Gates Arrest at Obama’s Alma Mater, Suggests Post-Racial Era Not Yet Here

Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested last week at his home in Cambridge, MA after a white female passerby thought he was breaking into his own house and called police.
He was charged with disorderly conduct.
“Professor Gates was taken to the Cambridge Police Station where he remained for approximately four hours before being released that evening”
Authorities abruptly dropped criminal charges Wednesday against noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., but for Gates and others, it appeared to be a case of too little, too late.
Black leaders continued to condemn the actions of a Cambridge police sergeant who handcuffed the African-American professor outside his own home last week. Gates extended an unusual offer to the officer: in exchange for an apology, personal tutoring sessions on the history of racism in America.
Last week, Gates had just arrived home from a trip abroad when a Cambridge police officer, alerted to a possible break-in at the house, appeared at the professor’s front door and demanded to see identification. According to a police report, Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct after he became belligerent, yelled at Crowley, repeatedly called him a racist, and declared that the officer had no idea who he was “messing with.’’
Gates denies raising his voice at Crowley other than to demand his name and badge number, which he said the officer refused to give. Crowley wrote in the police report that he had identified himself. Gates also denies calling Crowley a racist.
The Police Department and Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone signed a statement with Gates’s lawyers dropping all charges and declared: “All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.’’ They then declined to respond to requests for further comment.
Not so with Gates, who flatly told a Globe reporter, “I’m outraged. I shouldn’t have been treated this way, but it makes me so keenly aware of how many people every day experience abuses in the criminal justice system. This is really about justice for the least amongst us.’’
Some black leaders said that simply dropping the charges is not enough. The police and the city of Cambridge need to address the intricacies of race in a direct manner, they said.
During the meeting, the police agreed to drop the charge of disorderly conduct, and the parties drew up a conciliatory statement in which they called the incident “regrettable.’’
Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a written statement that while she is gratified that the charges have been dropped, she remains “deeply troubled by the incident.’’
Civic, religious, and civil rights leaders also said the case shows that more needs to be done to improve race relations.
“On one hand, there is a black man who is a millionaire who occupies the White House, and on the other hand, you have one of the most distinguished racial bridge-builders in the country, a scholar intellectual, being arrested,’’ said Rev. Eugene Rivers III, a black leader in Boston.
“The reality is that it doesn’t make a difference how distinguished or exceptional a black person thinks he or she is or may in fact be,’’ Rivers said. “You can be arrested for breathing while black in your own house.’’
Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the first black woman mayor of Cambridge, said the incident has reminded the city that people need to be vigilant about their own behavior and biases.
Two months ago, Cambridge held a public forum on race and class at City Hall. It will hold another dialogue on the topic in October with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“Let’s not focus on the Police Department,’’ she said. “It’s all of our problem.’’

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama