Thursday, July 23, 2009

Officer Defends Arrest of Harvard Professor

Some updates on this issue:

1. Stanley Fish has finally written a column in the New York Times that I agree with, about how the accomplishments of both Professor Gates and President Obama are being doubted because of their blackness. At Duke, where Fish hired Gates as a professor in the English department, his accomplishments were doubted because of his blackness - "Doubts were expressed in letters written by senior professors about his scholarly credentials, which were vastly superior to those of his detractors. (He was already a recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, the so called 'genius award.')" In a similar way, the "Birthers" - those people who do not believe that Obama was born in the United States - cast doubt on his right to the Presidency.
Gates is once again regarded with suspicion because, as the cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson put it in an interview, he has committed the crime of being H.W.B., Housed While Black....

Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses. And Obama is a double offender. Not only is he guilty of being Housed While Black; he is the first in American history guilty of being P.W.B., President While Black.
Both Professor Gates and President Obama challenge a powerful white racist stereotype about blacks - the belief that they are inherently less intelligent, and therefore inferior to whites. And if blacks are inferior to whites, anything they accomplish in life is a sham and a trick, especially if they do better than a white person. It's embarassing to my profession that senior members of the Duke faculty thought that Gates was inferior to them despite having won an award that they doubtless would have liked to receive themselves.

2. Charles Blow, NYTimes op-ed columnist, writes about his first experience with a white policeman in Louisiana who threatened to shoot him and his friends at a traffic stop: Welcome to the Club. He also brings some useful statistics into the debate:

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last July asked: “Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?” Sixty-six percent of black men said yes. Only 9 percent of white men said the same.

These views are not without merit. A series of racial-profiling studies across the country have found that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.

In fact, last year the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York law firm specializing in human rights, released a damning study of the racial-profiling practices of the New York Police Department. It found that more than 80 percent of those stopped and frisked were black or Hispanic. The report also said that when stopped, 45 percent of blacks and Hispanics were frisked, compared with 29 percent of whites, even though white suspects were 70 percent more likely than black suspects to have a weapon.
3. The President has also issued a new statement about the arrest and subsequent controversy arising from his words:
He did not apologize but softened his language. “I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station,” he said. “I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.”

Mr. Obama described Sergeant Crowley as an “outstanding police officer and a good man” who has “a fine track record on racial sensitivity.” But he said the incident showed that “because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African-Americans are sensitive to these issues.”
Original Post

The officer who arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr. last week has said that he won't apologize since he didn't do anything wrong (Officer Defends Arrest of Harvard Professor).
Sergeant Crowley said that he arrested Professor Gates because the professor got angry after being asked for identification and proof of his address, and continued his “tirade after being warned multiple times.” The sergeant was adamant that he was following police procedures in making the arrest.....

Next, the sergeant said, he warned Professor Gates to calm down and lower his voice, and to step outside to his front porch. Sergeant Crowley said he gave the professor two warnings, the second while holding a set of handcuffs, but that the professor continued berating him. “The professor at any point in time could have resolved the issue by quieting down and/or by going back in the house,” he said in the radio interview.
I don't understand why getting angry and yelling inside one's own home or on the front porch is grounds for an arrest. What did Professor Gates do wrong? Why would the police consider yelling to be something wrong? Aggravating, yes. Who likes to be yelled at? I'm starting to wonder if this isn't just a case of racial profiling, but of a cop reveling in the power of being a cop - of having that power to stop someone else's yelling by arresting them. I still strongly doubt that a white professor in the same situation would have been arrested.


  1. White professor probably wouldn't have been a target of racism and prejudice before, so he probably wouldn't have been yelling and just shown an ID. If police asks me to search my bag, I just show them my bag. If I am asked for an ID, I show my ID. But on the other hand, the only place where I've been profiled (probably at least partially prejudicially) was Ben Gurion Airport, where I was stopped and questioned 5 (yes, five) times while walking from the plane to the customs.

  2. That said, however, I also think police and safety enforcement personnel quite often have Cartman "ahthoritah" syndrome, where even legitimate questioning them is interpreted as an assault on their ahthoritah. Remember the video of that senior citizen, who was tasered?

  3. Nice work Barack... with one comment you managed to alienate 75% of America.

    And anyone who has spent any amount of time in the "higher" education system knows the Professor Gates type: bitter, spiteful, bigoted racist with a position of power who felt emboldened to make a political statement.

    This is the type of Professor who would change the subject on you when you attempt to engage in a debate- or would give you a poor grade because you actually have an opinion, and done research outside of marxist texts and such. You are fooling no one, Mr Gates.

    And Mr President, is this "nuance" you've spoke of? "the police acted stupidly"? -please

    Obama is out to rip this country to shreds in EVERY way- who can question that such ill-advised statements are divisive... and NOT helpful? He has no idea what happened, he admitted it- and apparently doesn't care, either... he's picked his side.

    But back in reality, the childish and paranoid Gates completely baited the cop, who acted with admirable restraint, IMO... all he had to do is show his ID and shut up, he was treated with respect. This guy was clearly looking for a fight... and he ought to thank God he didn't find one.

    Obama is going to destroy race relations in this country with his vengeful "get even" mentality... some messiah- Americans should have chosen a fair and sensible human being instead of this embittered nut.

  4. RRR -

    Do you know anything about Professor Gates and the important work he has done? Or are you just repeating some right-wing talking points?

    It appears that you haven't yet realized that racism against black people is real. It's not clear if Gates was arrested because of racial profiling, but there's plenty of evidence out there that blacks are treated unequally by police in the U.S. - even by black cops (see Ta-Nehisi Coates on this).

    I found it very moving that President Obama spoke out on behalf of Professor Gates.

    And by the way, I'm white, not black, so you can't pull the race card on me.

  5. The policeman was just doing his job, which is very dangerous. Gates was wrong here. If he had simply showed identification, then this could have been avoided. As far as racial profiling is concerned; blacks make up 15% of this country and create over 50% of crime. Just saying that it some of the profiling is created by their own actions.

  6. Wow!! I never thought that this will be such a big news. It went from Gates arrest to Obama apalogy. This has become more interesting than what I thought. So, I collected all the sites or articles (more than 250 sites or articles) related to this hot topic "Cambridge Police Unit Demands Apology from Obama". If you are interested take a look at news, video coverage, people views and reviews on this topic at the below link.

  7. Thanks ddadmin, for the link to the articles.

    And Austin - Gates *did* show identification - which didn't seem to be sufficient to the officer, for some unknown reason.

  8. What a crock! I also read the police report, the day it was published.

    Police officers perform a dangerous and thankless job in our Townships, Cities and States.

    Every day they put their lives in harm's way.

    If Gates had behaved like a gentleman and identified himself, instead of hollering at the officer about what a big-shot he was and calling him a racist etc. this wouldn't have happened.

    He has only himself and his arrogant behavior to blame.

  9. "A dangerous and thankless job" - arresting 60-year-old men in their own homes? Sorry, the police officer misjudged the situation. He shouldn't have lost his cool just because Gates yelled at him. Gates showed him ID that proved this was his home - at that point the officer should have just left the house. I wasn't aware that arrogance (if it was that) was a legal offense. (If it is, then surely a lot more of us would be in jail!) How would you like to be arrested in your own home when you had done nothing wrong?

  10. Rather than blame the incident on racism, I simply believe that the cop responded to a racial profiling call.

    What happened after that was less about race, and more about power and authority, and from Robert Gates perspective about being a target of racism.

    Was Robert Gates right that the cop was a racist - I am not sure, but I don't think he had to be in order for things to happen the way they did.

    Was the cop right in asserting authority when he started making demands of this angry home-owner inside their home? Not at all. Robert Gates had every right to simply kick that cop out of his home. To have it escalate to Gates arrest makes the issue wrong.

    It does not however have to be about racism, like Gates or America claims, but just about cops, adrenaline, power trips and anger.