Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Distrubing on So Many Levels

From CNN.com:

Gates 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?' "
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.
While Gates' arrest lit up talk radio and blogs, it prompted others to defend the police against charges of racial profiling.
"I'd be glad if somebody called the police if somebody was breaking into my house," neighbor Michael Schaffer told CNN affiliate WHDH.
For others, the incident symbolized something more. Seeing the police mugshot of Gates brought some
African-Americans to near tears.
Kim Coleman, a Washington radio host, cultural commentator and blogger, said she grew numb when she saw the mugshot.

"I was not prepared for that," she said. "To see one of my heroes in a mugshot was not something that I was expecting. ... It just tells me we're not in a post-racial society."
She said there's a reason why you don't hear about prominent white people arrested in their homes: "because it doesn't happen."
It's time for America to have a long overdue national conversation about race, Coleman said. "When are we going to have that," she said. "When are we really going to sit down and strip down and say, 'This is what I feel about you and this is what you feel about me. Now, how are we going to get over that?' "
Rebecca Walker, an award-winning author, said the arrest was devastating to scholars, writers, and artists "who work so hard to keep a free flow of information."


No one seems to be recognizing Mr. Gates' part in all of this. He initially refused to speak with the officer responding to the call and he initially refused to show identification. If I were the police officer, I would find those behaviours suspicious regardless of race. Shame on you Mr. Gates.
P.S. the article also calls Mr. Gates "one of the most recognizable African-Americans in the country." Seriously? I had never heard of him in my life.

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