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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Gates arrest: Do we need a reset for unwritten racial rules?

Time for a reset in race relations

In his guest column [“Race relations, the unwritten rules — from Cambridge to Seattle,” Opinion, August 17], Jefferey P. Robinson recounts racial injustices from 40 years ago and describes how his parents taught him to keep his eyes down, his hands in plain view and respond with “yes sir” and “no sir” whenever confronted by police.

He labels police as “racist, insulting and demeaning,” and claims Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley only arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. because Gates had embarrassed Crowley by “raising his voice to protest unfair treatment.”

President Obama has repeatedly called for a reset with various foreign powers.

I propose we reset race relations in our country. If it happened 40 years ago, let it go. Drop the mindset that every cop and every white guy is a bigot and hates you because of the color of your skin. It just isn’t true.

And don’t pretend you have to treat a cop with respect and keep your hands in plain view just because you are black. It’s common sense and common courtesy. Cops shouldn’t have to take all the verbal abuse and grief any citizen chooses to dish out.

— John Hafen, Woodinville

Lessons in police encounters with Bob Dylan

Jefferey P. Robinson very angrily writes about the arrest of Harvard University professor of African studies Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge police for erratic and offensive behavior.

I’d like to compare Gates’ actions with behavior of another guy who was recently arrested by police –Bob Dylan [“You’re Bob Dylan? NJ police want to see some ID,” seattletimes.com, Entertainment, Aug. 14]. He was picked up by two young policemen who received an anonymous phone call placed by a white woman — just like in the Gates incident.

The caller informed police that a white guy was roaming the streets of a minority district in wee hours. Both policemen had never head of Dylan and couldn’t tell him from Adam. Dylan didn’t have an ID on him.

But being reasonable folks, the policemen agreed to accompany an alleged Dylan to a baseball stadium when he was to sing with Willie Nelson in few hours. A whole troupe identified the singer at the stadium, and Bob Dylan and the policemen happily parted.

End of story.

Another very famous singer Jim Croce used to sing, “You don’t spit in the wind,” unless one intentionally wants to get oneself wet.

Apparently, Gates needs this down-to-Earth but valuable advice. If Gates would like to send me a beer for service — I prefer Belgian dark.

— Michael Velikin, Kenmore

Comments | More in Public safety, Race

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