. I'm highly suspicious, as we all should be, of a police force that feels they are within their rights to arrest and detain someone for being, simply, angry at their treatment.

If there is a class element to this, I would argue that it shows that a black man of a certain class is still less likely to be treated with the same respect that a white man of the same class by the police. Can you imagine this same incident happening to a white professor in his own home? Having provided identification?

Gates is a nearly 60 year old man that walks with a cane. Even at his most angry, what threat did he pose to this police officer? Or to his Cambridge community where, by all accounts, he is known as popular and beloved?

In fact, it was Crowley who claimed on his police report that the 911 caller mentioned black men. So...why did his report differ from the caller? Did he think it would justify his behavior by writing it up this way? In fact, the 911 caller has claimed that much of Crowley's report was false. She says she never spoke to him at the scene for example. Crowley claimed he spoke to her directly.

You can read the police report here:


I can't imagine why we would trust the faulty report of an officer who clearly made a big mistake, and not Gates and, in fact, the woman that called the police? This officer, somehow, is beyond reproach, because he's a white man with a badge? And Gates, the one of the nation's foremost black scholars, is suddenly a scofflaw?

Imagine this scenario with a white man. It's blatantly impossible. Even if Gates did raise his voice at the prospect of being told by a cop that he was breaking into his own home...I don't blame him at all. And I don't think its grounds for arrest.

Freedom of speech, and NOT breaking the law, should trump the pride of a police officer that overstepped his authority on a bad call.

Your assertion that Obama's efficacy as President is compromised by this is bizarre to me. In what way? Because there are citizens who rightly identify racism? Obama's handled this with class, and that's all he can be expected to do. So far, he's passed major legislation, possibly kept a recession from becoming a depression, and used his political capital to fight for Health Care Reform. I don't see, really, any evidence that he's doing anything expect his job. And doing it far better than his predecessor.

Freeman said...

And I also would stress that it's interesting how my attitude would be deemed an elitist one. I'm the son of a schoolteacher and a minister, grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and I scrape by with an office job. I didn't go to an Ivy League school. I don't have a master's or a doctorate.

Applying the term "elite" to my attitude shows just how hollow the term is. It's a term that is used to dismiss liberal attitudes by painting them as out of the mainstream. Well, I am most certainly in the mainstream, along with the rest of the country that voted for the incredibly popular President and makes less than $100,000 a year and has four years of college.

I don't believe these things because I'm an elitist. I believe them because I don't believe those in power should abuse their power, and that we shouldn't shy away from confronting the continuing challenges that black men face in America.

Look at Gates mug shot should have sent chills down the spine of this country. Instead, we are incapable of having a discussion about the subject at hand. We fall into the trap of discussing the minutiae as a way of dismissing those that political disagree with us. It took this country less than a day to avoid the shock of seeing Henry Louis Gates Jr arrested in his home for committing no crime at all; and directly into a discussion about who's a kneejerk liberal or if it's okay to call a cop stupid.

It's absolutely disturbing. And yes, absurd.

Freeman said...

And finally...
forgive my typos crew. I'm writing this on the fly. Sigh.

Freeman said...

Also, the neighbor doesn't appear to have noted the race of the men in her call. That was an assumption on my part from the original post, and it's likely wrong. But that mistake that I (and plenty of people made) five days ago when I wrote the initial post isn't as important as what actually happened to Gates.

Thomas Garvey said...

Oh, for heaven's sake. The woman did, indeed, speak to Officer Crowley, despite your inaccurate claim to the contrary. She simply claims that she didn't mention the intruders' race (and she probably didn't). That Officer Crowley then mis-remembered their exchange is most likely a classic case of inaccurate memory due to later experience (the men turned out to be African-Americans).

As for Gates's mug shot "sending a chill down the spine" - oh please, LOL!

Just btw, the funniest thing about this whole teapot-tempest is the fact that when asked to identify himself, Gates instinctively pulled out his HARVARD ID. Because, of course, that is his identity, even if it was useless in proving that he belonged in the building - and, of course, it was a flapping banner of class privilege, and Gates no doubt grew more enraged when it wasn't recognized as such. (Hence the apparent attempts to reach the Cambridge Chief of Police, and the threats that "you don't know who you're messing with".)

As for your being "suspicious" of the fact that the police can arrest you on the basis of provocation - well, suspect away, but that's the way it is, has always been, and will always be. Note Gates was not, actually "detained," or charged with a crime - he took a ride downtown, that's all. And yes, police can do that - in fact they have to have that discretion to do their job.

As for your being "in the mainstream" - again, oh please. How self-deluded can you be? You socialize with people who agree with you - that hardly puts you in the mainstream. And the President is not "incredibly popular" anymore - his popularity is slipping, and his legislative program is stalled. People like you aren't helping him. That's what I meant about his "losing efficacy."

And no, what happened to Gates is not important in any way. Except as a potential way for liberals to unthinkingly tar Obama.

Freeman said...


The fact that a mug shot of Henry Louis Gates inspires an "LOL" from you also sends a chill down the spine. I'd also say that this defense of the authority of the police to simply detain anyone they choose is just a fundamental difference between us. Just because something is so, doesn't make it right. And it doesn't mean power can't be abused. In fact, having power gives you the responsibility to use it correctly. If Crowley was the one in this situation with all the power, then he should be the one to answer for making a bad call.

I don't know you personally Tom, and I won't pretend to. I'd hope you'd not presume to know who I hang out with. I think I suspect that you're not a fan of the grievances of a certain class of people; black, white or otherwise. Which, it seems to me, is blinding you to the other issues at play here.

Suffice to say, I fail entirely to see how supporting Obama's health care initiatives and supporting his even tone with the Gates situation harms the man. Health care reform has failed for years and years. I credit him for putting his political capital behind something so complicated and that has harmed the Presidency of so many others. It's brave, and it shows backbone.

I'm glad you know me so well as to know how close to "the mainstream" I am. But as a 33 year old guy that grew up in a small town, raised protestant, voted for a President whose favorable rating among Americans is 57% as of this writing (according to Pollster.com), who supports health care reform... I don't see how far out of the mainstream I am. I also identify as Democrat, which at least 10% more of the population currently claims to be than Republican. If where I live or what I do takes me out of the "mainstream" in your eyes, that's simply something I won't convince you of otherwise. But I don't see the logic in your assertion otherwise. Calling me self-deluded seems, at the very least, over-the-top.

The Gates debate has you all riled up. I see it on your blog. But I wrote a few words about it and moved on. What frustrated me is how the debate quickly became partisan and not constructive, and that Gates and Obama were held to account, when the officer was immediately treated as somehow the victim of a liberal lynching. That struck me, and still strikes me, as backwards.

To believe that Gates is to blame for what happened to him, is to simply refuse to sympathize with the man.

Gates has shown remarkable willingness to step back from all this and try to be constructive. I think that's a good lead to follow. I'm appalled that Crowley has received effectively a free pass from the press on his own culpability.

I think it's time we all moved on from this mishap. I'm sure you and I agree there. There's a lot more pressing that's at hand. But that does not make the arrest of Gates in his own home unimportant.

As far as liberals unthinkingly "tarring" Obama, I'm curious what you mean by that? You mean that he had to identify himself as a black man on television?

It's amazing to me, also, that in 2009 I still here the term liberal being used as a term of derision. As if the conservative movement has proven itself to be so terribly effective and everything except governance, peace, science, honesty, and constitutional law.

Freeman said...

And as for liberals being the problem, you might want to read some of these incredibly irresponsible quotes.


Thomas Garvey said...

Look, Matthew, a key difference between us on this issue is that I've lived in Cambridge (and I doubt you have, somehow, from your comments), and what's more, for years I summered not far from "Skip" Gates in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. So I've seen Gates in action several times, in restaurants, shops, and movie theatres, and I know that while holding court he's charming, at times he can be a pint-sized handful, particularly with people (clerks, etc.) whom he deems beneath himself on the social scale. It's quite possible that racial sensitivity can end up bound up with, and almost an excuse for, class snobbery, is it not? Well, that's my impression of Gates.

So when I hear that in what's probably the most racially-sensitive city in the United States, this guy got himself arrested, my gut tells me that he pissed off a cop and wound up being inconvenienced for about half an hour. To you, this is a national-level racial incident. To me, it's faintly ridiculous.

And no, Matthew, you're not "in the mainstream." You're on the left. Probably somewhat further to the left than I am, but not all that much. The difference between is that I know the milieu, and have some personal knowledge of Gates, and you don't.

Freeman said...

Well that's certainly interesting to hear. I'm sure all national stories feel a bit surreal to those close to them. Still, from my perspective, this is a national story because, well, it is one. It may be that you have a better understanding of this because you're close to it. It may be that you simply have a different one. That's fine. I'd love to see where our perspectives meet in the middle, if it all.

As far as being on the "left" is concerned (which seems increasingly off-topic), I don't deny that my views are generally socially progressive, but I just don't see that as out of the mainstream. I think the view of the "left" as "out of the mainstream" is very 2002. I think the "left" would do much better if it didn't accept the premise that its views aren't common. They are, in fact, common. And for the common good. That's as mainstream as it gets. I'd love to be cited a particular view of mine that isn't a commonly held one for at least a majority or plurality of Americans.

And call me Matt. Only my Mother calls me Matthew.

Dan Freeman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Freeman said...

I have a side job in law enforcement, and it can be tough to be perfect when your called to a scene with only partial information.

Looking over comments...

Thomas, the details were released, and you'd said she'd not mentioned race, actually she did mention race, but she'd said the race was "possibly Hispanic" further more she said there where two, and that one may have a back pack.

The plot thickened as the police report was showed in the officer's own hand that he reported having recalled that she had said an African-American.

Twice in my short career have upset white woman approached me wanting me to arrest someone. Both incidents involved black men. In neither case did I approach.

In one case I discussed the matter further with her and it had turned out that she had called the gentlemen she'd wanted me to approach a nigger.

In the second instance the best description she could provide said she'd seen two African American men with baseball hats and backpacks running and felt it was suspicious. To be honest she'd just provided a description of half the local high school.

Almost ever night that I work security I get accused of profiling at least once. Its a function of the shear volume of ID's I check.

Personally I stick to my training and use the verbal Judo script adopted by most police departments. Helps to diffuse volatile situations before anyone decides to make a federal case of it.

Honestly, the officer, and really dispatch, should have asked more questions. But it is a fair point to mention that jumping to the conclusion that a fascist race motivated police force was there to turn a professor out of his home is a bit of a drummed up charge.