As the saying goes, I have black friends (I do). I work with many African American youth from around Greater Hartford. I have a twenty year history of taking care of kids of color at summer camp. For a white guy, I’d say I am pretty well versed in the politics of race in this country.
That, however, doesn’t make me black.In fact, the more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know. The color of my skin has automatically ensured that I have an entirely different experience than someone born an African American.
All that being said, I’m left with lots of questions regarding the recent arrest of prominent black-studies scholar and Harvard Professor Henry Gates in front of his
As with all conflicts there are some divergent stories about what transpired that day.
- To the neighbor who called police, there were “two black men” forcing a door open.
- From the Boston Globe: “The police report said Gates was arrested after he yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly inside the residence then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him. "It was at that time that I informed Professor Gates that he was under arrest,'' the officer wrote in the report.”
- For Professor Gates, he told the investigating officer that he was sure he was being targeted because he was a “black man in
Would a call have been made to the police at all, had it been two white men forcing their way into a
Would police have reacted differently had they found a middle aged white man standing there? Would there have been an arrest? Would there have been any provocative behavior on their part?
Would a white man have reacted to police arriving at his door in a different way? Would he have hesitated to identify himself or follow instructions?
And, perhaps most interesting to me, how might we, black and white, have reacted differently had a white man been arrested that afternoon? Would black pundits be decrying police abuse of power? Would whites be dismissing the affair as being blown out of proportion?
I will not add to the rancor here and take a side, as it were, in this particular incident. I will say, with utmost confidence, though that the event proves one thing clearly. We are still a nation struggling with issues of race. Who ever is right or wrong in this case doesn’t matter. That there is a case at all shows we have work to do.