I held this one a few days to see what develops from this case and I’m glad I did, because it fits perfectly into the theme I’ve been on this week and CNN. This is often what it’s like to be Black in America. The slight differences is the prominence of Dr. Gates compared to some dude with a last name of Gates. I should have titled this Black in America 3, but I’ll let CNN work on that one.
Alright, I hope I’m proven wrong by the people who visits this blog often and typically tend to disagree with me for the points I’m about to make, but let’s see. I’m sure there will be someone who will say that it isn’t about race. I’m just curious to learn how others view this incident regarding a well known and highly regarded Harvard professor who has been on television many times who happens to be Black and a Cambridge, MA police sergeant who happens to be White and a neighbor who is assumed to be White. I can almost assume the answers some may give, but I want to just hear what others think about this incident.
While arriving back home from a trip to China last week Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; a distinguished Black scholar, Head of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African & African-American Research, PBS Host of African-American Lives, one of TIME Magazines 25 most influential Americans and professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts were accompanied by a driver found his front door damaged. A neighbor (we’ll call her Mrs. Crabtree for argument sake) called the police to report a man wedging his shoulder into the front door. Sgt. James Crowley responded to a call made by one of Dr. Gates’ neighbors.
According to the police report, written by Sergeant Crowley states that he came to the residence to investigate and states that Dr. Gates open the front door and exclaimed, “Why, because I’m a Black man in America?”
Now I must interject something right here. Every Black man is not hostile or angry, regardless of how we may be depicted on your local television or FOX News. I’ve personally been called angry, hostile, bitter, uneducated and recently un-American and even a racist. I’ve had the police question me, because “I fit the description” of someone who was reported of committing a crime when I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I have ample and justifiable cause to be many of those characterizations that some freely bestowed unto me, but I didn’t see the need to demonstrate any of them, because I know who I am and do not need someone who is more reactionary than me to tell me who or what they believe I am.
I say all of this, because I believe Dr. Gates, a man who is far better educated than me, I aspire to be as intellectually distinguished as he, can only hope to be as beloved and established than he is has little reason to respond in such a way as is described in the police report. I see the validity of the statement and if this was said of me I could understand the doubt some may have, but I will put aside my reasons of suspicion for the moment.
By-the-way, isn’t this the same city that just had that high profile “Firefighters Discrimination Lawsuit”? But let’s get back to the issue with the police.
Now Dr. Gates entered HIS house with HIS key through HIS back door. Remember the front door was damaged. Then Dr. Gates and his driver were then able to open the front door by force. And just as anticipated that’s about the time the police showed up.
The police (Sgt. Crowley) told Dr. Gates that he was investigating a call about a break-in. Dr. Gates identified himself to Sgt. Crowley and began to go into his kitchen where he left his wallet. Naturally the officer followed him.
Interruption: I’m telling you, I know this cop was right behind him. They’re not going to believe you, even if you’re an elite college professor. You’re still a… Well let’s not speculate. I said I was going to put my suspicion aside for the moment.
Dr. Gates confirmed who he is when he handed the officer his Harvard ID and MA driver’s license. Then he asked the officer for his name & badge number, but I guess the officer felt he didn’t need to identify himself.
Interruption: I guess that protect and to serve motto is just for… Let me remain objective and not allow my suspicion to distort any sense of fairness. I’m fighting it.
So one would think that since everything checked out all is well, but the story doesn’t end there.
So as Dr. Gates followed Sgt Crowley to the front door, the officer told Dr. Gates, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request and then placed him under arrest for Disorderly Conduct.”
WTH! Whatcha arresting me for?
Now the question that hasn’t been asked is directed to the neighbor (Mrs. Crabtree). Why didn’t you say anything? Even if you don’t speak to your neighbor you can distinguish that they are your neighbor. Another point is that Dr. Gates obviously lives in a very nice community, since the police arrived on the scene so quickly. I don’t know of many Harvard professors that aren’t making a nice salary. Another question is if the front door appeared damaged, why didn’t the neighbor who obviously was ‘so concerned’ about Dr. Gates home report that to the police. Most police departments will come to investigate and if no one is home will leave a card, note or some sort of “While You Were Out” we reported a call by a neighbor someone was trying to break-in, but all is well. No I believe the neighbor saw… and called the cops.
I make this conclusion based off of my own similar experiences with individuals who only see me as someone who ‘fits the description’ of their misconceptions. Perhaps this is just another reason why we should consider others.
It’s interesting that this story comes up at the time of CNN’s 2nd documentary of Black in America, because this is commonplace with many Blacks in America in addition to Hispanic and Latino males too. According to some I could extend the ‘fits the description’ assumption to a wise Latina judges too, but I digress.
Tell me what you think about this incident from your perspective.References & Inspirations CNN – 07/21/09 “Harvard Professor Gates Arrested” Cambridge Police Department – 07/16/09 “Incident Report #9005127”