The Cambridge Police Department view of a Black scholar
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.
Police arrived at Gates’ Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.
He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist.
Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody…
The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.
“He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence,” said S. Allen Counter, a Harvard Medical School professor who spoke with Gates about the incident Friday. “I am deeply concerned about the way he was treated, and called him to express my deepest sadness and sympathy…”
Counter has faced a similar situation himself. The well-known neuroscience professor, who is also black, was stopped by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect as he crossed Harvard Yard. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.
The Cambridge Police will no doubt come up with whatever they feel is justification for arresting a man standing on his own property – telling the coppers to get off that property – when it’s already been established there is no crime in progress. Other than good old all-American racism.