Apparently police, responding to a report of breaking and entering in the affluent Cambridge neighborhood, arrested Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates, the pre-eminent black scholar in America.  Turns out Gates put his shoulder to his front door, which was stuck, and was seen by a white woman who then called the cops.

As Gawker puts it:

So in case you were wondering: No, not even the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, in the sanctuary of his own home, which is itself practically in the middle of the most prestigious university in the world, which is Gates' employer and playground, is immune from getting hassled because he is black.

Oh, and the white lady who called the cops on him, Lucia Whalen? She's a fundraiser for Harvard Magazine.

That's rich.

Between this and the recent incident at the Philly pool, it's enough to make you wonder how far we still have to go.  I mean, in an era of the first black president, the struggle for racial justice is hardly over.

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  • The person who called the police was visiting from out of town. If anyone was profiling it was her.

    But she wasn’t. She saw what she thought was a break in. I suppose she thought it was better to be safe than sorry. Maybe she thought that if they did own the house they would say so to the police, but he didn’t. He could have given his ID but he didn’t until it escalated. He was angry and wanted to make a point but he could have handled this better.

    Police are generally assholes but in this case the police were just doing there job and the good doctor was acting like a child. “You don’t know who you’re messing with” What an arrogant statement.

    I would personally be thankful if my neighbor called the police on someone breaking into my house. even if that person was me.

  • I acknowledge that racial profiling exists. I wish it didn’t.

    Last time I mouthed off to the police, they beat me with their baton… and I’m white.

    Looking back, I understand that I was at fault for resisting arrest. I was angry and was not doing what they asked me to do.

    If I had done what they asked, the outcome would have been different.

    I understand that in order for the system to work; police need to be able to exert their authority. Sometimes that authority goes to their head, much like profiling makes some people very sensitive.

  • Both Ronk and Chris R: First, I appreciate you both taking the time to leave comments here.

    However, there’s a whole lot of history, not to mention reams of data on racial profiling. For example, look here:


    And, Ronk, sorry to hear about your run-in with the cops. But I feel like your experience was the exception, not the rule. And, in your case, you say you were “resisting arrest”. Gates was NOT resisting arrest. In fact, he’d walked outside with the officer and was then placed under arrest.

    And here’s the thing: If a white guy is on his own porch, no one is going to assume he’s not supposed to be there, which is exactly what happened in this case. Here’s the other thing: Gates did what we’re all told we’re supposed to to: He kept his nose clean, he went to school, he got numerous degrees. He became pre-eminent in his field and did so at the top institution of higher learning in this country. After all that, I’m sure he thought that, at the very least, he’d be given the benefit of the doubt. But he wasn’t.

    So, instead of trying to explain away or justify the actions of the police, I’d really like it if you both stopped for a minute and admitted that Black people have had a particular experience and history in this country. And it’s an experience that, for the most part, Whites will never have. Things that happen to Whites–Ronk’s run in with the cops–is an individual situation. What Gates experienced–from the minute that woman called 911 to his arrest–was institutional.

    So, yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that there’s justice and equal treatment for all.