A Block Past It
ROCK HACKSHAW: Look, I have always felt that the hard-core readers of the Daily Gotham blog are latte-drinking Park-slopers, who balance their lap-tops on their knees, as they sip on sidewalk cafes. My hard-core readers (not the same as readers of other contributors here on R8) are probably people who drink rum without chaser, in places where the tables are chained to the floor/lol.
ROCK AGAIN: Gatemouth is one-fifth black, four-fifths Jewish and usually full of Scotch.
For the record, my drink of choice is Liberty Ale from the Anchor brewery (it makes me hoppy) or a dry white wine called Abymes (for me an ideal wine is one, where after I take a sip, I can strike a match on my tongue--some say I have similar taste in women), although on special occasions I like a fine Belgian ale like Orval or Rodenbach Grand Cru, or a good British barley wine like Thomas Hardy; at holiday times, I mix Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with a decent framboise, usually Lindemann's, and on cold winter nights I put some Quelque Chose into the microwave. Not much into hard liquor (if I have a Mojito, it is for the mint), but very much into hard drinking--In the mornings, I favor good strong generic coffee, usually Maxwell House, Folgers, or Chock Full O' Nuts (speaking of Room 8) brewed dark until it has the consistency of Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout...what the fuck is a latte?
Like the way we vote, the way we drink is a cultural choice; yes, it is also matter of whether you like the flavor, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the flavors we favor are usually a matter of what we have been allowed to taste during the course of our lives and lifestyles.
I mean, I actually like gefilte fish and kishka (intestine stuffed with fat and carbs). Which brings us to the recent White House Beer Summit.
As an expert who has studied the matter of gourmet beers long into endless nights of extra credit assignments, I think can safely pronounce that, when it comes to beer, Skip Gates is a poseur and Barry Obama a fake. By contrast, Sergeant Crowley displays at least a small measure of courage, which may sometimes prove useful in his line of work.
Let me explicate:
Most mass market American beers are light lagers with all distinctive elements brewed out of them. Of these common denominator beers, Budweiser is the lowest and, not coincidentally, the most popular.
In the words of the members of the Philosophy Department at Monty Python’s Australian University of Walamaloo, American Beer is like making love in a canoe because “it’s fucking close to water.”
Obama’s beer of choice was Bud Light, which is prototypical mass market American Beer, but with more water added.
Conclusion: Since we can rule out dieting, it must be concluded that either Obama doesn’t like beer, or he didn’t drink the beer that he likes.
Gates’ choice of Red Stripe, a Caribbean brew, is clearly not a matter of taste, but identity politics. This is confirmed by his other choice, Beck’s, a European beer most notable for its resemblance to American mass market light lagers, though with a somewhat higher price tag.
Conclusion: Gates’ choices are meant to convey cultural solidarity and cosmopolitan sophistication, though any sophisticated European would probably laugh at the latter choice and consider Gates an Ugly American.
By contrast, Sergeant Crowley’s Blue Moon is an American version of a Belgian witbeer, perhaps not the best ever brewed (that would be the late lamented Celis White, made by the late lamented Belgian brew master Pierre Celis, in Texas, because they had the mineral lime in the water, and they spoke English real slow), but a noble and successful attempt at a local Hoegaarden.
The Sergeant is brave because one can be sure he will be the object of endless ribbing for drinking a beer with a slice of orange floating in it, something our president was surely not going to brave in public, lest he render himself into a less gloomy version of John Kerry, who represents both Skip and the Sarge in the US Senate.
Conclusion: The Sergeant is a man who drinks what he damn well pleases, though I have my doubts he’d order a Crème de Menthe frappe if he suddenly got the taste for mint and the bartender was out of rum. Still, in my mind, drinking the beer with the orange, because you want the beer with the orange, is more an act demonstrating machismo than it would be to forgo such a choice.
Unfortunately, Sergeant Crowley appears sometimes to do what he damn well pleases in the other aspects of his life as well. The temptation to show a street punk on a corner, with or without a crowd watching, whose corner it is, is not merely an act of machismo, but may be be one of self-preservation, both in the long and short-term.
But when the black (or white) man showing you some lip, and possibly disrespecting your mom, is a slightly lame fifty eight year old who is inside his own home and has committed no crime, is it not better public policy to say, “I’m no bigot sir, I am just doing my job attempting to protect your property, and you are a very rude man behaving like a child, and you should be ashamed of yourself.” And, following that, is it not the best course to leave?
I'm not saying I would have agreed with such a statement, but it seems quite preferable to the arrest and detention of an innocent but angry man.
I am not so sure that “stupidly” is the best adverb to describe the alternative action undertaken by Sergeant Crowley, since the Sergeant’s response did not seem to stem so much from failure of the intelligence as it did from wounded machismo.
I think the fact that his being falsely labeled a bigot triggered rage in a cop unafraid of being called an orange-eating-Nancy-boy speaks well for the Sergeant’s character on just about every measure but his ability to do his job properly.
On the other hand, what would one expect? We need Police because our society is far less than perfect. The job entails risk and physical stress, and does not pay exceedingly well. As such, it disproportionately attracts people who enjoy asserting their authority without it being questioned.
Who else would take such work?
And, undoubtedly, working in a municipality where one is often treated like the cleaning person by one’s condescending employers probably tends to grate upon the local constabulate, possibly most upon those members of the force confident enough in their own sophistication to drink a beer with a slice of orange.
I do not mean here to disdain Gates. Throughout this sad affair, Gates has been portrayed as one of America’s leading “black intellectuals.”
Henry Louis Gates is one of America’s leading intellectuals. Period. No modifier is necessary. No one called Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein “one of America’s leading Jewish scientists.”
Moreover, he is often a contrarian. In 1993, Gates published in New Republic an article about hate speech called “Let Them Talk.“ Sadly, this brilliant work is not available for free on the web. Here is but one example of its pentrating analysis:
“What is wrong with the basic claim, endorsed by judges and scholars across the ideological spectrum, that group libel is just individual libel multiplied? Begin with the assumption that individual libel involves the publication of information about someone that is both damaging and false. Charles Lawrence III inadvertently directs us to the source of the problem. The racial epithet, he writes, "is invoked as an assault, not as a statement of fact that may be proven true or false." But that suggests that the evaluative judgments characteristic of racial invective do not lend themselves to factual verification--and this is where the comparison with individual libel breaks down. The same problem emerges when MacKinnon identifies pornography as an instance of group defamation whose message is (roughly) that it would be nice if women were available for sexual exploitation. A proposition of that form may be right or wrong, but it cannot be true or false. You cannot libel someone by saying, "I despise you"; but that is precisely the message common to most racial epithets. "Nigger," used in the vocative, is not usefully treated as group libel for the same reason that it is not usefully treated as individual libel.”
“Note, too, that the expressivist position suffers from an uncomfortable contradiction. A university administration that merely condemns hate speech, without mobilizing punitive sanctions, is held to have done little, to have offered "mere words." And yet this skepticism about the power of "mere words" comports oddly with the attempt to regulate "mere words" that, since they are spoken by those not in a position of authority, would seem to have even less symbolic force. Why is it "mere words" when a university only condemns racist speech, but not "mere words" that the student utters in the first place? Whose words are "only words"? Why are racist words deeds, but anti-racist words just lip service?”
"It is not hard to explain the disenchantment among minority critics with such liberal mainstays as the "marketplace of ideas" and the ideal of public discourse. I take their disenchantment to be a part of a larger crisis of faith. The civil rights era witnessed the development of a national consensus--hammered out noisily, and against significant resistance--that racism, at least overt racism, was wrong. Amazingly enough, things like reason, argument and moral suasion did play a significant role in changing attitudes toward "race relations." But what have they done for us lately?"
As a result of the Cambridge incident, the complicated, nuanced Henry Louis Gates who wrote that article has been replaced in the public mind, a place where he barely existed last month, by a caricature of the likes of Cornel West.As has been pointed out, Gates’ views are refracted through his own set of experiences--that of a bookish black man growing up in the part of Appalachia where Barack Obama drew a lower percentage of the vote than did John Kerry and where they don‘t even sell Blue Moon.
How was Henry Louis Gates, who had lived that life in those places and was now living this life in his place, going to respond to a cop trying to question whether he had the right to be inside his own hard-earned home?
Refracted through our own experiences, we taste things differently.
Gates couldn’t see the Officer was just doing his job.
The Sergeant couldn’t see that Gates’ anger encompassed incidents which occurred before he’d been alive, in places he‘d never traveled, in skin he never wore, in shoes he‘d never walked in for a meter, let alone a mile.
I can’t understand why people don’t like the taste of Gefilte Fish or express disgust about the congealed fish fat it floats in.
And, try as we might (or not) to be better individuals, we sometimes see slings and arrows directed towards our own identity differently than we do the slings and arrows directed at others.
I’ve been accused of reacting more strongly in response to anti-Semitism than towards other forms of bigotry, based on things like my dismissal of the Sharpton-Ferrer cartoon imbroglio as being about stupidity rather than bigotry, something I also extend to the latest war of words concerning Congresswoman Maloney.This, despite the fact that I’ve written articles condemning a Jewish politician for an act of anti-black racism, and condemning both a Jew and a black Baptist for acts of inflaming hate against Muslims.
But perhaps I just didn‘t get it. Perhaps I don’t even get it now.
In the same way, Sergeant Crowley, apparently an exemplar of colorblindness (though not of even temper), didn’t get it when Professor Gates responded with outsized outrage upon the State intrusion upon his Castle.
In the same way Gates didn’t get it when he parsed semantics to insist “It is true that the two things nearly everybody knows about Farrakhan - that he extolled Hitler as a great man and deplored Judaism as a "gutter religion" - are, strictly speaking, false.” Not even the part of the sentence which followed stating, “but it hardly absolves him of the larger charge of anti-Semitism” could entirely make clear that Gates was hardly Farrakhan’s apologist.
These are both good men--Gates might even be a great man; but almost by accident, they had simultaneous bad hair moments that have turned into a national occasion for reflection or avoidance of the same.
I have often wanted to write a book about race in America. My contention, borne out in the recent election, is that we are really not so far apart. The swirls and whirls of individual communities within our society, especially as reflected in our different culture-camps and Culture kamfps are often daunting, but mostly we just don’t understand each other by a very small margin.I wanted to write a book called “A Block Past It.” The title comes from a joke; I think from Myron Cohen, the great Jewish dialect comedian and storyteller (I hope it was not Jackie Mason, the great Jewish bigot and reactionary).
Police come to break up a fight between two old men, one black and the other Jewish. The cop says, “why are you two fighting?“ The old black man says “He called me a Black Bastard!” The Old Jew responds “He asked me where is the Riviera Hotel, and I said, you're a Block Past It!”
My contention is that we are not separated by great distances, or even a few miles. We are only “A Block Past It.”
But often that distance might as well be light years.
Well, better light beers than light years.
I can forgive the President for making the political decision to quaff the watered-down version of watered-down beer, and I can forgive him the political decision to pull back from his statement that the police acted “stupidly,” by issuing an apology rather than a clarification like “I did not mean the police acted in an intellectually deficient manner, I merely meant to say that they reacted in a way that was both bullheaded and ill-advised.”
Obama may have told the truth, somewhat in-artfully, using a word that was arguably true about the actions of both the Sergeant and Gates, however understandable. However, for the President to state this, rather than to hold his tongue, was probably “ill-advised.”
So, in the end, Mr. President, let the bloggers decide who acted stupidly and let the cop be the one to drink the beer with the fruit in it.
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