We’ve Moved Beyond Race…Just Not Arresting People Based On Their Race

By Jesse Taylor
Monday, July 20, 2009 22:40 EDT
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A small, but significant difference.

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.

Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had “no idea who he was messing with,” the report said.

Police report available here.

Now, I can understand why the police might think that a middle-aged black man was breaking into a home during lunchtime by trying to ram the front door with his shoulder, because it’s what many middle-aged black men do with their time, between Young and the Restless commercial breaks.

This goes back to my point about post-racialism. I’m sure that a significant number of people will read this and think that this is just a black man screaming racism because he handled a situation poorly, because a significant number of people like being dead fucking wrong. This is a part of an extensive pattern in Cambridge, which is the epicenter of what should be a post-racial revolution. The need for affirmative action or even the recognition of racism is supposed to be mitigated or even destroyed by the fact that a black man is President; one would think that at one of our nation’s premiere universities, the sight of black people doing slightly out of the ordinary things would no longer be reason to suspect criminal activity. If there’s one place where we should be able to assume that black people, absent obvious markers to the contrary, are behaving in rational and non-criminal ways, it’s at Harvard.

*The man pictured above is Professor Gates, ten seconds before he presumably stole the computer monitor. Or would have if he hadn’t been arrested.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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