ON THE LEFT: Cambridge Police Sergeant and racial profiling instructor, Jim Crowley. On the right, Esteemed scholar of African American History, Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
By Chemi Che-Mponda
By now many people throughout the world have heard of the case of renowned Harvard University Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., getting arrested in his own home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Prof. Gates had just returned home from a trip to China.
The whole thing started on Thursday, July 16, 2009 when one Lucia Whalen, who works down the block on Ware St. where Prof. Gates lives made a 911 call to police. Whalen said that two large black men with backpacks were breaking into the posh Ware St. home. Turns out both were wearing suits and there were three pieces of luggage on the porch. Prof. Gates is small and walks with a cane. Turns out Prof. Gates was the homeowner trying to get into his own home, but had problems because the door was damaged due to a break-in attempt while he was away. Where’ve you been hiding Lucia? Can’t wait to hear the 911 tape of your call! Oh, she's probably away on one of those 'Need to Getaway' Southwest Airlines flights.
So, Sergeant James Crowley of Cambridge police shows up to investigate the break-in at 12:30pm. He sees Prof. Gates and is not satisfied that the older black gentleman is the homeowner. He calls Harvard University police even after Prof. Gates has presented him with an ID with his address on it. Sgt. Crowley didn’t believe that a black man lived in a nice home on ware St.? By now, anyone would be mad too about being disrespected in my own home. According to the officer, Professor Gates started yelling at him that he was a racist ands that’s why he arrested him. Why didn’t Sergeant Crowley just say there had been a misunderstanding and leave? Was he really looking for a confrontation with the Prof.?
Could it really be, that Sergeant Crowley being a Sergeant arrested Prof. Gates, so as not to look bad in the eyes of his junior officers. They say there were ten other officers there.
I say this, when I was a kid I was taught, “Sticks and Stones may Break my bones, but words may never harm me!” In this case words obviously harmed the officer’s pride and he decided to show a force of power.
While Sergeant Crowley may be a teacher of racial profiling, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t practice what he teaches. I have seen white people who have had children with black people, being more negative towards blacks than other racist whites. Sergeant Crowley, has now been nicknamed, ‘Sergeant Jim Crow’ for his actions towards Prof. Gates.
During his arrest, Prof. Gates allegedly told Sergeant Crowley, that “He didn’t know who he was messing with!” Prof. Gates was right indeed, the Sergeant didn’t know. I also find it hard to believe that after 11 years of working Cambridge, Sgt. Crowley didn’t know Prof. Gates by sight. Cambridge isn’t that big and it’s a common sight to see Prof. Gates, walking or driving.
Prof. Gates is a world renowned scholar. He's the preeminent scholar of African American history in the USA and the world. He is highly esteemed and respected. He has done a lot of research on African American history. He has also done a lot to bridge the divide between Africans and Africans in the diaspora. A lot of white people won’t appreciate the magnitude of Prof. Gates works because it was their white ancestors who did their best to erase the African heritage of African Americans. He has uncovered a lot of lost African American history. I bow down in thanks to Prof. Gates for his research. So someone like the bigot Lucia Whalen wouldn’t care to know who her neighbor was, even though I’m sure Harvard magazine has run a lot of articles about him.
The legacy of slavery still haunts America even though we now have the country has it’s first African American President. I have to agree that police acted ‘stupidly’ for arresting a mad inside his own home, even after he had proved that he lived there. And yes, I do think that if Prof. Gates had been Prof. O’Gates/Gatesky (a white man) he would have been treated differently. And I can’t help but ask that if Prof. Gates was really a criminal, wouldn’t he have tried to flee when he saw the police?
And to those taking the police report as bible, what did we expect the guy to write,
“Suspect (Prof. Gates) was polite and cooperative. He showed us valid ID proving that he was in his own home but we arrested him anyway.”? How many times have we heard of falsified police reports so that officers can cover up their blunders. And since when is shouting at anyone in your own home a crime or does it become a crime when an ‘uppity’ black is shouting at a white person? Sorry, but in reality this looks more and more like some kind of power play. “I’m white and you’re black, you better know your place!”
Lastly, let me say that the disrespect shown to President Obama over his comments about the Prof. Gates issue at the press conference last Tuesday are appalling. The comments that some whites have been uttering have been sheer racist. President Obama is the President, yet some white folks have been speaking against him as if he is beneath them. In other words, they are saying in code, “You may be President, but you are still an N-word! How dare you, an N-word, speak against a good old All American White boy! ”. Remember President Obama is a black man and knows first hand the racism that black men have to endure. He has also lived in Cambridge, MA and has probably dealt with some nasty white cops.
I live in Cambridge, MA. I don’t dare leave my house to go to the corner store without my ID. God forbid, something should happen to white person in the vicinity, you will be rounded up. And if you don’t have your ID on you, you get bundled into the paddy wagon, booked, and end up calling someone to please go get your purse with ID in it. Cambridge has this ‘Liberal’ label, yes. At the same time it is a very racist city, the racism exists subtly. The Klan is here but they don’t wear sheets and pointy hats.
To all the angry white folks out there, I say this, paint yourself black for a week and follow your same routine. Then see if you feel the same about this incident. And to those who say black folks need to ‘get over it’, we’ll get over it when racism ceases to exist and we are treated as equals.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org