What a tangled mess this whole situation is revolving around the arrest of Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at his home in Cambridge. In case you have been on a desert island somewhere for the past week and have not heard the news, Professor Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct by Sgt. James Crowley who was responding to a report of a break in at the house on July 16th.
Since then, the incident has been a topic of debate on national news, radio talk show, and on the Internet. People are weighing in on both sides, including President Obama who said he thought the police acted “stupidly.” When he was taken to task for that comment, he defended it on ABC’s Nightline, ” I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.”
Many people agree with that, and if there were no other factors to consider in the situation, the debate could end there. But on the other side of the coin is a police officer who has a record of being even-tempered, racially sensitive, and one of the highest commended officers on the force.
In Sgt. Crowley’s official report, he states that Gates refused to cooperate with him and repeatedly accused him of racism. Allegedly Gates told the officer that he “had no idea who he was messing with” and was so loud that it disrupted Crowley’s attempts to give information to dispatch when he was calling in.
So, obviously, this will play out in a case of “he said” “he said” , but what I would like to know is who called in the possible break in? Was it a neighbor who should have recognized Professor Gates as he was entering his own home? What made the neighbor suspicious? Is that where the real problem of racism exists?
This is also an example of how not to respond in a situation like this. It appears that Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley both let emotions get out of hand. Granted, I’m not sure if I could have kept my cool if a police officer came to my door and started questioning me, especially if that officer brought any kind of attitude with him. But I also know that reason trumps anger every time.