The recent arrest of African-American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has ignited debate on race and law enforcement in the U.S. President Obama has even commented on the case. And of course racism (and race relations)Â is an extremely importantÂ issue, and one that should indeed be addressed, whether related to law enforcement or otherwise. But I’m wondering about this case.
Quick bullet points from the police report:
- Cambridge, Mass. police were alerted to a possible break-in at Gates’ home.
- Gates answered the door when police arrived, and when informed of the investigation of a possible break-in, initially refused to provide identification, saying to the officer, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?”.
- Gates finally provided a Harvard ID thatÂ showed it was in fact his home, but police were confused by his behavior, and asked him to step outside the residence.
- Upset by the request, GatesÂ yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly, firstÂ inside the residence, andÂ then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him.
- Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space” . (He was subsequently released and the charges were dropped.)
How would you have handled the incident if you were the cops? If you were Gates? Is this really a case of racism or racial profiling, or simply a case of police arresting a guy for being an obnoxiousÂ dick in public? Do you think there is a general tendency among traditionally oppressed minorities to find racism where there is none?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.