THE BLOG

Race in America: Comments on the Arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr.

08/21/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Upon hearing that Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., was arrested, my first thought was that he must have been protesting some injustice. I do not mean to be flip. I thought he must have purposely gotten himself arrested to make a point. I then recalled that Gates is no Al Sharpton.

I was outraged to find out that Cambridge police officers arrested him outside of his own home. According to The Boston Globe, Gates was having trouble unlocking his front door. He provided identification and according to the officer's report told the officer he had "no idea who he was messing with." I believe Gates did what anyone would do, he yelled at the officer, probably called him a few names and maybe told him he was not too smart. Out of wounded pride, I believe the officer decided to arrest the scholar.

As of today, all charges against Gates have been dropped. Would the officer have arrested a white Henry Louis Gates Jr., even if he was "loud and tumultuous"? I think the officer would have walked away and wondered if he had placed his job in jeopardy.

What interested me more than anything else about this story were the comments people were bound to make. Race in America is still a very sensitive topic. The web medium has allowed unfiltered reactions. From the Jena 6 to this current situation, as Americans, we are able to dissect the social constructions of reality that our neighbors have formed. Events, such as this arrest, demonstrate that we have a long way to go. I urge you to go through the comments section on a variety of sites and engage yourself in the discussion. It does not hurt to know what your neighbor is really thinking. Take the time to share your thoughts.

On Boston.com Dave C. wrote,

Enough of throwing down the race card ... we have a Black President now, so that tired old ship has sailed. The guy got indignant like any self-important Harvard professor does, pulled the old "Do you know who I am?" routine, and got arrested as a result.

On theRoot.com American Prospective wrote:

black america like white america has to use common sense and tell the professor very clealry he was in the wrong for shouting at the officer, making a quick judgement of race being used against him and act like an adult professional should act like. Talking calmly and intelligently and willing to cooperate to the questions of the concerned officer doing his job would have avoided this altogather. He should then appollogize for his wrongfull treatment to the officer and thank him for responding to a 911 call that might have been his last. If this professor is not willing to man up to this and black america refuses to tell him he was wrong. Blacks will continue to be at bay, only due to their own arrogance. P.S. my daughter is married to a kind intelligent black man and he aggrees with this concerned point. It's not always about color. Treat others with respect and you will almost always get it back..

On Oliver Willis's website Southern Quaker wrote:

Jay, I agree, from the perspective of a middle class white woman who has never been harassed because of my race, Gates probably over-reacted.

But then, I'm a middle-class white woman who's never been harassed because of my race.

On Feministe.us Danny wrote:

You didn't think the criminal image of the black man could be so easily dispelled did you?

I'd like to know what justification they had to come into the house in the first place. And I also find it odd that they arrested him after he was yelling at them. Since when is yelling at someone, even the cops, grounds for arrest (well I can think of a few but they are off topic so nevermind).

On Aol.com Sunshine4U1203 wrote:

I am WHITE and if I did what Gates did I would have been arrested also. I am tired of the RACE CARD being player EVERY time a black person is arrested/questioned or ANYTHING else that happens with the police. I am not saying that there aren't "BAD" cops but this is getting ridiculous.