A Boston police officer who sent a mass e-mail referring to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as a "banana-eating jungle monkey" has apologized, saying he's not a racist.
Gates acted like a race-baiting idiot, but this police officer steps well over a line here. Obviously, the officer was upset. But if this doesn't excuse Gates' behavior - and I think it doesn't, even though he was actually in the midst of a confrontation - then it certainly doesn't excuse Officer Barrett's, who presumably composed his little homily while sitting in front of his computer.
The standard non sequiturs have already been stated on both sides. Boston Police Commissioner Davis on the subject of whether Barrett might lose his job: "Police officers certainly have First Amendment rights..." Sure they do. So what? Firing an officer for speech doesn't violate his Constitutional rights. Barrett's attorney: "Officer Barrett did not call Professor Gates a jungle monkey or malign him racially. He said his behavior was like that of one. It was a characterization of the actions of that man." Right, dude. Keep spinnin'.