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My two cents on Gates

Friday, July 24, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named cuffs.jpgI just posted a tweet saying I don't view the Gates matter through a racial lens, I view it through a Harvard lens. I want to explain, and I'll try to do it briefly. Permalink to this paragraph

First, I've had my share of run-ins with cops. When I was young, I liked drugs and street politics, and that meant lots of confrontations with NY cops. Never got arrested because I was lucky and because I was fully submissive when stopped by cops. They scared the shit out of me. I knew they had lethal force, and they must teach them how to be terrifying, because they are. Very.  Permalink to this paragraph

Later, as a college student, I'd occasionally get drunk (in New Orleans, everyone does it) and once even got picked up and put in jail for a night to sober up. No record, but I'll never forget it.  Permalink to this paragraph

Hitch-hiking in Calif, I got stopped by police in Tracy, and was fined exactly the amount I had in my pocket. I paid it, and wondered where the money went, but I didn't make a stink. I just left and never went back. Permalink to this paragraph

I once had two cop cars come to my house in Woodside, and I had to prove that I lived there. I did. Kept my mouth shut except to say "Here" as I handed over my driver's license. I owned the place. Didn't matter. Until they left they owned my ass. Permalink to this paragraph

A couple of years ago driving from Calif to Denver, I got stopped in Winnemucca. I was speeding. Really speeding. Stupidly speeding. I accepted my ticket graciously. Drove slowly the rest of the way and got stopped in every major town in Nevada. Never expressed any irritation. Just begged for them to let me leave the state. Promised never to return. Permalink to this paragraph

I say all this to point out that I have some experience with cops, and I'm white, and I would never in a million years think of yelling at a cop. Never have, and if I ever do, I expect to be arrested. Permalink to this paragraph

Now Gates says he didn't yell at the cop. I don't believe him. Too many other people who were there say he did. I'm pretty sure when you're yelling at a cop who's doing his job he's supposed to arrest you for disorderly conduct. I think that's more or less what disorderly conduct is.  Permalink to this paragraph

I also think yelling at a cop is stupid. He's got a gun. If it's so much worse being black with cops (and I believe it is) you'd think blacks would be 100 times more careful about it than a white guy.  Permalink to this paragraph

Now, the second part of the story... Permalink to this paragraph

In addition to being hassled by cops, sometimes deservedly and other times not, I also spent 1.5 years at Harvard as a research fellow. I was not at the level of Gates, but I had an office in Harvard Yard and a very nice ID card that got me into all kinds of great places. Being in Harvard gives you an Ivy League feeling, you're one of the Special people. It's very nice. Permalink to this paragraph

Imho what we're seeing here is not black outrage, but Harvard outrage. As a piece in Salon pointed out today, if he were anyone else, white or black, no one would have cared, and he probably wouldn't have been so vocal in his rage. What he's saying over and over is "Hey I'm a tenured Harvard professor. I just got back from China where I was on a PBS show. I'm a big dude. You don't treat me this way." Permalink to this paragraph

But I'd like to say to the Harvard prof what the Salon guy said to him. Shut up Prof Gates. You're just like the rest of us. When a cop gives you an order, you do what he says. If you have a beef with it, that comes later. And let your lawyer speak for you, and be sure you're right.  Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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