- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Gates' Arrest Is the Essence of American Racism

theloop21.com, Commentary, Devona Walker Posted: Jul 22, 2009

Last Thursday, the Cambridge Police Department outside Boston took racial profiling to an all-time low. They arrested 58-year-old Henry Louis Gates Jr., the publisher of TheRoot.com, Harvard professor and director of the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African and African American Research, outside his home.

Apparently, a white woman passed by, saw two black men with backpacks outside a nice home, assumed they were burglars, even though one of the men in question is almost 60 years old and immediately called the police. She was still there, with cell phone in hand, when the Cambridge police arrived on the scene.

Now, where should we begin?

The incident occured in the middle of the day, and when the police showed up, they realized Gates was the owner of the home. He was, in fact, not arrested on suspicion of burglary, but for disturbing the peace and acting belligerent after the officers demanded he come back outside to show identification.

Both sides remember the details differently. While the officer says Gates at first refused to produce identification, Gates said he immediately showed the officer two forms of identification. On Tuesday, due no doubt to all the racism outrage, the Cambridge police dropped charges against Gates, which leads to questions about who was in the wrong.

After Gates produced ID, the Cambridge police called the Harvard police, who then called a Harvard maintenance worker to vouch for Gates' identity. And then, of course, there was that white woman passerby still lingering around, clutching her cell phone.

According to the police report, the police were angered after Gates called them racists in front of the growing crowd of people nearby. Gates, in their opinion, committed the cardinal sin. He called them out on the spot for racial profiling and still the officer remains confused, puzzled and bewildered that Gates was upset.

This goes to the very basis of racism in America. Some people just dont get it. They dont connect our rage with their ignorance. All they see is the rage. In 1994, Gates wrote Colored People: A Memoir, and one of the passages I find particularly interesting:

Completely by the accident of racism, we have been bound together with people with whom we may or may not have something in common, just because we are "black." Thirty million Americans are black, and 30 million is a lot of people.

One day you wonder: What do the misdeeds of a Mike Tyson have to do with me? So why do I feel implicated? And how can I not feel racial decrimination when I can feel racial pride? ...I want to be black, to know black, to luxuriate in whatever I might be calling blackness at any particular time -- but to do so in order to come out the other side, to experience a humanity that is neither colorless nor reducible to color.

See, you have to understand: The local authorities didnt recognize Gates, because he doesn't rap and isn't a member of the NBA or NFL. When he warned them that they'd be sorry for harassing him, they accused him of disturbing the peace in front of his own home after several unnecessary phone calls to check his story. If that's not the essence of racial profiling at its best, I don't know what would be. All I know is they definitely messed with the wrong brother.

Devona Walker is theloop21.com's senior financial and political reporter. She is a veteran journalist who has worked for the New York Times and the Associated Press and can be reached at devona@theloop21.com.

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Criminal Justice