The Gates Arrest: what does it say about race?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Obi-Ewan, Jul 23, 2009.

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  1. Obi-Ewan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2000
    star 4
    Henry Louis Gates was arrested recently while trying to get into his own home, an incident that raises quite a few questions about racial profiling--especially the question of whether the same behavior, committed by different races, conjures of radically different assumptions in a casual observer.

    Gates was trying to get into his front door, but the door was damaged and wouldn't budge. He went through the back door instead, then went about trying to get the door working properly. A passerby saw him forcing the door and called the police.

    The question is, why was he assumed to be breaking and entering into his own house? How does a prominent professor get mistaken by neighbors for being someone other than the rightful owner of that house? This is where racial assumptions come into the picture. Would a white person in that situation have been suspected of breaking and entering?

    Of course he ended up being arrested, not for breaking and entering, but for becoming belligerent to the officers that were there. However, if the police were only there because of a faulty call, and that call was based on a wrongful presumption based on the fact that he is black, then isn't he right to be more than a little angry?

    The Police say he failed to show proper identification. Gates says he did show them proper identification, but that when asked for theirs, the police refused.
  2. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I am so sick of this story already. I don't think anything was motivated on account of race, based on the facts I've heard so far. It's wicked overblown.

    If anybody was being racist, it was the pedestrian who called the police, but it doesn't sound like it. She waited there for the police and kept pointing and saying there's someone breaking into the house there. The man was rightfully angry, he was already having a bad day, but he shouldn't have immediately assumed it was because of race. Maybe the officer shouldn't have put him in handcuffs, and I'm not sure if he read him his rights, but we don't really know what was happening. But I read a news article that the police officer in question was accompanied by a Latino police officer, and that he teaches classes against racial profiling, so it seems unlikely it was race-motivated and he was probably just being extra cautious. That's what I know from the facts so far.


    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. ? The white police sergeant accused of racial profiling after he arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his home was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling.

    Friends and fellow officers ? black and white ? say Sgt. James Crowley is a principled police officer and family man who is being unfairly described as racist.

    "If people are looking for a guy who's abusive or arrogant, they got the wrong guy," said Andy Meyer, of Natick, who has vacationed with Crowley, coached youth sports with him and is his teammate on a men's softball team. "This is not a racist, rogue cop. This is a fine, upstanding man."


    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_harvard_scholar_arresting_officer
  3. Steven_R Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2008
    star 1
    Gates was looking to become a victim and became one. It's funny how self-fulfilling prophesies like that happen. He's made an academic career based on the premise that Whitey is keepin' the brotherman down. Here comes a cop, a white cop, asking a black man for identification because as we all know a black man can't live in a nice neighborhood. Sure there was a report of a house burglery, but that's no reason a black man should have to cough up identification. And when he did, that doesn't mean he should have to do with while listening to the officer's unreasonable commands like, "step outside until we clear this up" and "stop saying my momma will check your i.d." Sure the professor was belligerent, but that's because this cop has been oppressing his people for 400 years.

    I especially like the part where the president comes on tv and says he wasn't there and doesn't know what really happened, but this proves race relations has a long way to come because a black academian can't possibly be in the wrong when it comes to being a jackhole to a white cop.
  4. DarthPoojaNaberrie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2005
    star 5
    I'm trying to imagine me seeing a white person forcing open a door of a house...if I didn't recognize the person and it was clear they were forcing a door as opposed to opening it, I'd probably assume they were breaking in. I still wouldn't know the reason though, be it to rob the place or help the rightful owner or some other emergency. Calling the police could be a good idea, so it's their job to sort out the why and not mine.
  5. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    Obama admitted that Skip Gates is a friend and therefore he (Obama) has a personal bias. I'm not sure that he should have been asked the question, given that, one it's not a national issue, it's a local issue in the Cambridge area, and two, the press conference was about health care. John McCain probably would not have been asked the question.

    That being said, I'd be pretty PO'ed if I got accused of breaking into my own house. That's not an excuse to mouth off to a cop, but I understand why Gates was angry, and it really has nothing to do with his "people" being oppressed for 400 years or anything to do with the color of his skin--assuming, of course, that a white Harvard professor would, under the same circumstances, have the police called on him for trying to "break into" his own house.
  6. Obi-Ewan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2000
    star 4
    I'm trying to imagine me seeing a white person forcing open a door of a house

    Make it a damaged door and it's quite possible.

    ...if I didn't recognize the person and it was clear they were forcing a door as opposed to opening it, I'd probably assume they were breaking in.

    You do realize he was forcing only because it wouldn't move in spite of his having used a key, right? And how would you fail to recognize the owner of a house if you recognize the house itself?



  7. DarthPoojaNaberrie Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2005
    star 5
    As a passerby seeing only the forcing of the door, no, I don't know that.

    I meant if I couldn't verify with absolute certainty the person doing the forcing is definitely the one who lives there. If I don't know the house well or at all (multiple people living one place, etc) I'd probably feel it was not a good idea to just go on my merry way after witnessing that.

    edit: I am still talking about the hypothetical white person in the above scenarios.
  8. Steven_R Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2008
    star 1
    I live in an apartment complex and couldn't tell you anything about my neighbors beyond the types of dogs they own and the size and shape of my downstair neighbor's awesome boobage. So if I see someone kicking in a door in my apartment complex, I'm calling the cops. That's what they get paid to figure out.

    Interesting side note to this whole story. Another message board I frequent has a cop on there. Seems a while back they had a call about a break in and a cop from Shift A showed up, checked the guy who was kicking in the front door's ID and sure enough it checked out. A few hours on Shift B later they get a call from the same house. Seems the actual owners came home and the place had been ransacked. What happend was the guy who was stopped originally had been a former resident that had been evicted when the house was foreclosed on and since he never changed his ID, the cops had no way of knowing he wactually wasn't supposed to be there.
  9. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    And let's not forget that there was an earlier break in at that residence.

    But here's the important fact: After Obama acknowledges that he doesn't know the facts, the highest law enforcment officer of the land calls the actions of the cops "stupidity."

    Why would he do that?

    What would make him jump to an obviously wrong conclusion?

    That's an awful lot like saying,"Look, I haven't seen that movie yet, but it sucks." If the highest movie reviewer in the land did that we would wonder if he is still worthy of the title.

    The cops treatment of Gates may not have been profiling but Obama's opinion of it seems to be.
  10. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Alvin Gentry, now the coach of the Phoenix Suns, was hassled by police outside his home a few years ago here in Phoenix. When asked about it by a friend, he said it wasn't anything that being a different skin color wouldn't have solved.
  11. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    First of all, you have a few facts wrong.

    For example, Gates wasn't arrested while trying to break into his house. He had already gotten the front door open, and was inside when the officer arrived.

    Second of all, he wasn't assumed to to be breaking in. A neighbor (who did not know him very well) saw two people trying to force open the front door, and reported the suspicious behavior (as trying to force open a door is suspicious) to the police. At that point, the police are obligated to respond and verify that there isn't a breaking taking place. Part of doing that is to confront the individual(s) found at the reported premises and verify their identity. How else do you expect a police officer to know whether or not the individual broke in for nefarious purposes or whether they are legitimately a resident of the home?

    Regardless of whether you consider the call to be faulty (and you are making the assumption that Gates actually has gotten to know his neighbors and they would recognize him on sight), once the call is made, the police have to respond, and follow their procedures to verify the identity of the people in question.

  12. cloneCommando1138 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 16, 2005
    star 4
    This entire story is absoluetly ridiculous. I work for a police department in Massachusetts, and all of us were completely outraged by this. This has absoluetly nothing to do with race, and Gates is a fool for making this such a big deal. Maybe I am biased because of my job, but please give us a break-we have an African-American president...
  13. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    That there's a black president is irrelevant. Racial problems did not vanish overnight with Obama's election, nor does it mean that they no longer exist. It seems "in" now to claim that because Obama's in office, race is or should no longer be an issue, and therefore people shouldn't speak up about it any longer.
  14. cloneCommando1138 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 16, 2005
    star 4
    Agreed, maybe my last sentence was too extreme, but so is this Gates thing. It is being made too big a deal of-the Cambridge PD responded appropriately and accordingly to their training.
  15. DeathStar1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2003
    star 4
    President Obama screwed up, and based on his clarification today, I think he knows it.

    Gates is clearly hypersensitive and completely overreacted. It smells like a "Do you know who I am!" moment.

    Sure, just because we have a black President doesn't mean racist acts are a thing of the past, nor should police harassing citizens be acceptable. But based on everything I have read, the police acted appropriately, whereas Gates did not.
  16. J-Rod Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2004
    star 5
    Well I just hope that B. Hussein Obama uses profiling against terror next time. Instead of againt our domestic law enforcement. :D
  17. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Just one of many possible scenarios as to why he might have had ID that showed him as a resident, even though he had no good reason to be there. For example, it could have been his ex-wife's house, and she might have a restraining order on him. Or he might be a really well prepared thief, and had a fake ID made up beforehand - I work in anti-fraud, and one problem that we sometimes have is people using fake identification to "prove" to my companies retail stores that they are who they say they are - and if they're challenged, they go ballistic on people who challenge them. Or, he could be going senile/on some serious drugs/other kinds of crazy, and convinced that he still lives at a house he moved out of a year ago. Or it could have been his brother's house - family resemblance could explain any pictures with his face on them. Numerous scenarios exist for why the police wouldn't just take a look at his ID and apologize for troubling them. And when someone - anyone, regardless of skin color - goes off on a police officer as Gates is described to have done, that throws up red flags.

    From what's been said about James Crowley, I believe that things indicate that he was acting no differently than he could if he was responding to a white person breaking into a home.


    What this says to me? Racism and prejudice are alive and well. In this case, a black person had prejudices against white peoples. That is not to say that whites being racist towards blacks does not happen far too often - but it does say that things swing both ways, that there are blacks racist towards whites.


    Obama doesn't need to issue a clarification. He needs to issue an apology.
  18. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Exactly. That's part of the reason why police rarely take ID at face value. When you get pulled over, they will usually either radio in your ID for verification, or pull it up on their car computer. Why? To help verify that it is valid and that you are who you claim to be.

    From the police report (which is a very interesting read), it appears that Sgt Crowley asked Gates to continue the discussion outside the home because he was having difficulty radioing the ID information from inside (he claimed it was due to acoustics). It really isn't unreasonable for the police to do what they can to verify your identity in such a situation, and part of that requires verifying the authenticity of your identification.

    Kimball Kinnison
  19. cloneCommando1138 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 16, 2005
    star 4
    Sgt. Crowley responded as any well-trained officer should do. The news update on CNN has the story correct- Officers from around the country are offended at what Obama has said. I know this is certainly true for everyone in my department.
  20. Lady_Sami_J_Kenobi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    If I were seen trying to enter my house in such a fashion, I would be glad the cops were called, because that would mean that my neighbors were trying to protect me and my belongings. Also, I would be very polite to the cops, because I live there and have nothing to hide.

    It does not pay to get upset with the cops who are just trying to do their jobs. Politeness goes a long way in this world.
  21. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    The Gates Arrest: what does it say about race?

    That black people like to cry racism at every available opportunity.
  22. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 8, 2000
    star 6
    Soooo...profiling Middle Easterners is OK, but profiling whites is not?

    (I'm white, BTW.)
  23. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    It does seem like Gates overreacted a bit, but then again most of the white cops I know ARE racist.
  24. JediSmuggler Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 1999
    star 5
    Sadly, I have to agree.

    Also, pretty much, in any sort of dust-up involving law enforcement, the intelligence community, and/or the military against some thugs, folks on the left will invariably go after the cops, intelligence personnel, and/or the troops. I've seen that all too often over the past fifteen years.
  25. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Gotta love the irony of a statement like "black people like to cry racism at every available opportunity".
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