Man–you faculty and grad student types think you had a bad day fighting the forces of evil with trenchent observations about the historiography of the Indians of the Great Basin, and witty bons mots about the Investiture Controversy? Via The Daily Beast, Eminent Harvard African American Studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last Thursday afternoon when police investigated a report that someone was trying to break into a house on Ware Street in Cambridge, Mass. The Boston Globe reported tonight:
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.
Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because “I’m a black man in America.” [To read a copy of the police report, click here]
Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.
Man, oh, man–who wouldn’t be pi$$ed off for getting the third degree in one’s own home, after showing identification? Yeah, that happened to me all of the time when my white self lived in Somerville and Cambridge…the police were just bustin’ down doors and interrogating white grad students and Harvard faculty every day. (And what’s with the nosy neighbor who somehow isn’t nosy enough to be capable of recognizing her own neighbors?) Apparently familiar with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Professor Gates has retained the services of “Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who has taken on previous cases with racial implications.” Right on.
If you have a minute to click and read the Boston Globe article: scroll on down to the comments, where you’ll be instructed by the colorful denizens of the non-peer reviewed world-wide timewasting internets that “Here we go. Let’s blow this out of all proportion. Let’s not wait until we hear the full story….bring on the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton circus,” and “sure. EVERY minority who has to deal w/ the police, merited or not, is the victim of…what was that again? racial profiling?” and right on time, “[e]nough of throwing down the race card … we have a Black President now, so that tired old ship has sailed.” Wow–thanks for the intel, John Q. Halfwits! And I stopped reading after the first seven comments. The Globe should really follow the lead of its parent company, the New York Times, which moderates the comments. Either that–or get rid of the comments! Most unmoderated comments become sickening cesspools of this kind of aggressive ignorance, and people start to think that they’re entitled to leave flaming bags of poop on every blog and comment board. I think the big web sites should think of it as their cyber-civic responsibility to clean themselves up and try to raise the standards for web comments in general. (You don’t publish random, anonymous slander in your editorial pages–so why do it on your web sites, friends?)
Every time I see a comment like that, or have to delete one from my comments, I think, “if you’re so full of great ideas, why don’t you start yet another blog that no one will read? Why do you think you’re entitled to trash my space?” Then I think, “oh–I get it! Because running a newspaper, or even a crummy, lightly pseudonymous blog, is work! And you don’t like to work very hard, do you?” Do ya, punk?”
UPDATED, 10/21/09, 11 A.M. MDT: In the car about an hour ago, I heard a CBS news bulletin that Cambridge police have dropped the charges against Professor Gates. See also the link provided by life_of_a_fool in the comments below, which says that it was Gates’s driver from the airport who was spotted trying to force the front door open. Another story says that it wasn’t a neighbor, but someone who lives in Malden who made the 911 call to report the supposed break-in. An updated story in the Boston Globe reports that the driver, too, is an African American man.
UPDATE II: Go read Prof. Susurro’s discussion of the Gates incident, and the many, many other stories she has seen and heard about police harassment of faculty of color in “The Privileged Professor (or Why Skip Gates’ Arrest was not an Anomaly).” She writes: “The further we get from the university, the less social capital many of us command. While many of us have the money to drive nice cars and own nice homes (or to drive any car and own any home for that matter) as well as the money for leisure activities, including nice restaurants and vacations, the traditional divisions between the white upper class and the rest of us, often means our presence in these spaces are ignored or disciplined.”