CBS Adds Fuel to the Racism Fire Stoked By Gates Arrest
Now that President Obama has weighed in on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, it seems a metaphysical certitude news media will milk this story for all it's worth.
On Thursday, the CBS "Evening News" did exactly that by first opening its program with the President's statement made during Wednesday's press conference, and then following it with a segment on how this incident "spotlights a history of mistrust between police and minority communities."
As you watch the following video, ask yourself whether the content of this segment will improve race relations in America, or worsen them (video embedded below the fold with full transcript):
KATIE COURIC, ANCHOR: There is, of course, a long history of tension in this country between African-Americans and the police. And whenever there`s a suggestion that race may be involved in a confrontation with an officer, emotions still run high. Bill Whitaker explains why.
BILL WHITAKER, CBS CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to matters of race...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of them exercises poor judgment.
WHITAKER: The professor Skip Gates incident is like a national Rorschach test. What you see depends on who you are. Today, many African- Americans see racial profiling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not right. This is happening all over the place.
STEVE MALZBERG, WOR RADIO: This is a racist incident?
WHITAKER: Others a cop performing his duties.
MALZBERG: This is a cop doing his job.
WHITAKER: This latest incident spotlights a history of mistrust between police and minority communities. In May, a white New York City cop mistook a black colleague for a criminal and shot him dead. In Oakland, a transit officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in the back on New Year`s Day. Ryan Robertson was arrested on his way to exams at Harvard in 2003 when he yelled at a Cambridge officer who questioned whether he actually owned his BMW.
It still hurts today.
RYAN ROBERTSON, HARVARD UNIV. GRADUATE; There is no scripted reaction that you can have for being dehumanized by an authority figure.
WHITAKER: Black mistrust of the L.A.P.D. fueled the deadly riot of 1992. Current chief William Bratton has been applauded by blacks and whites for making racial fairness the centerpiece of his reform effort. Still, there`s a fine line between what some call profiling and others good policing.
ASST. CHIEF JIM MCDONNELL, LAPD: All aspects of sensitivity is in the back of the officer`s mind, but keeping himself and his partner and the community safe is paramount initially.
WHITAKER: When Barack Obama was elected president, there was much talk that the U.S. was becoming a post-racial society. The heated debate over this latest incident shows there`s still a long way to go.
CONNIE RICE, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: We need to understand how to recognize when race is operating at a subconscious level and also overtly. And I don`t think we are being honest with ourselves when we try to pretend it isn`t there.
WHITAKER: Right now we`re doing a lot of talking, but is anyone listening?
Bill Whitaker, CBS News, Los Angeles.
Honestly, does this help the situation...or further inflame it?
Does such reporting help to close the racial divide in our nation...or increase it?