July 25, 2009

do you speak calibratese?

You may or may not have been following the debate about whether or not the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was a case of blatant racial profiling. Here's the story in a nutshell (from The Boston Globe):

[Sergeant] Crowley arrested Gates, a leading expert on African-American history, after police were called to a report of a break-in at the Ware Street home. Gates had just arrived home from the filming of a PBS documentary in China. His front door was stuck shut, and his taxi driver helped him pry it open.

According to a police report, a woman had called to report two black men trying to force their way into a house. Crowley said in the report that Gates became disruptive and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Gates has denied that he was disorderly.

The charge was dropped, but the story gained momentum this week as Gates demanded an apology and Crowley refused to give one -- and Obama jumped into the fray.

President Obama found unexpectedly clear words for the officer's behavior when he sad that "the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home." He later realized that his choice of words may not have been the wisest. So he apologized. Or not:
And because this has been ratcheting up -- and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up -- I want to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically -- and I could have calibrated those words differently.
The president now thinks that both parties overreacted. In the meantime, the charges against Gates have been dropped and the case was called "regrettable", but no apology was issued. Nor did Gates apologize for implying in an interview with his daughter that Crawley is a bad police officer and potentially a racist.

Three parties regretting their behavior, yet no apology. So what now? Let's go have a beer. The president, Dr. Gates, and Sergeant Crowley will. It seems they all speak calebratese.

Edited to add this link to an article on the "pitfall" of speaking one's mind.

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