Harvard Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested for disorderly conduct. According to news reports, police responded to a call from a neighbor that someone was trying to break into Gates’ house by forcing open the door. It turns out the person trying to break into Gates’ house was Gates. So far, there is no story.
But when police asked Gates to identify himself, Gates refused and started screaming that police were engaging in racial profiling. [The police report is here and below.] Gates’ behavior resulted in the disorderly conduct charge, and he was released on his own recognisance. This from AP:
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation’s pre-eminent black scholar, is accusing Cambridge police of racism after he was arrested while trying to force open the locked front door of his home near Harvard University.
Cambridge police were called to the home Thursday afternoon after a woman reported seeing a man “wedging his shoulder into the front door as to pry the door open,” according to a police report.
An officer ordered the man to identify himself, and Gates refused, according to the report. Gates began calling the officer a racist and said repeatedly, “This is what happens to black men in America.”
Needless to say, the blogosphere has exploded with charges of racial profiling, and various analogies to the problem of “driving while black” wherein blacks are more likely to be pulled over by police. This blog post is typical:
But none of those analogies fit. The police did not profile anyone. They received a call of someone trying to force open the door to a home. They asked the person
attempting to force the door open who he was. Had Gates answered, that would have been the end of it.
Racial profiling is a serious issue. Gates’ accusations of racism and racial profiling not only are not serious, they are damaging to real victims.
See also this post by one of our commenters: This is NOT racial profiling
UPDATE: A statement issued on behalf of Gates is here. The statement makes it seem as if there were no confrontation in the house, and Gates was placed under arrest out of the blue as he walked out of the house. The statement does not directly address the allegations in the police report. Reading the police report and the Gates statement together, there may be a legitimate dispute as to whether Gates’ conduct rose to the level of disorderly conduct (and whether the police overreacted after Gates screamed at them), but there is nothing to suggest that there was racial profiling going on…. and MORE: The charges of disorderly conduct have been dropped.