11/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reflecting on the Gates Arrest

By Jim
Luce and David Gilfix

fury over the Gates arrest was never really about Gates’ arrest. 

People who continue to debate the veracity of charges of racism in that particular incident fail to recognize that the anger unveiled could not have arisen from a single episode; it must have been simmering for years.

The real story behind the fury was the fury itself -- that so many people believed they had experienced unfair treatment by police due to their ethnicity.   

To understand such anger, it helps to hear real life stories of people who have experienced racial profiling.  Such stories were easy to find for the authors of this article. 

We simply talked to
our friends:

  • In his freshman year in college in Ohio, a Puerto Rican was stopped by police outside a small-town bar, put in the local jail, and not bailed out until the next morning by the college dean (who was too busy to go to the police station that evening). No charges were filed and no apology was ever given.

  • An Asian was
    stopped and hassled by police outside a subway station in New York City where
    he was waiting to pick-up his daughter.  Additionally, police questioned
    and almost arrested him once while at JFK.  In a third incident, he was
    pulled over without cause while driving.  A renowned classical
    musician who has received several local and international honors, he has since
    spoken eloquently about how the Gates’ arrest brought back the trauma of those
    encounters and made him aware that he needs time for healing.

  • An African-American
    was stopped numerous times; in fact, it seems like every African-American that
    we know has a story about being stopped and treated like a criminal by
    police.  D.W.B. (If you don’t get that, check with your closest Black

  • A Muslim was questioned so suspiciously at Logan Airport that he now avoids air travel.  Male Muslim staff members of Orphans International Worldwide, aged 20-30, are usually kept on arrival from Indonesia in Immigration at JFK or Newark for 6-8 hours.  F.W.M.  (Okay, “Flying While Muslim”).

All of this brings us back to the Gates/Crowley episode.  The
arrest uncorked pent-up emotions and helped reveal a dirty national
secret:  racial profiling is real, it violates the highest ideals of our
country, and it demeans the daily experiences of far too many people. 

The ongoing challenge is how we respond.  Perhaps now, more
than any other time before us, we have the opportunity to truly understand the
ramifications and social injustice that this approach to law and order brings.

Perhaps the recent
White House beer summit between Obama, Crowley, and Gates will be remembered as
the start of a national conversation about racial profiling.  If so, it
will deserve but a single criticism: why no Sam Adams?

David Gilfix is an educator, writer, and a classical guitarist. Follow
David in his regular blog. Jim Luce is a
writer and Founder of Orphans International Worldwide, and co-founded Fundamentalists Anonymous in the 1980s.