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The White Policeman and the African-American - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Was the reconciliation meeting over beer held at the White House and attended by President Barack Obama enough for Harvard Professor Henry Gates and Sergeant James Crowley to close a case that has kept public opinion preoccupied over the past ten days?

The white policeman arrested the African-American university professor who was trying to break into his own house after he had forgotten his keys. The professor became enraged and accused the policemen of arresting him based on the colour of his skin. The story was then completed when the US President (the first black president) criticized the policeman’s conduct, linking it to practices carried out against African-Americans. The incident became part of the history of the race issue in the United States, in which the police have featured heavily.

Recently, figures issued by the American Civil Liberties Union looking at the entire United States showed that African-Americans or Latino Americans are much more likely to be stopped [by police] than whites. These people will never forget the brutal assault of Rodney King at the hands of [LA] policemen that the entire world witnessed a few years ago.

Back to this most recent incident, the backgrounds of the two men, logically-speaking, would not give rise to the confrontation that occurred between them or to the tremendous media bubble that it caused. However, another paradox shows how fear still grips many positions and reactions of African-Americans and whites equally. They are often left confused by the country’s racist past so their first reaction is one of defence.

The incident, and Obama’s response, was an opportunity that was seized by the Republicans, politicians, media representatives and writers, not only to harm the Democrat president, but also to talk about the racism that white Americans encounter at the hands of Afro-Americans. In the arrival of an African-American president to the White House, the Republicans found a pretext not only to falsify allegations of racism but also to escalate the issue of racism and strongly react by saying that racism is being practiced by blacks against whites who have gotten over the issue of race by electing Obama.

Though the American media is cautious about openly discussing racism, all we have to do is visit US websites briefly to feel sentiment brewing amongst different parts of the complex US fabric.

The Root website that deals with political and cultural affairs of African-Americans, which is run by Professor Henry Gates himself, may serve as a good example of the real feelings brought about by the incident. On the website, antagonistic comments and attitudes were expressed by American visitors, one of whom had no problem with claiming and boasting that he killed the civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Following his appointment to the position of Attorney General, Eric Holder stated that the United States of America is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing racism in the US. US Republican analysts hold on to this statement not for self-criticism but in order to harm the democratic opponent and perhaps more importantly the African-American one.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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