A middle-aged Harvard professor struggles a few extra moments with unlocking a jammed door on his own house. The cops show up. What happens next?
a. They help him open the door and carry his groceries inside for him.
b. They let him know that Jim Smithers can fix that lock, no problem, sir.
c. They tell him someone had reported a possible break-in, and they joke with him about burglarizing his own house.
d. They question him; check his ID, including driver's license and Harvard faculty ID card; handcuff him; arrest him; and keep him in custody for several hours.
The correct answer is d, if you're Henry Louis Gates, the prominent scholar and Harvard professor. Guess what color his skin is?
The level of rage and anguish and disgust I feel about this cannot be expressed in words.
ETA The charges have been dropped.
This is the statement made by Gates's lawyer:
This brief statement is being submitted on behalf of my client, friend, and colleague, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This is a statement concerning the arrest of Professor Gates. On July 16, 2009, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 58, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor of Harvard University, was headed from Logan airport to his home at 17 Ware St. in Cambridge after spending a week in China, where he was filming his new PBS documentary entitled
“Faces of America." Professor Gates was driven to his home by a driver for a local car company. Professor Gates attempted to enter his front door, but the door was damaged. Professor Gates then entered his rear door with his key, turned off his alarm, and again attempted to open the front door. With the help of his driver they were able to force the front door open, and then the driver carried Professor Gates’s luggage into his home.
Professor Gates immediately called the Harvard Real Estate office to report the damage to his door and requested that it be repaired immediately. As he was talking to the Harvard Real Estate office on his portable phone in his house, he observed a uniformed officer on his front porch. When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained
inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard
University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’s photograph, and the license includes his address.
Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’s request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’s home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates. As Professor Gates followed the officer to his own front door, he was astonished to see several police officers gathered on his front porch. Professor Gates asked the officer’s colleagues for his name and badge number. As Professor Gates stepped onto his
front porch, the officer who had been inside and who had examined his identification, said to him, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request,” and then placed Professor Gates under arrest. He was handcuffed on his own front porch.
Professor Gates was taken to the Cambridge Police Station where he remained for approximately four hours before being released that evening. Professor Gates’s counsel has been cooperating with the Middlesex District Attorneys Office, and the City of Cambridge, and is hopeful that this matter will be resolved promptly. Professor Gates will not be making any other statements concerning this matter at this time.