Monday, July 20, 2009

Is Obama Next: Cops Arrest Skip Gates for Breaking Into Own House

Only in America?

Cambridge, Massachusetts police arrested celebrity Harvard professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates for breaking into his own house.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, not hard to believe that cops would embellish to make their position stronger. Many believe if a cop tells you to do jump, you should simply ask, "How high, officer?" I have issues with the crime of "failure to disperse" because a cop feels there is a gathering that just looks like trouble.

Have you noticed Rush is trolling back to his comfortable phraseology of "You're Supposed To Sit Back, Bend Forward, Grab The Ankles, And Love It." I swear he's either closeted gay or a virulent homophobe.

Ric Caric said...

I haven't seen any references to Rush lately. It may turn out that he's just a highly homoerotic, heterosexual guy. He's not the only one.

Anonymous said...

Now might be a good time for a couple of enterprising crooks to kick in the Professor's front door. The cops might just think Gates didn't get that pesky lock fixed and keep on eating their donuts.

Ric Caric said...

I would bet that Gates already has the lock fixed. It will be interesting to see if he files a bunch of complaints or sues. I hope he does. Lawsuits seem to be the only deterrents that work.

Anonymous said...

If the officer was black i bet Gates would have had no problem producing some identification. Whether he was yelling or not makes no difference, the situation would have been easily resolved by showing the officer some id with his address on it. I really don't think that is too much to ask, especially if it was my own home i was breaking into. He should be thankful that he is fortunate enough to live in an area of the country where the police respond at all. An unfortunate misunderstanding in my book.

Anonymous said...

If Gates does sue, the testimony of the hispanic and the black cops who were also present will be very interesting.

Ric Caric said...

I just read Gates' account of the incident in The Root. The most salient fact is that Gates' life was in danger. Gates was in danger of being shot or tased from the first cop and also by the other cops who gathered on his porch. What it looks like to me is that the first cop was determined to arrest Gates from the beginning and seemed even more determined to arrest him after he showed his Harvard ID. In that sense, the fellow officers were there to back up the first cop's inappropriate conduct. I want to emphasize that I don't believe that Gates was a target of "racial profiling" in the sense of being seen as committing a crime because he was black. Instead, it looks like Gates was targeted for police abuse because he was a prominent black person who was likely to complain to higher authorities about police behavior. From Gates' account, it looks to me like the police officers were looking for a pretext to commit further violence. Gates was lucky to get out of the situation alive.

Anonymous said...

I believe Gates was targeted because he was black. Let's just imagine for a moment that Gates is a white man. Would the neighbor have even called the police? Would the cop have assumed it was a break-in? Once the ID was presented, would the cop have apologized and left? I believe if Gates had been white, the situation would never have developed. I believe that's racism.

Anonymous said...

"Gates was lucky to get out of the situation alive." Oh for God's sake, Ric. White boy, please.