Terrance Heath

"Banana-Eating" "Jungle Monkey"?

Filed By Terrance Heath | August 01, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: boston, Henry Louis Gates Jr, justin barrett, Massachusetts, police, race

Tell me again that "race had nothing to do with" the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. We've gone from "gorillas in the mist" to "banana-eating" "jungle monkey."

Officer Justin Barrett, 36, who is also an active member of the National Guard, sent an e-mail to some fellow Guard members, as well as the Boston Globe, in which he vented his displeasure with a July 22 Globe column about Gates' controversial arrest.

...In his e-mail, which was posted on a local Boston television station's Web site, Barrett declared that if he had "been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [oleoresin capsicum, or pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent noncompliance."

Barrett used the "jungle monkey" phrase four times, three times referring to Gates and once referring to Abraham's writing as "jungle monkey gibberish."

He also declared he was "not a racist but I am prejudice [sic] towards people who are stupid and pretend to stand up and preach for something they say is freedom but it is merely attention because you do not get enough of it in your little fear-dwelling circle of on-the-bandwagon followers."

Yeah, I know Barrett wasn't involved in the Gates arrest. And I know that he doesn't speak for all of the Boston police--or for all police. But that he was comfortable enough or dumb enough to send that letter not just to friends but to the media, suggests that race is an issue in law enforcement that still needs to be addressed.

The Boston police, for their part, have stripped Barrett of his gun and badge, pending termination hearing. This will almost certainly lead to at least some cries that his "freedom of speech" has been violated. So, I'll say this to that.

The first amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Clearly, Congress did not act to prevent or penalize Barrett's expression of his views. Nor did any branch of government. So clearly there's no violation of free speech that would stand up in court.

There were, consequences for Barrett's expression of his views. His employer, the Boston Police Department, clearly decided that -- at the very least -- Barrett's choice of words, timing, and the public arena in which he chose to express himself made him a liability to the department.

They must, after all, have the public trust on order to do their job effectively. Barrett has jeopardized that, as far as African Americans are concerned. In fact, cops like him are the very reason that "Black Man 101? is still a required course. Because we must learn at an early age, not that we can't trust the police in general, but we can't trust who we're really facing behind that badge.

This was before the Amadou Diallo shooting, before Malice Green, and before Abner Louima. But being from the south, I heard stories, and I knew that I couldn't completely trust the police, even if I'd done nothing wrong; not so much because of the police a whole, but because I didn't know who -- what kind of person -- was behind the uniform, and what they might project upon me as a black man.

None of us wants to find ourselves facing an officer Barrett, wielding a badge, billy club, pepper spray, a gun and perhaps a taser, with the authority to use them as he sees fit in the moment. And should he abuse that authority, we may be able to seek justice later. But even if we get justice afterwards, the damage is already done.

Problem is we don't know how many officer Barretts there are, or when we'll end up facing one. So how can we trust the police? And how can we trust them if, having found an officer Barrett in there midst, how can we trust them if they decide to keep him?

The Boston police would do well to remember that during Barrett's termination hearing.


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Here is hoping that he does get terminated. I live right outside of Boston and I have to say that my interactions with Boston and Boston area police have been extremely unpleasant. I have had confrontational situations with the Boston Police, Quincy Police (this one made the papers actually and forced the issuance of an apology)and the Providence RI Police and the East Bridgwater MA Police. Two of those times I was verbally abused and threatened in front of my own children.
I am a white male and what I would say about it is that they certainly are demonstrative of racism and homophobia but many of the white males find them to just be generally offensive and very aggressive towards the citizenry in general.
I grew up in the deep South and only dealt with one obnoxious cop that swore called names and threatened but when I moved to the NE I found them to be generally nasty toward everyone.

Let him say it, I've got four words to call him too:

"Bigoted unemployed former cop"

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 2, 2009 2:59 AM

Obama ignited a firestorm when he defended Gates.

Then, predictably, he backed down. All of a sudden the cops we're stupid anymore. If you spend a decade or so pandering to anti-GLBT bigots how hard is it to adjust to pandering to racist sentiment?

Apparently not all that hard.

If he keeps it up he’s going to get mired in the racist mud his opponents are sure to throw at him. It began during the primaries and the elections and is sure to increase.

During the primaris it got so intense that Bill Clinton was forced to say "But I am not a racist...I've never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally." Lots of people thought otherwise. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=5506458

They were equally appalled by Hillary Clintons racism in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In Ohio she won because "20% of voters said the race of the candidate was important factor (undoubtedly a lower than truthful response), and 59% of those supported Clinton. As has been pointed out, that is a total of 249,299 votes, greater than Clinton's margin of victory."
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=5506458

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-coryell/racism-and-clintons-victo_b_90219.html

As Hillary Clinton began to lose she got desperate. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/05/08/clinton-touts-support-from-white-americans/#comments

"In what appears to be the New York senator's most blunt comments to date regarding a racial division in the Democratic presidential race, Hillary Clinton suggested Wednesday that "White Americans" are increasingly turning away from Barack Obama’s candidacy. Clinton cited an Associated Press poll "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said."

She was right of course. The pattern was raw racism.

If Democratic (sic) or Republican racists attack Obama we should condemn it.

A. J. Lopp | August 3, 2009 2:05 AM

Forgive me for nit-picking, but ...

I support Obama for making the "stupidly" remark --- unfortunately, it did not reflect Obama's usual sense of tact, and many Americans interpreted it as an insult instead of as the observation that Obama meant it to be. Had Obama said more tactfully, "The police could have handled this situation better," it probably would have raised hardly an eyebrow.

Obama later said he "regretted his remark" --- that is ambiguous, he is not saying his remark was incorrect, nor is he explicitly apologizing for it, only that he (Obama) would have been smarter to not have used those particular words. This might mean simply that Obama now realizes that he created trouble for himself by saying it --- and nothing more.

It is incorrect for you to say, "Then ... he backed down" or to call this "pandering to racist sentiment" --- it simply means he realizes that his statement was a mistake because it stirred emotions up instead of calming things down.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 3, 2009 5:41 PM

Nitpick all you want, AJ Loop. Although, if you’ll forgive me for nitpicking, what you're really doing is engaging in deniability and damage control. I think it's called spinning.

You say that calling the cops stupid was an unfortunate lapse. "it did not reflect Obama's usual sense of tact..." Was that the same tact he used when he went to Warren's bigotfest in Orange County CA in the final days of the effort to defeat Prop 8 and uttered the war cry that galvanized the bigot vote - "gawd's in the mix"? Was that the same tact he used when he invited Warren, a notorious southern baptist bigot to speak before an audience of billions at the inaugural? Was that the same kind of insulting tact his DoJ used to defame and insult us while defending Clinton’s DOMA?

But enough of that. We could go on all week about Obama’s ‘tactful’ homohating and still not cover it all.

Please, answer these questions.

First, the cops tried to teach Gates a lesson because (choose one answer) he was criminally disrespectful (and if that’s you answer please cite the law in Cambridge or Massachusetts that criminalizes disrespect of cops) or was it because he was African American and not allowed to have opinions about cops, particularly Euroamerican cops.

Secondly, exactly what kind of Americans got upset when he called the cops stupid for their racist overreaction and extra-legal punishment of Gates. If you said right-wingers and racists you'd be right. And Obama apologized to them.

So, after decades of pandering to right wing homohaters now he's pandering to right wing bigots. And, as it turns out I'm not "incorrect".

many canadian police departments--although not all--are run by civilian police boards who actually hire and fire the chief and have the power to set policy for the police force.

additionally, there are civilian "complaint managers", for want of a better term, who investigate complaints brought by members of the public.

this would be a good idea in the us--although, of course, you could "stack" a public board and have the same problems as you describe in this story.

The writer is confusing two distinct and unrelated incidents in different jurisdictions and then asks "Tell me again that "race had nothing to do with" the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. We've gone from "gorillas in the mist" to "banana-eating" "jungle monkey."

The emails of the Boston cop are politically incorrect and the issue is being reviewed.

As to Gates, the Cambridge sergeant acted appropriately in response to the situation. The Gates arrest was proper and based upon probable cause - based upon the behavior of Gates. Behavior has consequences. Gates is the one who escalated the incident by being verbally combative. Gates owes Crowley, law enforcement, and the nation an apology.

Bob, You are wrong. There was NO law broken and that is why the charges were DISMISSED. It was about ego and property rights. Gates has the right to tell you, me and the cop to fuck the fuck off on his own property. You and me have the right to tell each other to suck my cock bitch but the police officer does NOT. Got it. It is simple. He is the only one in the scenario being PAID and it is by Gates, you and me. SO.... It was nothing but ego out of control on both parts but VERBAL COMBATITIVENESS ON ITS OWN IS NOT ILLEGAL. Try that crap elsewhere. It's tired. To reitterate again for you, CHARGES DISMISSED BECAUSE NO LAW WAS BROKEN. COP OVERREACTED. COP RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OVERREACTION BECAUSE IT LED TO GOVERNMENT INTRUSION AND ABUSE OF AUTHORITY VESTED IN HIM THAT VIOLATED GATES' RIGHTS.

A. J. Lopp | August 2, 2009 3:54 PM

Perhaps, Mr. Zuley, you might explain to us pinko liberals how a black man is supposed to defend his right to enter his own home to a suspicious white officer without becoming "verbally combative"? Isn't "You're treating me this way because I'm black" a reasonable thing to want the white officer to consider?

From Wikipedia: "The most well-known definition of probable cause is 'a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime'."

Gates showed his drivers license and proved that the house was his residence --- that should have been the end of it. Even if Gates broke the lock on the door, it was still not a crime --- it was his door to break, and the drivers license just proved that.

Mr. Zuley, could you please explain how a man being unhappy about being harrassed in his own home, after he has proven he is in his own home, generates a belief that the man indeed did commit a crime.

It is obvious that the arrest was retaliation for Gates criticizing the officer's handling of the situation. Maybe it would have been wiser for gates to bite his tongue, but accusing an officer of racism is not alone grounds for an arrest. The officer acted as he did due to a combination of racism and policeman's over-blown ego.

I do not feel the police in uniform acting on behalf of the public interest on duty or off duty constantly masquerading behind professionalism have any right to free speech. They should shut the fuck up, put in their twenty years for the SERVICE AND PROTECTION OF ALL or not voluntarily apply for a position that countless others want, a position oddly enough repeatedly touted as terribly and potentially dangerous but still is sought after by so many. Now that's what i call Irony. There was a NY Times article on police attitude toward what happened in Cambridge, Ma. and i was not surprised but still disgusted nonetheless that every cop who disagreed with Professor Gates remained ANONYMOUS. So why is that? The answer is because no law was broken by the private citizen. A police officer abused his authority because he was unable to maintain a professionalism he is paid to remain in compliance with turning this ego festering fiasco into a property rights issue among other important fundamental rights that the ra ra american public (fux noose network angry couch potatoes) refuse to acknowledge unless it were someone who looked like them. Whoever mistreats us abusing their privilege of authority is dangerous to all of us. This "PIG" should be fired. His free speech stops at his front door unlike Henry Louis Gates'. The police need to be woken up and reminded who in the hell they are working and being paid by. Only the ignorant refuse to see this for what it is; a police state. Government intrusion is rampant. It is not too late for us to put all local state and federal employees in their place if we collectively choose to do so. Lastly, there are just too many police employees anyway and we can thank Clinton for that just like his DADT and other bullshit he stabbed us all in the back with so long ago with his smile and rhetoric of being the first black president.

Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof. Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools have little or no influence on society. We should "Never Underestimate the Power of Laughter."