I'm scratching my head at why the majority of commenters seem to purposely miss this fact:
Professor Gates was ARRESTED - not warned, not admonished, but ARRESTED - IN HIS OWN HOME AFTER DISPLAYING THE IDENTIFICATION REQUESTED BY THE POLICE. There may or may not be racial overtones to the fact that someone called the cops on him, but that's not the point. The point is that in spite of the fact that he had proved to the police that he was in his own home, they arrested him.I've been trying to put myself in a similar situation, but it's hard. Because I'm white, and have never been questioned about my place in my neighborhood, I don't know if I'd immediately turn to anger as a response. But I do know it's out of the realm of my reality that a cop would arrest me once I'd proved my place there. An admonishment or warning - yes; an arrest - no.
Another commenter said this: "If a suspect, be they black or white, gets in the face of an officer, he's going to get arrested, no matter who he has proven himself to be." For which crime was Professor Gates a suspect after he provided his ID, which is when the arrest took place? At that point, decorum and decibels were irrelevant and the police should have apologized and gone on their way. Richard Weinblatt, director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College, points out on his blog:
I think a refresher of Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is in order. To those of you who are trolling for posts that share my opinion onto which to drop your comments: read that first.
Bottom line: while the officer was justified in investigating a crime, he stated in his report that he was satisfied that the occupant, Professor Gates, was legally allowed to be there and that no further danger was present. That, from a law enforcement perspective, is THE key phrase. It was at that point he should have left. This became a battle of competing egos.
Just back from a short vacation, but while I'm catching up, please go read this, along with the other reports on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University and PBS documentarian.
The charge: "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space." Only Gates was in his own home in broad daylight.
The catalyst for the charge: "a call about a potential break-in at his home that was phoned in by a white woman."
I don't have the energy to read all the (mostly stupid) comments following the article, because I'm just plain sick to death of people rationalizing situations like this. This is racial profiling. Period.
Attention KAAN Conference attendees: Don't miss the session White Privilege: A User's Guide with John Raible, Jen Hilzinger and Mark Hagland.