Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acting White: Harvard Prof. H.L. "Skip" Gates Arrested in Cambridge

Here is what the NYT had to say about an incident where noted Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his home (and later released) by Cambridge Police who seem to have mistaken him for an intruder (here).

Of course, if we read between the lines, it seems that what Gates was really arrested for was giving the officer a healthy 'piece' of his mind, as the officer was leaving the Gates premises, exclusive campus housing provided by Harvard only to top professors.

No doubt that Gates thought the officer was derelict in his job performance, and we may never know exactly what transpired. However, I'm pretty sure that this was not a simple 'profiling' event. Anyone forcing open a door is reasonably suspect and should expect scrutiny. More to the issue, I can imagine a Cambridge officer in 'that' neighborhood, who does not recognize Gates, treating him poorly even after the no-crime is established.

Gates, who may have looked 'out of place' to the officer, deserves the same treatment as his similarly wealthy/scholarly white neighbors, and not getting this is probably the reason for his umbrage. That presumable white officer is learning a valuable lesson about the lottery for poorly choosing a black man to disrespect. It is rare, but it happens. And when it does, well, there goes the career.

Finally, it is good to take a moment to think about all the undeserving people who get mishandled or treated poorly by the authorities simply because the event is not going to end up on the front pages of the news.

James C. Collier

READ MOST RECENT POSTS AT ACTING WHITE...

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does Mr. Gates even do anything at Harvard besides obsess over race all day?
Does he contribute to advancing technology, or anything that really matters to humanity as a whole?

Inquiring minds want to know.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 2:16, Beyond your tone and words, Gates has written numerous books and articles that I (and others) have found insightful and useful in my own work. His efforts as a historian (not technologist) certainly out pace your vain attempt at witty sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

Finally, it is good to take a moment to think about all the undeserving people who get mishandled or treated poorly by the authorities simply because the event is not going to end up on the front pages of the news.

I think this is the more important story.... As far as I am concerned, Gates is just another rich and privileged person who would never give me the time of day to listen and possibly advocate for my cause. I'm not excusing the cops in their response at all.

Anonymous said...

The first anonymous poster seems to be oblivious not only to the nature of this blog, but to the state of life in our great, racially obsessed nation.

Dear soul, when "useful to humanity" is only equated with technological advances, we are in a world of trouble.

Collier, I appreciated this response as it pointed out the obvious fact that anyone forcing entry into a home is a reasonable suspect. I also agree with the previous poster about the most important element of your observation.

ChicagoJeff said...

Anon 2:16 apparently does not know who Skip Gates is. He is a well-respected man all over the country. He doesn't just teach at Harvard, but he is also a guest speaker at many, many functions across the country and comes to Chicago A LOT. He's been on local talk shows many, many times and is extremely smart and insightful. He's really a great guy.

But I am going to have to disagree with you, Mr. Collier, about something; Skip Gates should be well known in his own neighborhood and whoever it was that called the cops on him needs to have their eyes examined. People don't live in that area and not know the neighbors. This whole thing was a lot of racist BS.

I agree that, unfortunately, Black people are criminally profiled, but Skip Gates? He's always so well-dressed and does not fit the so-called "Black criminal profile".

This whole thing reeks.

uptownsteve said...

"I agree that, unfortunately, Black people are criminally profiled, but Skip Gates? He's always so well-dressed and does not fit the so-called "Black criminal profile".

The part that you don't seem to grasp is that all that is necessary to be racially profiled is to be black.

Anonymous said...

Here's the police report, on the off chance that anyone here actually wants to know what happened instead of using this as an opportunity to wallow in self-pity:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/Police%20report%20on%20Gates%20arrest.PDF

It seems pretty clear that Mr. Gates' hypersensitivity to the police is what caused this entire situation. Considering someone had recently tried to break into his house, you'd think he'd be a little more grateful to the policemen who responded.

Anonymous said...

If blacks would quit committing so much crime, they wouldn't be "profiled".

Anonymous said...

Would Professor Gates have responded any differently if the police officer had been black and did not recognize him, and had to fulfill procedural requirements by asking for identity? Or did the color of the questioning officer's skin simply tick Gates off, and using power and privilege (you don't know who you're messing with) and yelling the damning label of "racist" over and over again, made an ugly scene to what end? To get his name on the news?

I was not there, and I do not know the two men involved and where they are coming from. The police officer may have been brusque, but this seems to be a personality trait with many police officers, particularly older and jaded ones. Perhaps the officer's tone was a bit too much, even rude, and Gates wasn't going to stand for it. Was it racial? Who knows. I don't think I understand what to label "racial" and what not to label "racial." It is confusing.

At least this didn't happen to the poor guy. Like you said ... "Finally, it is good to take a moment to think about all the undeserving people who get mishandled or treated poorly by the authorities simply because the event is not going to end up on the front pages of the news."

Avenir labs said...

I think its more important story and cops of this country are out of control.

moremony services said...

Wanting an apology, and having an expectation of getting one are two different things. It's interesting how quickly the CPD dropped the charges and backtracked to try and put this thing behind them.

http://www.moremony.com

American Black Chick in London said...

@ Anon 6:31 pm - What exactly would you consider a racist incident? You seem to think that many of the incidents of a racial/racist nature that Mr. Collier has been posting lately is simply racial "hypersensitivity." I'm curious to know what sort of racial/racist incident doesn't fit under that category.

And re: the police report, that's only one person's view of the events. For folks who weren't there, we can never know the full story of what occurred. Only relying on one side (only the police report or only Professor Gate's version of events) won't help those not connected with the event really understand what happened.

That being said, having read both Professor Gate's account and the police report before I came to this blog, I think the moment Professor Gates showed the officer two forms of ID proving that he was who he said he was and that he was in fact in his home, the next words out of the officer's mouth should have been "Thank you sir, I apologise for the inconvenience" followed by a swift exit. Speaking as someone who knows a lot of cops personally and has had to work with cops for my previous job, not everyone in uniform deserves to wear it or deserves the responsibility/respect that comes with it. Cop doesn't always equal correct.

Slice said...

It sounds like he was caught doing something he shouldn't. People don't get "loud" for no reason.

Anonymous said...

@American Black Chick:

Was Mr. Collier being "racist" when he wrote his observations about the black teens at the crosswalk? Or his observations on the white firefighters? Were the black killers of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome exhibiting "racism" (it wasn't considered a "hate" crime but then, most black on white assaults are not) ... and would these 4 men and one woman have done the same if the couple were black: torture, rape, and douse one with gasoline and make the other drink cleaning fluid. I don't know.

So the above attrocity was not considered a "racial incident." Sometimes it seems to me that ... racism is anything you want or need it to be. Many times I look at an incident between two white people or two black people and think ... now if one were black and one were white, there probably would be charges of racism here ... this would be an incident worthy of CNN. So that word to me has become meaningless, a catchphrase people use for just about anything mildly offensive that a white person may do up to and including something horrific, like physical violence and murder. I have a black American sister-in-law who sees "racism" in literally everything and a black American friend who says that it exists, but he himself has hardly experienced it. I find the experiences of black Americans to be varied, from knowing them personally for many years and reading their writings on the internet. Perhaps it was where people grow up, perhaps it's differences in personality, I don't know. Culture can also play a role in people's misunderstanding of each other. Many people are comfortable with those whose culture is like theirs; that way they won't be misunderstood.

What do I consider a "racist" incident nowadays? Killing or physically harming someone because of their ethnicity or color or religion (I include ethnicity and religion in my definition, perhaps that is wrong but to me, a "race" of people may have other things in common besides just skin color). Many Christians live and prosper in Muslim countries as "dhimmis" (second class citizens, unable to vote or do many other things as citizens in their country of birth). They live there side by side with Muslims, until hatred for them is stirred up for whatever pretext, and they are murdered. This could be applied to any minority group, in any country, of any color. To me, this is race hate, or "racism."

When it comes to what the American media labels a "racist" incident, I nearly always mistrust it. I can't help it, I have seen too much hypocrisy. I don't trust how they are defining that word, and I don't trust how people use that word.

Anonymous said...

I was the anonymous at 6:31, but not at 4:46. His was a good comment, though.

Anyway, my point about hypersensitivity is that Gates' racial fury is what turned this from a minor misunderstanding into an arrest and a national news story.

All you need to know is one thing, which is entirely undisputed:

The officer was leaving, while Gates continued to harass him, at which point the officer warned Gates. Gates continued, and was arrested.

Now maybe it's just my white privilege that I was brought up to think that it's not a good idea to yell at or harass cops in any way, at any time. I have been in situations where I was pulled over for no reason, frisked, had my car searched, etc...

At no point did I raise my voice or do anything but cooperate submissively. It was pretty clear that if I got angry, I was going to get arrested or worse. In any case, no good could come of it. Of course, being white, I have no incentive to try to provoke an incident like this. And I wouldn't put it past a race-industry heavy like Gates to see this incident (from the get-go) as a potential career booster.

I suspect that Gates got more, not less, leeway to throw his temper tantrum because of his pigmentation. It was a mistake for the cop to arrest him, but only because of the frenzied state of this country with regards to race issues. Gates is completely in the wrong here.

With regards to what constitutes a "racist" incident in this country, I agree a lot with the previous commenter. When a white family gets attacked by a mob of blacks shouting "This is our world, this is a black world", (http://www.ohio.com/news/50172282.html) that seems like a heinous racist act. However, nobody's interested in stories like these. Reverse the races, and it would be 24-hour nonstop coverage.

Anyway, I'm not trying to say that there aren't racist incidents against blacks in this country. But to act as if this Gates incident is some kind of affront to humanity, and we need to keep shaming white people into submission, is offensive to me. Is it any surprise that Gates felt justified in abusing this officer ad infinitum when the mainstream media completely absolves him of any responsibility to act in a civil manner? Is this a good example for blacks everywhere?

Anonymous said...

As a side note, it reminds me about the Jena case where a group of black kids beat a white kid nearly to death and the country got outraged that the black kids might be getting punished too severely.

Anonymous said...

One final thing:

I don't personally think that a racist incident need necessarily be violent. There are cases of gross discrimination or harassment that I would consider racist and unacceptable. However, like the above commenter, I think the word has become meaningless because of the ease with which we throw it around. I read an article today that used the word racist four times in three sentences to describe some pretty mainstream people. On first reading, I usually intepret the word to mean "white person I don't like". If there were fewer overblown cases like Gates, I would take claims of "racism" more seriously.

American Black Chick in London said...

@ Anon 6:12 - My apologies for mixing you up with the other Anon. And this is a bit off topic, but in the Jena case, their had been previous (racist) incidents towards black students at Jena perpetuated by white students who were not punished. That Jena incident went both ways. I don't think the black kids should escape punishment for what they did. Beating someone nearly to death is wrong, regardless of your race. But I think the issue with the Jena case is that the white students weren't previously punished or were given a slap on the wrist for their own behaviour. There was concern about unequal application of punishment. In the case of the article you linked, I agree that it was a heinous and inexcusable act. I think any time a person attacks another person solely because of their race, it's a hate crime, regardless of if the perpetrator is white, black, asian, hispanic, etc. But I suspect part of the reason the story didn't receive widespread coverage by the mainstream media goes back to how minorities are portrayed in the media and viewed by the public. If a white person commits a crime, he/she is not seen as a representation of ALL white people. If a minority commits a crime (in particular if they are black or hispanic) there is an (erroneous) assumption they ARE representative of the group. In other words: That's just how "they" are. I'm guessing the mainstream media didn't want to contribute to fanning that flame, but that's just my two cents.

Although I don't really agree with a lot of what you wrote, I do agree that the terms "racist" and "racism" are thrown around far to frequently, so that their very definition gets diluted. However, I don't think Professor Gates' arrest and the media attention was simply a matter of "pulling the race card" (I loathe that term). Even if the police officer involved wasn't racist, I think what concerns many people is that it's a possible instance of some of the deep seated "undercover" racism/discriminate that still exist in America. I must admit, I seriously doubt if Professor Gates would have been slapped with a disorderly conduct charge had he been white.

Jael said...

I am Anon 8:26 and 4:46. To make it easier, I will give my anonymous postings a pseudonym.

"If a white person commits a crime, he/she is not seen as a representation of ALL white people. If a minority commits a crime (in particular if they are black or hispanic) there is an (erroneous) assumption they ARE representative of the group. In other words: That's just how "they" are. I'm guessing the mainstream media didn't want to contribute to fanning that flame, but that's just my two cents."

This is why the MSM are the most untrustworthy manipulative sources of news imaginable, and dangerous. Why would you not want to bring an incident to light and state the truth about it, and according to the horror of the crime, give it it's due and let the individual judge what he/she wants to do with it? Is the MSM our Big Brother? Yet they will fan the flame of a white on black incident ad infinitum. And this inflames an element that is inclined to seek violent revenge that feel white people deserve everything they get. It also always portrays whites in a bad light and as THE ONLY perpetrators of these types of crimes. And white people feel this. Many feel displaced "guilt" and go on to do things not in their best interests or society's best interest to demonstrate their "lack of racism." Many feel anger and see hypocrisy and are confused by the double standard.

If 50 whites had attacked a black family, can you imagine the backlash? God forbid, if this president is assassinated by a white man, can you imagine the backlash? I pray for this president more than any other, not because I particularly agree with his politics, but the damage it would do to this country would be horrendous. Black people would not look at it as "some crazy racist white guy" who killed him; rather, it would be ... see, there you go, it goes to show that THEY never wanted a black man to be president in the first place." And there would be all kinds of conspiracy theories. This is my perspective.

"Even if the police officer involved wasn't racist, I think what concerns many people is that it's a possible instance of some of the deep seated "undercover" racism/discriminate that still exist in America. I must admit, I seriously doubt if Professor Gates would have been slapped with a disorderly conduct charge had he been white."

I was not there ... I don't know either men. Taking this older man into custody seems like a bit much to me, but I wasn't there. It seems both may harbor deep-seated "undercover" racsim/discriminate behavior patterns. How can they not? This exists in all Americans.

Anonymous said...

It's what, 48, 72 hours later, and the only versions we have are Gates or the cops?

That's what seems most odd to me. No statements from neighbors or passerbys or anyone else on how either the cops or Gates typically comport themselves, or what happened at Gates' house that day.

I would hope I would have the presence of mind to understand the cops were probably violating my rights and still I would shut up about it and file a complaint. It's hard for me to believe that someone of Gate's local and national stature wouldn't think his complaint would be taken seriously.

uptownsteve said...

"I suspect that Gates got more, not less, leeway to throw his temper tantrum because of his pigmentation."

What planet do you live on?

Gates is lucky that cop didn't put one in his head.

I've seen white people in Montgomery County, MD scream and curse at cops for impeding traffic while issuing tickets and the cops actually apologized!

But a cop can harass an eminent black scholar IN HIS HOME and if the black man gets uppity he'll be arrested?

I guess that cop didn't get the memo that America is supposed to be "post-racial" these days.

Anonymous said...

I think all would benefit by reading an insightful exposé by noted anti-racist speaker/author, Tim Wise:

http://www.redroom.com/blog/tim-wise/white-privilege-remix-a-play-three-acts

He has a gift-given knack for piercing deep into personal/group biases and sharing them with his audiences/readership, more as a way to enlighten and bring about changes in attitudes/behaviors/perceptions than to condemn.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Gates feels the need to prove his blackness, by making himself persecuted, since he found out that 50% of his genes are actually white. I also wonder what the genetic statistics are for other prominent black scholars.

American Black Chick in London said...

@ Anon 11:59 - Seeing as how most black Americans have white genes, I doubt of Gates felt the need to "prove his blackness" dues to his own white genes. If that were the case, most of Black America would feel the need to "prove their blackness" (a term that I despise).

Chrystal K. said...

Your closing paragraph is so sad, yet so true.

Anonymous said...

More Whites than are aware have Black ancestry as well. A few documentaries have been aired in the past in which some White families were interviewed as to their reaction when finding out that there was at least one Black person in their family tree. Ironically, if not humourously, it would not surprise me if some of the most noted racist of our day had a few drops of Black blood running through their veins as well. LOL!

Anonymous said...

"The first anonymous poster seems to be oblivious not only to the nature of this blog, but to the state of life in our great, racially obsessed nation."

This blog is, I presume, written in JCC's spare time, it is not his occupation. Skip Gates's occupation is race. 11 books on the subject, for crying out loud. Our great nation wouldn't be so racially obssessed if some minorities didn't spend so much time worrying more about how other people treat them, instead of plowing stoically ahead to make life better for themselves. Any prejudice encountered these days has to be outweighed by the big interests who are bending over backward to lend them a hand. Howard U has a waiting list so long for its engineering graduates, you'd think they had a high incoming SAT score and a 20% acceptance rate! If I had gone there, maybe I could have been valedictorian like Joshua Packwood at Morehouse and taken advantage of the handouts meant for the black community. Blacks have it very good in america, if they wake up and smell the coffe.

uptownsteve said...

"If I had gone there, maybe I could have been valedictorian like Joshua Packwood at Morehouse and taken advantage of the handouts meant for the black community".

What handouts for blacks?

You think Packwood is the first white boy to attend a HBCU?

Heck most HBCUs are more integrated than most state schools.

Some, like UDC and Alabama State, offer white students goodies like FREE TUITION.

I think you're the one who needs to join us in the real world.

Yamaha Drummer said...

uptownsteve,
You now have lost the ability to influence me. I have caught you dead in a lie, Alabama's tuition ranges fron $22,000 to $8,000 anually, depending on several factors NONE of them race.

Additionaly there are 28% more scholarships available to minority students than caucasian students nationaly.

When was the last time you heard of the "White Person Scholarship Fund"? Because I saw a commercial for the United Negro College Fund last night.

I have no earthly idea who is wrong and who is right on the Gates arrest. I think poorly of him because of comments he has made since the incident, but that doesn't mean I think the officer was right either. I have started reading one of Gates' books (Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man), and so far I think Gates is more racist than most KKK members.

I think it would benefit us in the younger American generation to dismiss people like Gates and their racial outlooks. They are outdates, and destructive.

Anonymous said...

"What handouts for blacks?"

The major corporations who wait in very long lines to hire the presumably black graduates from historically black colleges for "diversity points". You would think these historically black colleges had a low acceptance rate and high SAT scores to justify the corporate excitement they generate, but they don't. The best of them are mediocre institutions of higher learning who accept more than half of everyone who applies.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hmmmm.... why oh why do black folks waste their time responding to unenlighted white people who are hiding behind "Anonymous" monikers at blogs hosted by blacks??

{yawn}

Anonymous said...

That cop can keep his stinking apology. He needs to realize Mr Gates pays his Salary. And Cops do lie.They aren't all that moral with values.

Anonymous said...

I have seen black posters here time and time again denounce someone personally because they signed anon.
Who gives a flip? If you sign with a made up user name as most do here you don't know who they are any more than if they signed anon!

Discuss the topic and responses and quit nitpicking already!

Searcher for Truth In Media said...

Tell me again why white people give any credence to the twisted distortions of those with a hidden agenda. Bigotry by a black professor is no more defensible than is Jeremiah Wright.