Since James Blake’s incident outside the Grand Hyatt last Wednesday, he’s been extremely cautious with his words. James Blake is not unequivocally blaming the cause of what happened to him on his race, and that is the genius of his approach.
James Blake was stepping out of a luxury hotel. The guests you would encounter coming out of such a hotel are likely to hold economic clout. Whoever would have come out of that hotel to get mistakenly roughed up by law enforcement would likely have something to say about it, and likely have the means to get the message out.
You have to think of what direction the group of officers received before they encountered Blake, and what they are being told every day by their department when they head out for a day of crime fighting on the streets of New York City. James Blake doesn’t need to play the race card. If he did, a portion of people would tune out the rest of what he had to say. Some already have.
There’s already the Black Lives Matter movement. James is not looking to intentionally bring his experience there. Having been a tennis star, he already has the attention he needs. Leaving the issue race neutral brings the potential for a larger impact.
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton have apologized to Blake. Bratton has also already given his stance that this isn’t a race issue.
The New York Times quotes Bratton as saying, “I don’t believe at all that race was a factor.”
The Los Angeles Times summarized James Blake’s uncharacteristically cool reaction.
“One of the chuckles floating around the media center here, when the news came of his incident with the police, was the part of the story that said he was, at least for the moment, withholding comment. Blake never withheld comment.”
If race is indeed not a factor, then exactly what is the factor? Blake could garner sympathy from a wider spread of people seeking that answer, rather than accelerate a pigeonhole of this incident with similar ones in the news. Without race brought into play, Blake could give the issue relevance to sports stars, rich people, celebrities, and other prominent people who are harder to ignore.
The decision by James Blake to only mildly bring up race, despite being a wise tactic, seems a genuine expression of how he feels.
[Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]