Swans Commentary » swans.com August 10, 2009  



Professor Henry Gates Got His Comeuppance


by Femi Akomolafe





(Swans - August 10, 2009)   It's not every day that yours truly reads something on the Internet that brings broad smiles to my handsome face. But the recent arrest of world-renowned Harvard University scholar and anti-African hatchet filmic documentarian, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., made me titter uncontrollably.

Sorry, the spectacle of a bespectacled near-sexagenarian having a fracas with law enforcement officers should evoke emotions of sympathy from us, but Professor Henry Gates is no ordinary mortal and he truly deserved what he got, as I shall soon explain.

Before I delve into that, some things are worth considering first. The arrest and the engulfing scandal is unfathomable to my (feeble) African mind. What type of society is America where neighbors do not know one another sufficiently enough to distinguish between a burglar and a long-resident neighbor?

In Africa, we make it our sacred duty to know our neighbors whether or not they like it. Even though many of my neighbors consider me to be a "hard-hat," we still know each other sufficiently enough to exchange not only pleasantries but also fruits and vegetables and foods on occasions. I have heard stories of how people die in their homes in the West without anyone noticing anything amiss until the odor from the rotten corpse starts assailing neighbors' noses. I pray that I do not live long enough to witness such scenes in my part of the world. Amen, amen!

And what type of society is America where a man like Professor Gates would be called a BLACK MAN? In Eastern Africa, the learned scholar would be greeted with shouts of "Jambo, Bwana!" (Greetings, white man). In Nigeria, children will call him "Oyinbo," and in Ghana, no one will mistake him for anything but "Obroni."

And what type of society is America where the over-hyped ARTICULATOR will speak so stupidly out of tune? In Africa a chief is expected to keep his head when others are losing theirs. That may explain why in many traditional societies of Africa, the chief hardly ever make public proclamations; he speaks through his linguist. President Obama brandishes considerable oratory skill and uncanny calmness. Why then did he so unnecessarily decide to stupidly jump into the dim-witted fray so much so that he committed a faux pas that called for his recant a few hours later?

And again what type of society is America where a young police officer will clamp handcuffs on a near-sexagenarian -- obviously the father and grandfather of someone? It is true that the law is no respecter of anybody, but then... Age, no matter one's station in life, is still very much revered in Africa, thank you very much. Very few police officers in Ghana or even in Nigeria will subject an elderly man to such public ridicule!

But that's American and Western civilization for you!

Back to our story proper.

As the story goes, Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct after a neighbor called the police when they saw him and a black taxi driver attempting to force the jammed front door of his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

An elderly white woman was said to have espied the professor and a taxi driver struggling with the door and had, logically, concluded that a burglary was taking place and had, also very logically and very responsibly, called the police. We do not know whether or not the elderly woman was brought up on diet of racism, but her action was very commonsensical; I'd do the same thing. We live in a dangerous world and Cambridge, I'm informed, is among the most exclusive (read WHITE) of exclusive (read very upper-class WHITE) neighborhoods in America.

What transpired is disputed but after producing identification to show that he was at his own house, a row ensued in which Gates demanded the officer's name and badge number and accused him of racial profiling. The police sergeant then arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Professor Gates cocooned himself in an exclusive patch of white America and believes that it was the reality of modern America. From his elite perch he occasionally lobbed lethal scholarly assaults on fellow scholars, most especially black scholars, who try to point out the inadequacies of the American society. He and other so-called black conservatives specialized in assailing other black scholars, especially black historians. According to Gates and Co. these black scholars are nothing but bunch of ignoramuses who are bent on rewriting history according to their shallow afro-centric view. According to them, black people never contributed anything to human civilization and progress. Gates presented a very silly BBC hatchet of a docudrama that sought to absolve Europe and America from the African Holocaust euphemistically called the Slave Trade (I dealt with this in my article, "ON SLAVERY," - http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/30/013.html) Pardon my shameless plug).

On Monday, July 20, 1992, Professor Gates Jr. wrote an Op Ed in The New York Times titled, "Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars." The article was so vehement in his castigation of fellow black scholars and it irked the late great historian and Egyptologist, Professor Henrik Clarke, so much that he wrote a rebuttal that began like this:

I am raising the following questions: At once, I questioned the title of Professor Gates's article. He should never refer to anyone as a demagogue unless he's ready to call the names of the demagogues, singular or plural, and point out the nature of their demagoguery. He should never refer to any scholar as being pseudo, unless he is ready to name the scholar and prove the pseudo nature of his or her work. To disagree with a scholar does not make the scholar a demagogue.

The spectacle of Professor Henry Gates, an avid black-basher and an unrepentant apologist of white racism, bellowing angrily at the arresting white officer is very hilarious indeed. Gates was said to have yelled to a crowd outside his house as he was handcuffed, "This is what happens to black men in America!" Ouch! When did our erudite professor finally realize this?

It's also funny that Gates was quoted as saying that the arrest made him aware of how minorities are vulnerable "to capricious forces like a rogue policeman."

"I thought the whole idea that America was post-racial and post-black was laughable from the beginning. There is no more important event in the history of black people in America than the election of Barack Obama ... but that does not change the percentage of black men in prison, the percentage of black men harassed by racial profiling," he reportedly told the New America Foundation.

So, the chicken has finally come home to roost. Professor Gates spent the better part of his productive years living an illusion. He spent his industrious years supporting the system and the establishment that consciously sought to keep its minority in ignorance and poverty. It is sad, very sad, that the blinders were finally and very rudely removed from professor Gates's face at the twilight of his years. And that is his greatest tragedy for which he earns zero sympathy from me.

And for the man who was the symbol of black conservative, who was the toast of the establishment and its fawning media, to be reduced to crying that: "There haven't been fundamental structural changes in America. There's been a very important symbolic change and that is the election of Barack Obama. But the only black people who truly live in a post-racial world in America all live in a very nice house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [the White House]," is a tragedy of epic proportions. It is lamentable.

When in the 1980s the Western world imposed economic policies that devastated much of African economies, many Africans were reduced to migrating to the West where they took odds jobs that did not even begin to challenge their intelligence and their qualifications. This vast "Brain Drain" wrecked more havoc on Africa than anyone has cared to investigate. It is akin to the slavery era when the healthiest and ablest of Africans were stolen to work colonial plantations. It was a double tragedy for the continent that watched, helplessly, as her best children deserted her for greener pastures. These expensively-trained professionals are today contributing to building the societies that did not spend a cent in their upbringing and education. Africa is not only denied the contribution of her children, but is doubly penalized since she has to resort to importing more expensive technocrats from abroad.

How did Professor Gates respond to the influx of Africans into the USA? Instead of welcoming his black brethren and sisthren, he turned his considerable verbal assault on them. The narrator of the infamous documentary titled "Wonders of the African World" turned hostile to people who, naturally, should have been his allies. Are these people who today have become American citizens to be expected to jump to the defense of the former chairman of Harvard University's African-American Studies Department?

Obama's victory was hailed by Americans as having transformed their nation into a "post racial" society. Those who deluded themselves into believing the nonsense have had their illusion terribly shattered by the picture of one of the most prominent scholars in black-American academia in handcuffs.

White academia, Western media, and their black apologists (professor Gates was prominent among them) would want us to believe that 1) racism does not exist and that 2) even if it exists, it is not the domain of whites alone. They go a long way to muddle water unnecessarily and confuse things like ethnicity and tribalism with racism. To their disingenuously confused mind, the victim and perpetrators of racism are both equally guilty. And in their gospel any attempt to remedy the evils of racism is "reverse racism," or "reverse discrimination."

It would be well and jolly if indeed there were only one race -- the human race. It is an ideal worth striving for, but the truth of the matter is that racism is alive and well, and it is truly the domain of the white race branch of humanity. I will gladly swallow my words if anyone can point out to me any place on earth where people of the white race are dominated by any non-white race. Not in Asia and definitely not in Africa are white people playing second fiddle to anyone.

And those of us that criticize the evils of racism are doing it not out of envy or hatred of any branch of the human race. Au contraire! We do so to point out the evilness of a system that sought advantages for one branch of humanity at the expense of another branch of humanity. Nothing more, nothing less. We do not ask for the moon or for even a space suit; all that we ask is a level playing field where no human, whatever the hue of her skin, is disallowed to achieve her human potential solely on the account of the colour of her skin.

Even if we accept that biologically human beings are one and the same, we cannot and should not lose sight of the fact that white scholars and "scientists" constructed the racial structures that today dominate the world's discourse. Only the most seriously purblind will contest the fact that we live in a white-dominated universe.

The tragedy of Professor Gates's arrest is also the tragedy of the larger black American community. After the election of Barack Obama, black America was told that with a good education and dint of hard work, the heaven is the limit to the attainment of their potentials. But the spectacle of the mug shot of one of the leading learned men in black America raises very troubling questions. As one Nigerian commentator put it on Nigeriaworld.com:

The two questions I would like America to answer are: First, did the neighbor or person that called the police not know where Professor Gates lived and what he looked like, or was it simply a time for legal amusement? Second, how do you think many young Black boys from low income homes are going to feel about the value and hope of education, when the leading Black scholar from HARVARD still have no voice in the presence of White police, who may even be a high school drop-out. America needs to get rid of all slave laws that predate the civil rights and all the current laws that are based upon them from being used in our legal systems RIGHT NOW.

It is said that if you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything. Professor Gates denied his BLACKNESS and its antecedents legacies; the shouts of racism from his aged throat today sound hollow.

I shall conclude with these words of Professor John Henrik Clarke, who must be chuckling enormously in his grave:

Professor Gates, Cornel West and other Black conservatives use beautiful words, sometimes to say nothing, sometimes to say what has already been said and sometimes to say what is not in debate. They display their ignorance of European history and history in general. They decry any form of Black nationalism and often call it racism without knowing that for the last 500 years the world has been controlled by European or White nationalism.

African self-assertion, the demand for a proper curriculum in the schools demand that we stop praising a liar and a faker like Christopher Columbus who discovered absolutely nothing-threatens an apparatus of European control set in motion by the Atlantic slave trade and continued with colonialism that ultimately laid the basis for present-day monopoly capitalism. No matter what Europeans say they believe religiously, politically or culturally, their main objective in the world is control. Everything that has ever been developed in the European mind was meant to facilitate mind control of the world. There are no exceptions, Left or Right politically.

Black conservatives are really frustrated slaves crawling back to the plantation, figuratively, letting their master know that they are willing to go back into bondage. One needs to question their words because, as slaves and enemies of their people, they will say what they are told to say and do what they are told to do. The Black conservatives have nothing to conserve except their miserable obscurity and their tragic cowardice. These pathetically lost creatures and avid White behind kissers don't have the nerve to be African or Black.
(Source: http://www.africawithin.com/clarke/clarke_response.htm


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About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/.



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Published August 10, 2009