Columns encourage conversation
August 4, 2009 · Updated 12:49 AM
Columnists love feedback. It means their work is likely encouraging conversation in the community. A few times a year, starting today, I’m going to share some responses sent to me or the editor from listeners who took the time to sit down and tell me what they did or didn’t like.
Last week, Paul Sutton from Bellevue wrote in to disagree with my column on the Henry Louis Gates-Officer James Crowley confrontation in Cambridge, Mass., where I was critical of Professor Gates and President Obama and supportive of Sgt. Crowley. Mr. Sutton, who identifies himself as white, writes, “The anger Dr. Gates showed in response to the incident at this house is completely valid. It is not a hypersensitivity to a one-time event. The anger Dr. Gates felt when he was arrested is the same anger many of the people of color in Bellevue feel every day because they have been racially profiled not once, or twice, or three times, but many, many times throughout their lives.”
Gen. Colin Powell himself told Larry King last week that he has also endured racial profiling in his life. But in the same interview, he criticized professor Gates.
“When you’re faced with an officer trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him,” Powell said. “I was taught that as a child. You don’t argue with a police officer.”
Patti Ann Combs from Redmond wrote in about a similar incident that happened to her family in the town of Paterson, N.J., after celebrating her grandmother’s 85th birthday Upon returning from the restaurant, the front door was locked and they only had a key for the back door. The teenage grandsons ran around to the back but found the screen door locked. While trying to get it opened, they heard a voice calling out “I am a Paterson detective. Please step away from the door and put your hands where I can see them.”
The boys quickly complied and eventually the situation was straightened out.
“Everyone in our family is eternally grateful to that neighbor, the detective, for paying attention and watching over her (the grandmother), a widow living alone,” wrote Ms. Combs. We couldn’t thank him enough. By the way, the detective is black and our family is white.”
Does racial profiling go on in America? Yes, regretably it does, Mr. Sutton is right about that. But in the Cambridge incident, the person who engaged in racial profiling was Professor Gates. If that black Paterson detective had answered the call at Gates’ house, would the professor have reacted the same way?
My column on the Boy Scouts also generated a lot of reaction. My main point was that the scouts, with their emphasis on the outdoors, hiking, swimming, survival skills and community service, are a wonderful counterbalance to the increasingly wired indoor world we’re living in.
My favorite letter came from Johnny Therrell, who simply wrote:
“I am a 78-year-old Eagle Scout and I thank you for the July 15 editorial. You represented the Scouting program very well.”
Letters like that make it gratifying to be a columnist. Thanks for the feedback.