I’m shaking my head over a big “Much Ado About Nothing” that’s brewing over a famous Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the police in Cambridge, MA, where the Ivy League university is located.
Cambridge police arrested Gates, one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, July 16. (See details in the Boston Globe newspaper). Police apparently went to Gates’ home, near Harvard Square, to investigate a possible break-in. Some kind of confrontation ensued, and police booked Gates for disorderly conduct. This caused some Harvard faculty members to see Gates as a victim of racial profiling.
I think he’s a victim of arrogance and stupidity.
According to the Globe, Gates, (director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard), had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed. A neighbor thought he was trying to break into the home and called police.
According to police, Gates is accused of: “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior”. Gates apparently accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had “no idea who he was messing with.”
According to the Globe, Gates told the officer he was being targeted because: “I’m a black man in America.”
The article also quotes a Harvard Medical School professor, S. Allen Counter, who spoke with Gates about the incident. Counter says: “This is very disturbing that this could happen to anyone and not just to a person of such distinction”.
He’s “just shocked that this had happened, at 12:44 in the afternoon, in broad daylight” (and that) “It brings up the question of whether black males are being targeted by Cambridge police for harassment.”
Now it could very well be that Cambridge police do indeed target black men, that if they’d come and found the situation involved a white man, they’d have taken him out to dinner. But I suppose, Gates, being the learned professor that he is, is already cognizant of this fact.
You’d think he’s say: OK officer, you caught me, let’s go. How much more traction would he have?
But no, Gates is too important; too outraged that somebody would even think he was a perpetrator, and so unaware of the plight of black men at the hands of Cambridge police, that he must argue with the cops.
The charges have been dropped, but Gates isn’t happy. Nope. He wants an apology. And I say:
THE CAMBRIDGE POLICE SHOULD NOT, SHOULD NOT, APOLOGISE TO PROFESSOR GATES.
But I guess they probably will…because Gates is connected. Charges dropped, enough. I don’t even care if racism was involved, a highly intelligent man like Gates should know better than to carry on like that with police.
Nearly everything in America appears to be seen through a racial lens. And I don’t take racism…or perceived racism, lightly.
I am black. BLACK as they come; so black I stopped straightening/relaxing my hair years ago. I’m happy with my “nappy” head…but I’m not happy with Mr. Gates, or his friend, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, (who’s defending Gates) or even the Rev. Al Sharpton, who wanted to rush down here and turn one man’s outrage into a national circus.
But I’m outraged that Gates Inc is using race so blatantly to cover his personal shortcomings in that instance – blaming it all on police, and that Ogletree is pandering to his friend and colleague.
I’d respect, support and admire Gates if he said, “OK, I was also wrong to confront police: they dropped the charges, it’s over.”
Shame on you, professor, for acting in a manner that delinquents and Gang Bangers get blasted for! These thugs (and ordinary citizens) get no sympathy when they’re jailed for not complying with police orders, for disrespecting the police and challenging their authority.
I can understand why Gates possibly felt his person was offended because police had the audacity to question the mighty him…to think HE was a burglar…that HE would break into a house!
I have a very well-developed sense of ME, and I’d be offended too.
But if Cambridge police apologize to Mr. Gates, I will be very unhappy indeed.
Gates is lucky he has the weight of the Mighty Harvard behind him. If it was me, or some unlucky juvenile in inner-city Dorchester, with no connections, he/she/I would probably still be languishing in jail!
If police apologize to him, Gates should go to the nearest jail/court and apologize to others in there on similar charges.
Gates is not the only person who gets heated up with police…and gets arrested for it. (And far as I know, cops haven’t apologized to any of those unlucky,
connection-lacking brothers and sisters, of no eminence). Maybe police should go around apologizing to all of them – and release them.
Or maybe Gates is just lucky/connected/well-known/eminent enough to get those charges dropped.
Apology or not, right or wrong, the way Mr. Gates handled the situation, HE does not come out of this well. And that has nothing to do with being black.