by Latoya Peterson
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.
After that, the details get sketchy. According to the police report, Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior.” The police report appears to have been removed from the original place of upload, but it claimed that Gates continued to to holler about the officer being racist.
However, colleagues like Melissa Harris Lacewell said that the actions described in the police report did not sound like the Skip Gates she knows. On twitter yesterday, she wrote:
I often disagree politically, ideologically, and academically with #SkipGates
But there is no question that #SkipGates is personally responsible for huge investment by Ivy schools into AfAm programs.
#SkipGates is as much an institution builder as a scholar. He is careful, measured, savvy, and a bit of a #trickster.
#SkipGates convinced white multi-millionaires who never cared about black studies before to become patron’s of the field.
#SkipGates vacations in Martha’s Vineyard and “feels at home” in Harvard yard.
My disagreements with #SkipGates have often been fueled by my sense that he underestimates the continuing impact of racism on black life.
So the idea that #SkipGates is standing in his house yelling racially inflammatory things at white cops is really nuts. I do not believe it.
It’s really clear to me that only racist glasses could produce this radical blackity-black vision of #SkipGates.
Indeed, the version of the story Skip Gates released through his lawyer paints a different picture of the course of events:
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’ 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’ 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’ 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.