Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boston Police Officer Suspended For Sending E-mail Calling Professor Gates A "Jungle Monkey".

I said at the time of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. that I thought he was far too quick to claim that the situation that he found himself in was based on his race, although I, nevertheless, found his arrest to be a disgrace.

However, the fact that he immediately thought race was a factor when dealing with the police has been lent some validity by an email sent by a Boston police officer:

A Boston police officer allegedly sent a mass e-mail using a disgraceful racial slur in referring to Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., prompting the commissioner to move immediately to fire the cop, the Herald has learned.

Officer Justin Barrett, 36, a two-year veteran assigned to District B-3, was placed on administrative leave pending a termination hearing yesterday afternoon. When a supervisor confronted Barrett about the e-mail - in which he called Gates a “jungle monkey” - he admitted to being the author, according to officials.

Police Commissioner Edward Davis immediately stripped the cop of his gun and badge, according to officials. Barrett, who could not immediately be reached, has no prior disciplinary history.

I have no idea how widespread such a mindset might be amongst American police forces and can only hope that such racism is in the minority. However, the fact that a serving officer felt that he could use such incendiary language in an email makes me think that, unlike Gates, I have no idea at all of what it must be like to be a black person in the US possibly facing that kind of mindset every time I have any contact with the police.

The assumption he made, which I disagreed with at the time, suddenly becomes much more understandable.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.


Cecilieaux said...

I'm sure that in Boston this is not uncommon at all.

nunya said...

Gore Vidal wrote a great article on this:

America the Great ... Police State
Posted on Jul 28, 2009
By Gore Vidal

nunya said...

I know that he focuses on race in the classes he teaches at Harvard, but it is a problem in the states, even here on the West Coast.

Unfortunately the (justifiable) rage towards institutionalized racism spills out over all of us.

Kel said...


I greatly enjoyed the article by Vidal. The police in the US do seem to believe that they are the law. Vidal implies that this is because they are armed and that the press defends every single action they do, whether good or bad.

We have a similar situation here in the UK where the police - who are not usually armed - can shoot Charles de Menezes dead on the underground but face no charges. They are always presumed to be on the side of the angels. Even when shooting innocents, their innocence must always be taken for granted.

And, even though subsequent inquiries found that they had lied their asses off, no charges of any kind were ever brought.