Cambridge, Massachusetts police arrested celebrity Harvard professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates for breaking into his own house.
Gates was eventually arrested on a disorderly conduct charge. The arresting cop said that Gates "continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him."
Police responding to a call about "two black males" breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there –
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation's pre-eminent black scholar. Gates had forced his way through the front door because it was jammed, his lawyer said. Colleagues call the arrest last Thursday afternoon a clear case of racial profiling.
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry."
By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.
Who can blame Gates if he did yell at people who were investigating him for breaking into his own house?
If I were Gates, I would have thrown in some obscenities as well.
But the attorney for Gates claims that Gates wasn't yelling at all, that he contracted a viral infection while traveling to China and could barely speak.
Given the propensity of cops for lying when they're worried about having complaints against them (something which I've seen myself), I'll have to side with Gates on this one.
Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.
"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.
But I have to disagree with the characterization of Gates as "the nation's pre-eminent black scholar." I've seen some of Gates' writing and he's very good. But there are so many great black scholars that it's just as dumb to identify the "pre-eminent black scholar" as it is to call someone the nation's "pre-eminent white scholar." Some examples of "beyond category" black scholars are bell hooks, Patricia Williams, and Annette Gordon-Reed. Gordon-Reed's work on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings will be shaping our understanding of the founding of the American republic for generations to come.
But there's no gainsaying the prominence of Skip Gates as a Harvard professor and media personality.
If Gates can be arrested while breaking into his own home, one has to wonder how long it's going to be before some enterprising officer arrests Barack Obama for sitting in the Oval Office.