Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Respect my authori-tah!

So my wonderful Aunt asked me what I thought about the Henry Louis Gates incident and since I want to maintain my most favored neice status, I figured I'd share my impressions. If you haven't heard, a brief rundown: Dr. Gates is black. He was returning from a trip to China to find that his front door was jammed. He and the guy that drove him from the airport tried to force the door open. One of his white neighbors saw Gates and the driver at the front door and called the police. When the police came the officer asked Dr. Gates to step outside. Dr. Gates refused and then ended up getting arrested for disorderly conduct. The charges have since been dropped.

First of all, I don't understand how you can be arrested for disorderly conduct for refusing to leave your own home. Especially when it is not a command from a cop. Sidenote: I realized something recently. When you get pulled over by the cops, they have questions and they have commands.


Do you know how fast you were going?
Do you know why I pulled you over?
Have you been drinking tonight?
Do you mind if I search your vehicle?

They are asking you all of these things as an attempt to get you to A) incriminate yourself or B) keep you from exercising your other very important constitutional rights.


Step out of the car.
Put your hands on your head.
Open the door! It's the police!
etc., etc., etc.

They can tell you to do these things because you're more than likely about to get your ass arrested. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

So if in fact Dr. Gates was asked to step outside of his house, he was within his rights to say no. And why did the cop refuse to give Dr. Gates his name and badge number? Shady. True, Dr. Gates was apparently giving the cop attitude talking about being a black man in America, but so what? He's in his own house getting hassled by the cops. And he just spent God knows how long on an overseas flight. International travel makes even the calmest individuals cranky.

I get that cops are supposed to get some level of respect and deference, but if you don't give it to them--does that mean they should be allowed to arrest you? I don't think so. And the fact that some of them will if you don't is a big reason why so many people hate cops.

So what do you think? Do you think the neighbor would have called the cops if it had been two white guys trying to force open the door? Do you think Dr. Gates would have been arrested if he had been more "cooperative?" Do you think he would have been arrested if he were white and was giving the cop lip? What do you think about him giving the cop 'tude in the first place? If you've got thoughts, I'd love to hear them.


  1. This story sent me into a rage. Professor Gates is incredible and so totally genteel and harmless-looking. It was more than clear that this was racial profiling. Even if you didn't know he was a world-renowned scholar, he just looks professorial! Like, really? An older man with glasses and nice clothes is trying to break into a house?

    He most certainly would NOT have been arrested if her were white. If her were white, he wouldn't even had any reason to give any lip because he would not have been accosted in the first place.

    Seriously ridiculous and angering. I like that Professor Ogletree is representing him.

  2. Anonymous1:56 AM

    So the thing is if the police ask or command an unreasonable request, and you concede with cooperation, will you then live with fear of external locus of control/powerlessness against "the man"? And will your cooperation truly be appreciated as cooperation allowing you to walk away with dignity and apologies? But then, what fight do you want to fight at the time. Cooperation can be quicker way to get through this stupid misunderstanding/harassment. And who knows if the neighbor would have called if the men were white? But how sad that the neighbor did not recognize Mr. Gates as his neighbor. That is sad no matter what your ethnicity. But at least the neighbor did pay attention? maybe with good intentions of helping out??? Finally, I, a white chick, gave a cop lip at 18 years young during a traffic stop. He even warned me, and I still gave lip. I wasn't arrested. Hmmm...I do believe that if I was a male with darker skin that I would have been hauled away to jail for the same lip... for sure.Thanks love for the great forum...I don't know how to comment as me ... teach me...Carema

  3. "Do you think the neighbor would have called the cops if it had been two white guys trying to force open the door?"
    Gosh. I certainly hope so. I'd be teed off if my home was broken into and my neighbors didn't call because the people were white. I also hope that if a white person was "giving lip" that he/she would be arrested. He/she would certainly deserve it, imo.

    I think it's incredibly dumb (on the officer's part, primarily) to have let the situation escalate to the extent that it did (as far as I understand it). Still, I don't think it's right to give a police officer 'tude. Give him/her what he/she wants when he/she wants it and call an attorney later.

  4. So I think people are right to think about what HLG was doing -- being "loud and tumultuous" as the officer reported. I think "myblackfriend" is definitey right to consider how tired HLG must have been after his journeys. I think people are right to consider the possibility that the neighbor was just trying to be a good neighbor and to worry that being a good neighbor no longer includes knowing who your neighbors are. I think, though, that a wise police officer working in the Boston area who responds to a 911 call that turns out to be just some guy trying to get into *his own* house and finds that guy pissed about his racial standing has to suck it up and try to "manage" the race thing. The best way to manage it would have been to defer just a little bit, just this once to a guy who has had his long awaited homecoming broken up by cops trying to bust him for coming home.

  5. Anonymous10:59 AM

    What do we make of the race of the police officer? He is black too. Does that complicate things at all? I don't know if it changes anything, but it may be a salient feature of the situation.

  6. (waving to Carema). I was just watching the news and someone commented... "being charged with disorderly conduct in your home is the same as being charged with indecent exposure in your own bathroom." I also love how now they are doing the whole "but he's a good man, he tried to save some Black basketball player from dying" thing to negate what happened. "He couldn't possibly be racist b/c he" either 1) has some Black friends, 2) is SUCH a good man, etc etc with the BS.

    I wonder why it is so hard for ppl to say that they sometimes act in a racist manner. That as a person socialized in the USA, none of us are exempt from harboring some stereotypes and biases.

  7. Second anonymous, the arresting officer was actually white. There is a black cop in the photo that is circulating around, but I think he was just one of the group of cops that had gathered outside Dr. Gates' home.

  8. Sabria7:43 PM

    Yes, dear neice, you are correct. The first Caucasian officer to respond was met with a crowd of others...a random Black one was both photographed and sympathetic to Gates' plight. You know how those black & white (pardon the pun) units like to gang up and be "in on" what's going on. It must have been a slow crime day.
    For the life of me, I don't understand how a gentleman using a cane and flaunting professorial identification could possibly be such a threat to anyone under 60 years of age. Nor could said gentleman be viewed as suspicious to even a brand new neighbor who has never laid eyes on him before. But what do I know? I know that there are some ingrained stereotypical thoughts that are the catalyst of our behaviors. Although we strive to resist and discount the thoughts, sometimes our gut reactions force us to later sit in quiet rooms and feel ashamed for our actions. And in these moments, the person who is seated can easily be YOU. This officer can search his soul to determine if race played a card in his reactions just as Gates can search his soul to make an identical determination. Whether they'd want to share their personal introspections with the world has yet to be seen. Simply put, I doubt it!

  9. j galt4:28 PM

    Dr. Gates is a staight up JERK. All that education and no manners. Please give me a break. So when I go to the pool hall and play billards it is racial. This story is about a tired old man who lost his cool and played the race card. Perhaps his Harvard pedigree and elitest attitudes should be examined. "Do you know who I am? Give me a break. How about Gates mama, should the officer insulted her?. Don't go talking about my mama here. How childish. All that education and he insults his mama. Harvard, please. Makes me thinks less of that institution. Maybe he will enroll in some miss manner school pinky out classes this fall and not be such a jerk the next time an officer askes for an ID. Funny how someone is aked for an ID and why does he have to give it to an officer, yet millons are willing to hand over their personal private medical records over the the government for so called health reform? Give me a Break. selective moral out rage

  10. PJ Coley5:13 PM

    Hey Sis!

    Um. I think both were in the wrong. Dr. Gates shouldn't have gotten belligerent with the Police Officers. He should've complied and filed a complaint later. However, what he did wasn't illegal. As President Obama said, the cops did act stupidly, as the charges were soon dropped following the incident. Charges that are dismissed well before court are pretty shaky charges. The fact that the officer refused to produce credentials is another indicator of some guilt (or knowledge of mis-doing). Politically, the President shouldn't have said what he said... but he was right.

    What I find most Ironic is the conservative "anti-political correct" crowd now saying the President should've stated the politically correct "I choose not to comment" response. Convenient.

  11. Do you think the neighbor would have called the cops if it had been two white guys trying to force open the door? I sure hope so
    Do you think Dr. Gates would have been arrested if he had been more "cooperative?" No
    Do you think he would have been arrested if he were white and was giving the cop lip? I sure hope so
    What do you think about him giving the cop 'tude in the first place? Persoanlly i would have been thankful

  12. Anonymous11:28 AM

    All the negative references to Gates' behavior come from Crowley, backed up by his blue buddies. Why aren't Gates' pronouncements on tape? Crowley surely could have recorded them if he wanted to. Crowley is again profiling Gates. He got away with it. Mug shots of Gates are all over the world. Gates' character has been slandered by knee-jerk racists who refuse to respect Gates' position, intellect, nor character. It has been proven Crowley lied on his police report. Have you noticed how they still act as if Crowley's false arrest was the proper thing to do?

  13. I don't know exactly what happened or how it happened, but I believe that if the officer had acted in any kind of intelligent way, the whole thing would have been a non issue.

    I mean a simple explaination of why he was called there and that since he was called, as unnecessary as it may seem, ask Mr. Gates to produce some ID, then done! That's what I'm thinking. I think I might be a tat annoyed, but also releived that cops in my hood responded quickly to a 911 call. How I might feel after a journey from China...hmm...

    I just wish all the hurt and hate would dissolve. Just go away.
    Good post.