The story of august and respected Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates being arrested on suspicion of breaking into HIS OWN HOME. The police report states that he was actually arrested for being disorderly and "tumultuous" with the police officer. Oh, you mean the police officer standing in YOUR house demanding to see YOUR ID to prove that YOU live in YOUR house?!! So apparently Dr. Gates showed his Harvard ID but none too happily, which devolved into being arrested for not being pleasant about being asked to prove he lived in his own house.
This is racist. This is racist. If you can't figure out why, I'm not sure I can help you because this is SO OBVIOUS. See all these ALL CAPS? That's when you know I'm pissed off on my blog. Imagine this scenario with a white distinguished professor at Harvard. A white woman sees a bespectacled older white man with a cane leaning into his door with a friend trying to open it. She immediately assumes these older gentlemen are obviously breaking into a house not their own. Why else would two white men be messing with a stuck door? When the police arrive, the white man takes umbrage at being asked to prove that he lives in his own house. He shows ID under protest, but is arrested anyway for being rude to the police officer because obviously anyone of any color and any social stature is arrested for yelling at a police officer who is, at this point, in your home with no cause.
How do you think that would play in the media? And yet, with Dr. Gates we have all the white people commenting that he should just have kept calm and showed his ID without getting all mad (read = uppity). Think about that. Some cop walks into YOUR house and demands proof that it's your house. You offer proof, and instead of saying, "Well, sorry about the misunderstanding" the officer remains unsure that the home is yours and arrests you for being pissed that he's in your house.
Officer, take a fucking look around at all the photos of ME in the house! Take a look at my cane! Look at my khaki pants and designer blazer, not to mention MY HARVARD ID. Do I look like I'm the profile to be breaking and entering in the light of day?
This entire situation is bullshit. First, the woman who made the call, who also (maybe, used to, at this point) works for Harvard. Every assumption about black men came into play with that phone call. She ignored every indication that this was not a B&E: his age, his physical condition, his deportment. All she saw was "Black Guy Struggling With Door" = obvious crime in progress. Let's all examine our own hearts and vow to not be this woman.
Second, the police officer. Completely ill-equipped to deal with this situation from a social, emotional and professional perspective. I'm certain that Dr. Gates asked for this man's badge number. The article stated that Dr. Gates wanted to get the Chief of Police on the line, and shouted that the officer did not know who he was dealing with. Well, that much is true. This is a clusterfuck from the word Go, and it should be put in training manuals going forward. For example, if you arrive at a potential B&E to find the avuncular owner of the property in residence after struggling with his door, consider your work here done. And do understand that you've just invaded and violated a person's home by accusing him of breaking into it.
All I'm saying is two things: Simply imagine yourself in Dr. Gates' situation and ask yourself if you wouldn't get "tumultuous" as well. I sure would. And also recognize that this type of insidious racism exists. I mean, how much does a black man have to achieve, how much money does he need to earn, how much of a beautiful home in Cambridge must he live in, in order to not be randomly considered a criminal? That woman most likely doesn't dislike black people, but when she saw this situation all she saw was a criminal. That is the bone-deep, reflexive racism we all have to root out and destroy within ourselves. Racism is a cancer on our society, but as the great philosopher Sting once sang, "Men go crazy in congregations; they only get better one by one."