Guilty Until Proven Innocent.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Menace to society?

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Menace to society?

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.  ~ James Baldwin

When one of America’s most respected academics is subject to arrest for the crime of breaking into his own home, you’re served notice that to be a Negro in this country is also to be under suspicion at all times.

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.

Police arrived at Gates’ Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had locked himself out of his house and was trying to get inside.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to the Cambridge police log.

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

Gates, 58, did not return calls for comment today. link

Racial profiling, much?

The cops were called out because of “two Black males with backpacks” were supposedly breaking into a house. The cop questions and arrests a 58-year-old, grey-haired Black man who walks with a cane. Then even after Gates identifies himself the cop still takes him in. For what? Talking shit to a officer in his own home?

The arrest report by the officer is every bit as self-serving as the over-the-top tirade Gates went off on. The cop makes it sound like Gates just went off his rocker ranting about how he was being treated because he’s Black.

Isn’t it just a tad bit ironic that Gates just got back from China, a repressive police state where its citizens have no right to due process and can be arrested without cause for any reason because the authorities say so just to come back to America and get locked up for breaking into his own house?

It strikes me as the height of insanity if we’ve gotten to the point where you can get busted by the cops for “residing while Black.”

"Make me wanna holla way they do my life..."

"Make me wanna holla way they do my life..."

At what point did this incident stop being about a police officer investigating a possible break-in and start becoming a mano-a-mano difference of opinion between a pushy cop and a equally pushy resident?

Once it was determined by the cop Gates had the right to be in the house that should have been where it ended. Apparently, somebody didn’t like what somebody else said and since the cop had the authority, the gun and the handcuffs, it was Gates who got the ride downtown.

I’m not at all surprised the cops would just like the whole thing to go away as a “unfortunate set of circumstances.” So would Mark Sanford. I would strongly suspect certain people have been placed phone calls to certain people letting them know in no uncertain terms, “You don’t want to do this.”

So, no harm, no foul, huh? Except for all those photos of Professor Gates’ arrest photo floating around in cyberspace for all eternity. Well, what’s a little public humiliation for someone once named among “the 25 Most Influential Americans” anyway?

It does serve as yet another reminder that in confrontations between the police and Black males—even highly educated ones that have earned worldwide respect and acclaim—the benefit of the doubt goes to the police and not the Black male.

It also reminds me Malcolm X once asked, “What do you call a Black man with a Ph.d.?”

Malcolm’s reply was a racial epithet that rhymes with “trigger.” But here in our great big, glorious and shiny new post-racial America we’ve evolved  beyond all that.

The answer to the question is “Guilty.  Until proven innocent.”

I gave up trying to make Whites understand how the public servants they see as being out there to serve and protect too often harass and abuse Blacks.   Whites can believe whatever they want.   They’ll say Gates should have shut up and not lipped off to the cop.  They’ll say Gates played the race card.

They’ll say, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what honors you hold or what you’ve done.   When it comes down to your word against a White cop,  his word matters.  Yours doesn’t.”

Message heard loud and clear on this end.

It does serve as yet another reminder that in confrontations between the police and Black males—even highly educated ones that have earned worldwide respect and acclaim—the benefit of the doubt goes to the police and not the Black male.

The complexion of the resident in the White House has changed, but in other ways the ways Whites and Blacks perceive race in America hasn’t changed at all.   Maybe we’ve all grown a bit more complacent and smug, but not much else seems all that different.

We are all presumed guilty until we are proven innocent.

handcuffed

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4 thoughts on “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.

  1. But here in our great big, glorious and shiny new post-racial America we’ve evolved beyond all that.

    Even this tiny little white girl’s sarcasm meter is buzzing!

    I ‘sort of’ believed what happened to Dr. Gates was reality when I was young and living up north. Now that I live in the south, I have absolutely no doubt it happens.

    My personal/biggest conundrum is asking ‘what can *I* do?’ I don’t want this type of thing to happen in MY America. Finding this answer is a struggle for me everyday. I’ll pass along any insider info I get /meh…don’t hold your breath, of course (you knew that, though)

  2. Silver lining time … Perhaps this is exactly what we needed to shine a big bright light on the issue. Not that we weren’t already aware- we are! Dr. Gates is beyond reproach (at least in my mind) and with this incident no one can argue that racial profiling doesn’t happen.
    I find the whole thing very disheartening and it does not make me at all proud to be an American.

  3. I wanted to see if I could get your quick help. I just started a petition on Change.org titled “Anonyminity For the Accused”, and I’d love your support. You can sign the petition in less than 30 seconds by clicking the link below.

    Also, please pass this on to all your colleagues and friends. Let’s make a difference before you become a victim.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/view/anonyminity_for_the_accused?te=npf

    Thanks so much for the help!

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