The buzz on this story is about racism, but I see it as a case of blatant police misconduct. I’ve been on the receiving end of cops behaving badly ~ covering their tails and closing ranks. I know what it feels like to be rousted from my home on a false charge. I was as incensed and livid as Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Every value I held dearly was turned on its ear in a moment that changed the course of my life.
I have been stunned that all the pundits who debate this case ad nauseam are unable to discipline themselves to walk a moment in Professor Gates’ shoes. Anybody who has spent a lot of time in airports and on planes knows how good it feels to finally arrive home. . .especially when we don’t feel well. Our homes are our sanctuaries and our havens. Professor Gates’ home in Cambridge, Massachusetts is painted sunshine yellow.
The 9-1-1 tapes have been released. If you listen to the tape, it is abundantly clear that the cops over-reacted and blamed Professor Gates for their stupidity and arrogance. (Note: Jason has left a YouTube video of the call in the comment section. You can hear it and the dispatch on his web site.)
On one hand, Professor Gates is lucky to have concerned neighbors watching out for his home while he’s on the road. His neighbor was clear: the luggage on the porch was an indication the owner might have just returned home from a trip.
On the other hand, he’s unfortunate to live in a town where the police department will close ranks. Bill Maher characterized it perfectly on CNN, “he was arrested for not kissing the behind of the police.” They knew he owned the home. Who was being threatened? Why couldn’t the cop just walk away?
It is a sad day for liberty in our country when a disabled Harvard professor is arrested in his home after a long trip for being cranky with police. And, it is a sadder day when the police department can’t find the grace to apologize.