In the wake of the Gates arrest heard 'round the world, the media, Obama and of course Henry Louis Gates himself, have done their best to position this as a black and white incident, the collision of two men divided by race. But in fact the arrest of Henry Louis Gates was not about two men divided by race, but two men divided by class.
Henry Louis Gates was not arrested because he was black. He was arrested because he was a famous man who felt entitled to tell off a middle class police officer, warning him, "You don't know who you're messing with." Those are not the words of a powerless victim of America's racial oppression. They're the words of an important man who was warning the low paid city employee he was dealing with, that he was too prominent to be touched.
And indeed the remaining narrative, which moved from a media firestorm over a simple arrest, to a supportive statement from the White House, proved Gates right. Crowley indeed didn't "know who he was messing with". He was messing not with a black man, but with a rich and important man. A man who was above the law.
Had Gates been arrested because he was a black man, there would have been no media response and no attention from the White House. Had Henry Louis Gates been a plumber or an associate professor whose name wasn't listed in Who's Who in America, with three names, and a list of titles and awards long enough to choke a whale-- his arrest would never have made the news. Nor would Gates have acted the way he did.
Once arrested, Gates and his defenders cynically used race as a smokescreen to conceal the real issue, which was class. Henry Louis Gates was not the victim of racism, he was the beneficiary of it. And all the media's huffing and puffing about race in America cannot successfully transform a wealthy and prominent man who felt free to warn a police sergeant, "You don't know who you're messing with" into a victim.
Gates' arrest elicited sympathy from Obama, not because Gates shares a race with him, but because Henry Louis Gates shares a class with him. Like Gates, Obama has cynically done his best to exploit a racial guilt that has nothing to do, not only with him, but not even with his ancestors, to provide cover for his arrogance and sense of entitlement. Like the collision between Obama and Palin, the collision between Gates and Crowley, was a blatant clash of class, not race.
So too when Obama felt free enough to complain to his fellow upper class elitists at a San Francisco fundraiser about the middle class and lower class folks, "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion", it was not a racial complaint, it was a typically upper class liberal complaint. That same sense of class entitlement would feed the Obama campaign's fury against Sarah Palin for stepping outside her class, and proceed to portray her as ignorant white trash. So too Obama's media cult and Gates were eager enough to portray Crowley as thuggish and racist, only halting when they realized that their narrative had been disproven and was actually producing a backlash.
When black officers blasted Gates and in turn Obama, it ripped away the mask of race, and revealed the underlying issue of class. It was no longer one white man and one black man, but the middle class hardworking police officers pitted against the wealthy and powerful Henry Louis Gates and Barack Obama. And that was a dangerous narrative, particularly after Obama had run up a tremendous deficit bailing out Wall Street banks and car companies.
Obama's condescending gambit of a beer summit was meant to appeal to what he thought were the sensibilities of the middle class white men he had offended. Of course that in turn served as a forum for Elizabeth Gates, Henry Louis Gates' daughter to pen an essay snidely commenting on Crowley's daughter's eyeliner, "she was wearing an appropriately heavy and charmingly untrained amount of green eyeliner on her lower lashes", again a comment denoting a class putdown, rather than a racial putdown.
In the famous photo of Crowley helping Gates walk, Americans may have seen compassion, but Gates only saw a lower class city employee providing service to a prominent civic figure. It is how Gates truly saw the conflict all along.
While American liberals insist on exploiting the arrest to argue that race remains a serious issue for Americans, the fact that large numbers of Americans were willing to vote for a black man into the top post in the nation suggests otherwise. It is not race that haunts America, but class. Yet what class is Henry Louis Gates?
Gates is not a captain of industry. He did not make money or gain fame inventing anything that people needed, or marketing a product that millions of Americans want. Instead Gates is a racial profiteer. A cleaner more academic version of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, running an institute named after W.E. Du Bois, a well known Communist who supported virtually every atrocity the USSR carried out, and was even willing to back Imperial Japan's massacres in China, in the name of race.
That is something which Gates has in common with Obama. Neither of the two men honestly came by their fame, fortune and positions. They came by them by exploiting racial guilt, not for any larger benefit, but for their own class standing. Behind all the twaddle about role models, is the elitism of two men, neither of whom have worked for a living, but who built up images of themselves as representing a race, in order to partake of the benefits of a class.
The rise of Obama, like the rise of Gates, is a story not of race, but of political parasitism. It is also the larger story of an America in which hard work no longer matters, in which it is safe to sneer at the middle class values of a Crowley or a Palin, because they represent an old fashioned dedication to achievement and duty, that is no longer meant to be relevant in the "New America".
In the "New America" you don't get recognized for hard work. You get recognized for being the squeaky wheel. For turning yourself into a brand. For finding an identity and marketing it for all you can. Race, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity are only counters in a larger game of media politics that everyone can play, but only a few can succeed at.
It's not about the 9 to 5 anymore. It's about the 12 to 3 in a four day week. It's about the triumph over the middle class by people who excel at talking, but not at working. It's about playing divide and conquer with a multicultural America, certain that no matter how it goes, you will always pocket the winnings. It's not just about class, it's about the new class. The one that doesn't earn money, but has it transferred over from the coffers of the taxpayer. It's not about America. It's about the New America. It's about the Obama's America.
And if you're "unfortunate" enough to still believe in hard work and doing your job as best as you can, you don't belong in it anymore. Here have a beer. Then help Henry Louis Gates, Jr, down the stairs.