Wednesday, July 22, 2009
It took less than a day for the arrest of Henry Louis Gates to become racial lore. When one of America's most prominent black intellectuals winds up in handcuffs, it's not just another episode of profiling — it's a signpost on the nation's bumpy road to equality.
The news was parsed and Tweeted, rued and debated. This was, after all Henry "Skip" Gates: Summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale. MacArthur "genius grant" recipient. Acclaimed historian, Harvard professor and PBS documentarian. One of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" in 1997. Holder of 50 honorary degrees.
If this man can be taken away by police officers from the porch of his own home, what does it say about the treatment that average blacks can expect in 2009?
Earl Graves Jr., CEO of the company that publishes Black Enterprise magazine, was once stopped by police during his train commute to work, dressed in a suit and tie.
"My case took place back in 1995, and here we are 14 years later dealing with the same madness," he said Tuesday. "Barack Obama being the president has meant absolutely nothing to white law enforcement officers. Zero. So I have zero confidence that (Gates' case) will lead to any change whatsoever."
The 58-year-old professor had returned from a trip to China last Thursday afternoon and found the front door of his Cambridge, Mass., home stuck shut. Gates entered the back door, forced open the front door with help from a car service driver, and was on the phone with the Harvard leasing company when a white police sergeant arrived.
Gates and the sergeant gave differing accounts of what happened next. But for many people, that doesn't matter.
They don't care that Gates was charged not with breaking and entering, but with disorderly conduct after repeatedly demanding the sergeant's name and badge number. It doesn't matter whether Gates was yelling, or accused Sgt. James Crowley of being racist, or that all charges were dropped Tuesday.
All they see is pure, naked racial profiling.
"Under any account ... all of it is totally uncalled for," said Graves.
"It never would have happened — imagine a white professor, a distinguished white professor at Harvard, walking around with a cane, going into his own house, being harassed or stopped by the police. It would never happen."
I remember the first time I was picked up by white cops.
...I was six.
You read right.."6"! Someone had snatched a purse so they grabbed me. I was colored, and handy.
Fortunately the victim was a nice Jewish lady that chewed out the cops for hauling in a baby.
Apparently it was a colored teenager or young man that mugged her. That fact that I barely came up to the victims kneecap didn't matter. I was a nigger so I was guilty.
See it didn't matter to these officers of the law that I was clearly an infant kid. I was a little darkie, and that was enough for these guys to drag me in.
The same with Dr. Gates. All of his titles, and accomplishments meant nothing, mean nothing to white america.
Gates was just some old nigger breaking into a house.
Period,..end of story.
("The Dance'n Coon" popular early 20th century American toy.)