I've just come back from a week without internet, secluded off in the wilderness writing about culture, and this is how culture greets me when I return: "Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested, Police Accused Of Racial Profiling".
Apparently, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the preeminent scholars of African American studies and race theory, Harvard professor, was arrested late last week for attempting to open the jammed door of his own house. A neighbor called the police, reporting "two black men" attempting a break-in and the police arrived to question, and eventually arrest Gates for "disorderly conduct," even after he produced identification and proved the house was his.
Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.
Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."
The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment.
"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."
Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home – which he leases from Harvard – shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.
You can read Gates' lawyer's official statement over at The Root.
To say I am appalled would be an absolute understatement.
Update: Apparently the charges were just dropped. First smart move by Cambridge law enforcement so far.
Also, reading comments about this case has me in a tizzy. What is wrong with people? (Alas, a blog's comment section is pretty mild, but makes me fear other media outlets.)
Update #2: A few other posts on Gates' arrest:
Rebecca Walker's blog
Pam's House Blend