An interesting story is developing in Massachusetts where respected Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested by the police in a case of what some are saying is a clear example of racial profiling. Although the facts of the case appear bleary depending upon whose version you read, the following seems to have occurred. Dr. Gates returned to his home near Harvard's campus after getting back from a trip to China. He had difficulty entering through the front door, but he and his cab driver were able to eventually get in.
After being in the house for a few minutes, he found a police officer in his doorway questioning him about a break-in at the residence and asking for some identification. (Apparently a neighbor had called 911 to report two black man trying to break into the house.) Gates eventually showed some ID but not before accusing the officer of exhibiting racist behavior. He then followed the officer out the front door, where he was subsequently placed under arrest. You can read the Boston's Globe's account of the incident here and Gates' version here.
A number of those in Harvard's African American community are pointing to this as an example of the presence of racial profiling in and around the Boston-area campus. I can't say for certain whether this was an example of racial profiling since I wasn't there and the facts seem a bit sketchy at this point.
But let's assume that it wasn't racial profiling and that the neighbor who called the police was genuinely looking out for a neighbor (that she apparently had never met) and that the police officer was just doing his job. Don't you find it odd that a 58 year old man in a polo shirt, sporting stylish rimless glasses and using a cane to get around would be considered to be breaking into a home? By using the front door? In the middle of the afternoon? In broad daylight? You know the old saying: If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck...
Considering the facts of the situation, do we really think this would have happened if Gates were white? How many well-dressed, distinguished looking white men get accused for breaking into their home in the middle of the day? Some might argue that Gates' arrest was deserved for how he responded to the officer. But, again, I wonder how I would respond (or you would respond) if the same thing happened to me (or to you)?
Since I've never been the victim of racial profiling by the authorities I don't know what it feels like. But I have numerous friends of color that have been and it is a humiliating, demeaning experience when you're being accused of being a criminal simply because the color of your skin. I hope that the truth of this incident comes to light and that all law enforcement agencies re-visit their policies when it come to matters such as this.
Thanks to The Field Negro for the tip on the situation.