July 25th, 2009
07:36 AM ET

Dear President Obama #186: The facts: Not always black and white

Reporter's Note: The President has a pretty great job. Mine’s not bad either, even though I do write a letter every single day to the White House, and I have not exactly been swamped with replies. Hint, hint, hint.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I have no idea what to make of all the noise over your comments on that black professor being arrested up in Massachusetts. I thought you were headed down the right track in your presser when you were asked about it, and started by saying you really didn’t know what happened. But then you started making comments about it anyway.

Pretty soon you were saying the police acted stupidly, and now it seems like everyone and his uncle has an opinion. Did the police overstep their bounds to target a black man? Did a distinguished professor lose his cool and pick a fight? You don’t know. I don’t know. And with racial tensions buzzing like hornets all around the incident I suspect we’ll never know. Nonetheless, I have been thinking about a number of alternative scenarios and wondering how they would have played out.

For example, if the police had not responded quickly to the report of a suspected break-in, would that have constituted racist behavior, because they didn’t take enough interest in protecting the professor’s house?

If the officer had not asked for identification, and the man in the house had in fact been a burglar who then proceeded to clean the place out, would that have been a racist disregard for doing the job right…because, after all, it was a black man’s home?

What if the professor had been confronted by an intruder who was hiding behind the door threatening him, and the professor was trying to raise an alarm by challenging the officer in some way?

None of those things happened according to either man’s account of the incident. But such judgment calls have to be made by police officers every day. The evidence tells us that many minorities have for a long time been unfairly persecuted by some members of law enforcement. So it makes sense that members of those groups might be wary of any encounter with any officer. Like I said, we just don’t know precisely what happened and I suppose we never will.

What I think we both do know, however, is this: When anyone of any race makes a predetermined judgment about the right or wrong of any other person’s actions or intent, and they attach that judgment to race…that is the very definition of racism, and it hurts us all.

Call if you can. I suppose we could talk all night about this one.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jeremy Ebert

    I am sick of hearing about race is why this happened, I dont think that is true I myself run a night club i deal with all races & kinds. In every race there is bad and good in people. To have the President call police stupid is crazy should i call him stupid for spend all the tax payers money. If you ask me Black people are more racial. Yes there is problems in this county but to sit here and talk about this is stupid cause it does happen but soon aas it happened to Henry Louis Gates
    wow its like they think we are back in slavery well wake up this is 2009 no one free from a police man doing his job! Get out of your house and live alittle youll see that police try to do there job but when the courts give the bad guy a slap on the wrist it dont them. I am from Sheboygan, Wisconsin so dont think i just stickin up for a white cop.

    July 27, 2009 at 12:31 am |

    The whole incident with the professor and the officer happens all the time all over the world. Its not just black and white, its all races. But instead of wasting more time on this. Simply all parties involved need to apologize and realize things get esculated quickly when you have an audience. Learn from the situation and move on. I will not comment on the situation because I do not know the facts. But when there is more than one officer present, one officer should be able to calm down situations like this before it gets to this level. Install hidden cameras on officers when going into domestic disputes. People tend to behave more professionally when they know they are being seen. Officers and the parties involved would benefit. This should not have happened to anybody, but we are human. The reporter caught President Obama at the end of a long day. Everybody makes mistakes on the microphone sometimes. Just apologize and move on to more pressing things like the war, health care, economy, housing, jobs, and e.t.c......

    July 27, 2009 at 12:26 am |