She will not get a beer with the boys. Lucia Whalen has not been invited to the White House.
The three amigos — Henry Louis Gates Jr., James Crowley and Barack Obama — will throw down some cold ones on the South Lawn Thursday as the whole world watches this "teachable moment" on race in America.
And they deserve a drink. They have been through so much! How they have suffered!
In reality, only Whalen, the woman who called 911 on July 16 to report a possible break-in at the Cambridge home of Gates, acted responsibly from beginning to end in this whole affair.
And she doesn’t even get a free drink out of it.
Instead she has been reviled. She has been scorned. She was pilloried in the mainstream media and abused on the blogosphere. "Whites like Lucia have bigotry programmed into them," one Cambridge blogger wrote. "Her description of the two black males is just so, so bigoted. Not only that it could have led to people getting shot unnecessarily."
Facts? Truth? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! And the truth is too slow! In this age of instant communication we must publish conclusions first — no matter how hurtful or how dangerous — and then let the truth catch up.
In fact, Whalen did not describe "two black males" breaking into a house. She volunteered no racial description at all when she called. (When she was then asked by a police dispatcher to describe the two men, Whalen said "one looked kind of Hispanic, but I’m not really sure.") Whalen didn’t even say the two men were trying to break into the house.
Here, from the actual 911 tape, is what she said: "I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in."
It was a proper call. It was the call of a good and responsible citizen. And the police showed up. Which is what they are supposed to do.
After that, guys began behaving badly.
You can make a pretty good case that Gates, Crowley and Obama all acted hastily and regrettably. Gates, returning home with a head cold after a 20-hour flight from China, reacted angrily to being confronted in his own house by a police officer. Crowley overreacted by arresting Gates on a bogus disorderly conduct charge. And President Obama, who had the most time to think about his actions and is, after all, the president of the United States, admitted he lacked all the facts, but nonetheless publicly accused the Cambridge police of acting "stupidly."
So who is the one person who acted properly in all of this? Lucia Whalen.
Her reward? "People called me racist and said I caused all the turmoil that flowed, and some even said threatening things that made me fear for my safety," Whalen said Wednesday.
Whalen said she "tried to be careful and honest" with her wording when she called.
But some say she should not have called at all. Some say should have shut up and saved herself the headache and heartache that followed. This is what a smart person would have done.
But Whalen decided to be a good citizen and not a smart one.
Wednesday, she was asked if she would make the call again today.
"I have had much reflection on that," Whalen said, "and, yes, I would make the call."
That is a teachable moment.
And somebody owes her a beer.
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