Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is The Gates Arrest about Racism?

This story was taken by The Mountain Sage 07-23-2009. Please read this and leave your comments. I will share my view after we receive a number of responses.

Mountain Sage
Political News, Opinion and Discussion HomeThe API SagaAboutVideosSitemapDisclaimerThe ‘unfathomable’ arrest of a black scholar
Filed in General U.S. News, Politics on Jul.22, 2009
This complete incident could have been avoided with just a little effort by the police. When the officer got the report that a possible break-in had occurred he could have contacted dispatch and had the address checked to see who owns the home. It’s certainly not that hard to do. Once that information was in hand a driver’s license check could be made and the name, race, age of the owner could have been relayed to the officer.

Had the officer approached the house with that information in hand and a little different attitude there probably wouldn’t have been an altercation. Of course a black man didn’t want to step outside to talk to a police officer – too many reports of police abuse against black men for him to be comfortable with that. The officer could have apologized for interrupting Mr. Gates and asked if Mr. Gates and his property were ok since a possible break-in had been reported.

I believe Mr. Gates’ response would have been much different.

Maybe it’s time we all take a little more time and put a little more thought into our interactions with each other.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s most prominent African-American scholars was arrested last Thursday in broad daylight at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home for disorderly conduct — what the arresting officer described as “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space.” The charge was dropped Tuesday on the recommendation of police, and the city of Cambridge issued a statement calling the incident “regrettable and unfortunate.”

Gates had just returned from a trip to China when a police officer responded to a call about a potential break-in at his home that was phoned in by a white woman. According to the police report, Gates was in the foyer when the officer arrived.

The officer asked Gates to “step out onto the porch and speak with me,” the report says. “[Gates] replied, ‘No, I will not.’ He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was ‘Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police’ and that I was ‘investigating a report of a break in progress’ at the residence.

“While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, ‘Why, because I’m a black man in America?’ ” Have race relations improved since the election of President Barack Obama?

According to the report, Gates initially refused to show the officer his identification, instead asking for the officer’s ID. But Gates eventually did show the officer his identification that included his home address.

“The police report says I was engaged in loud and tumultuous behavior. That’s a joke,” Gates told The Root. “It escalated as follows: I kept saying to him, ‘What is your name, and what is your badge number?’ and he refused to respond. I asked him three times, and he refused to respond. And then I said, ‘You’re not responding because I’m a black man, and you’re a white officer.’”

Known as Skip by friends and colleagues, Gates is the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University, and an acclaimed PBS documentarian.


Tricia said...

This case was NOT about racism at all. Although, I do know that it sometimes does happen.

Sgt. Crowley just happened to be the first Officer on the scene to a reported possible breaking and entering call. Sgt. Crowley was following standard procedure with Mr. Gates when asking him to step out of his home and show identification. Mr. Gates, then by his own words became belligerent and refused to co-operate. I can understand that Mr. Gates may have been angry (I would have been also after a long flight) but the Sgt. Crowley was just following procedure and doing his job.

When anyone refuses to follow a Police Officers orders and actions are threatening, verbally abusive, they appear to be out of control, and/or refuse to co-operate an Officer can arrest that person for Disorderly Conduct. If Mr. Gates had just showed the Officer his I.D. and co-operated, he would not have been arrested.

In the past I worked as a licensed Private Investigator and have been involved in situations similar to this (people not co-operating and/or being belligerent with the Police) where because of the persons own actions in how they speak to the Police, directly leads to their arrest. When they would have been released, received a warning or no further actions would have been taken. In most cases, when dealing with Police, if you treat them with respect, they will do the same with you. By all accounts Sgt. Crowley did speak and treat Mr. Gates with respect however Mr. Gates did not provide the Police with the same respect.

Dr. James said...

Thank you for your honest assessment of this sensitive issue. We must all be aware of one communicates regarding diversity in class, race, and power.