Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Henry Louis Gates & Racial Profiling

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.

4 comments:

FROM CONGO TO CUBA MY DEBT said...

When I heard about the issue with Prof gates and the Boston cop it was like dejavu. I am Cuban and an african descendant who spent lots of years in beantown. As a martter of fact I am educated post hs in Mass and have known about the behaviour of the beantown boyz for as far back as the 70's.
When, Charles Stewart, killed his pregnant wife and blamed a black man in Mission Hill, i will never forget the behaviour of the beantown boys in blue. They stormed the projects and arrested tons of African american men leaving the city of Roxbury in chaos, only to discover that Stewart, killed his own wife, and his own brother told the truth. Hats off to that family.
However, this time i have a problem with Gates, which I have had for most of my political life. My question is why now, why has Gates chosen to stand up now after thousands of such complaints over time?
Now do i believe he was in the wrong, YES! even though he was in his own home. However, what cop be he/she black or white and alone would believe that the person inside is not a burglar, esp if the person is unknown to the police?
That is not the issue it is the timing. Gates is a personal friend of Obama, who by the way has been speaking out about racial profiling in Illinois, as far back as his legislative days. Pres Obamas position is clear, and because of this i agree with the fact that he has spoken out. As a matter of fact, i believe that Obama, and any ordinary African descendant should be speaking out because the issue of racial profiling has also been directed to our children from aged 10+. Our children have been handcuffed, maced shocked and killed by heavy handed police all over the US, and in my opinion Obamas election has brought out the wolves in sheep clothing.
The media and the right wing racist have been looking and waiting for a reason to position themselves against Obama. Now the story is OH! he is not a friend of white people, he is now a traitor, he is on the side of the African amerikkkn? This kind of thinking is standard when the right cannot have its way, so anything they can drum up in thier racist minds becomes fodder for news. In reality Obamas election changed nothing, it only brought forth truth.
I am a blogger and retired Atty, who is not always a supporter of Pres Obamas policy especially concerning mi Cuba. I question his lax attn to removing the 50 yr old embargo which has killed and forced so many Cubans into the belly of the beast(US)As a legal mind i am not happy but realize that this too is politics.
However, Gates would have done well to know when to hold know when to fold know when to walk and know when to run..This case stinks of an outside set up...i am not buying it and i bet that cop never apologizes

navas said...

Here are the keyords in the essay:

13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 2012 Election, B.E.T., Barack Hussein Obama, Booker T. Washington, Bryant Park, Cipriani's, Colin Powell, Criminal Industrial Complex, Deb Slott, Do The Right Thing, Heidi Klum, Hip-Hop, Mark Penn, Melting Pot, Pink Elephant, Racism, Reconstruction, Robert Johnson, Seal, Segregation, Shelby Steele, Sidney Poiter, Sonia Sotomayor, Spike Lee, Tavis Smiley, Terrence Yang, The Dance Flick, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Virginia Davies, W.E.B. Dubois, Zero Mostel, Politics






Prologue to Obama 2012







We approach the future walking backwards, our gaze forever fixated on the past. Predicting the future is not a passive exercise; we invent it every day with our actions.

I began the sketches for what would ultimately become Obama 2012 in March 2007, a month after Barack Obama declared his candidacy. I had spent much of the previous 18 months living abroad as an entrepreneur and statesman of sorts, and I was slightly out of touch with the pulse of life on the street in the United States. I learnt about Sen. Barack Obama’s Springfield, IL speech formally declaring his candidacy for president of the United States through one of the international cable news channels and thought how great it would be to have a fresh start after years of mediocrity in Washington and a plummeting reputation around the world.

By September, after what seemed like raising a six-month-old child, my sketches had turned into Why the Democrats Will Win in 2008 the Road to an Obama White House. It was my answer to the burning question everyone had back in March: Can he really win? Actually, not everyone thought it was a question. For many people, including Mark Penn, director of the Clinton campaign, the answer was an easy “no way.” This strategic blunder made it that much easier for the Clinton campaign to be defeated. Then there were Black pundits like Shelby Steele, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who came out with a 2007 book entitled A Bound Man, Why Obama Can't Win.

Being Black did seem to be an automatic disqualification, but then why did someone need to write an entire book arguing what should have been patently obvious? Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell came to my mind and I remembered that he could have run for president in 1992 as a war hero. But Colin Powell was Ronald Reagan’s protégé and got a special pass on the race question. Black conservatives like Justice Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were careful to disassociate themselves from liberal thinkers and activists like Jesse Jackson, who lost, as expected, the 1984 and 1988 Democratic primaries. Ultimately, Colin Powell, in spite of all his honors, declined to run for president. His wife Alma feared for his safety. Common sense said that a candidate like Obama, for numerous insurmountable reasons, didn't stand a chance of winning the Democratic primary, let alone a general election in which 10% of the electorate is African American and Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the preceding 28 years. But I decided that Obama's chances merited a closer examination. In it, I would bring to bear my gambling skills.

Daniel Bruno said...

On the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, essayist Daniel Bruno Sanz has written a unique piece about the nuclear arms race and the Black experience on film:

  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-bruno-sanz/bad-dreams-from-my-grandf_b_250751.html

You may post it on your website and follow us at Twitter.com/DanielBrunoSanz

Here are the Keywords:
5ive, Adolf Hitler, African-American Poetry, Al-Queda, Albert Einstein, Arch Oboler, Carl Sagan, Charles Bronson, Charles Lampkin, Cosmos, Douglass Macarthur, Elizabeth Montgomery, Emperor Hirohito, Enrico Fermi, Fahrenhei 451, Fat Man, Five, Francois Truffaut, Frank Lloyd Wright, Genesis, Gyokuon-Hoso, H.G. Welles, Harry Truman, Hiroshima, James Anderson, James Weldon Johnson, Julius Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, Lavrentii Beria, Leo Szilard, Lord Of The Flies, Los Ultimos Cinco, Manchuria, Manhattan Project, Mao Tse-Tung, Martini Movies, Mokusatsu, Mulholland Highway, Nagasaki, Nietzsche, North Korea, Nuclear Holocaust, On The Beach, Orson Welles, Pearl Harbor, Potsdam Declaration, Reagan, Red Army, Rod Serling, Schopenhauer, Semipalatinsk, Stalin, Stepin Fetchit, Suzuki Kantaro, Taliban, The Day After, The Day The World Ended, Twilight Zone, Uranium Fission, Variety Magazine, Will Smith, Wille Zur Macht, William Golding, William Phipps, Living News

Unknown said...

New essay "The Gates Affair:Why We Care" yours to publish
Dear readers and webmasters,

Author Daniel Bruno Sanz has written an essay about Gatesgate. We encourage its publication and distribution.

Regards,

Navas S.


"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

- 4th Amendment to the The Constitution of the United States of America