Harvey Silverglate is right. Police racism is rampant in America in general and Boston in particular, but what Henry Louis Gates experienced at the hands of the Cambridge police was something totally other. As America’s most progressive community, Cambridge boasts a unique working-class police force with a long history of demanding respect from the town’s transient rich, often in nominally illegal ways. Members of my own family recount that, at least as late as the early 1960s, students lived in fear of the Cambridge police, who much enjoyed finding a young man in a blazer far enough from Harvard Square that he had no right to be there at that hour of night, then beating him silly.
In most of the United States, a certain level of education, distinction, or wealth secures a man the right to talk back to the police, or even break the law (but not both; see Mel Gibson’s DUI conviction). Cambridge is egalitarian. No one has the right to talk back to police here. The philosopher takes the matter with a sense of humor. “I think those of us who live in luxury on money which is secured to us by the Criminal Law ought to have some idea of the mechanism by which our happiness is secured,” wrote Bertrand Russell in 1918, as he prepared to serve six months for pacifism, “and for this reason I shall be glad to know the inside of a prison.”
Why are we surprised about police abuse? Few, if any, police applicants receive psychological screenings or, if later needed, anger-management counseling. Some are dressed like Robocops or Storm Troopers with jackboots and wearing shades like Boss Godfrey in Cool Hand Luke to reinforce the macho image. We are not living in Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood anymore.
Atmosphere won best national hip-hop act in your Best Music Poll? Over the likes of DOOM? A more appropriate “token” winner would have been Brother Ali. At least he has a decent flow. I am not sure that what Slug does on the mic even qualifies as rapping; it’s more like well-written, spoken-word poetry, if you ask me.
Oh, Boston and our college kids: whatever makes you feel comfy, I guess.
In our recent review of Julie & Julia, we incorrectly identified the actress who played Simone Beck. Her name is Linda Emond.