Updated Tuesday 11:17 a.m. Former Yale professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. ’73, the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard and one of the country’s most prominent black intellectuals, was arrested Thursday by Cambridge police officers investigating a reported break-in.
The only problem: The house Gates was accused of breaking into was his own.
According to a police report, Gates told an officer that he was being targeted because “this is what happens to black men in America,” which seems like a pretty prescient observation considering the officer arrested him on the spot despite the fact it was Gates’ house that the professor was accused of burglarizing.
Reports The Boston Globe:
He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had “no idea who he was messing with,” the report said.
Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because “I’m a black man in America.”
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 taught at Yale in the Department of English and Department of African-American Studies from 1976 to 1985, when — in a controversial decision — he was denied tenure and left for a full professorship at Cornell.
As word of Gates’ arrest spread Tuesday, several prominent black professors at Harvard said they believe Gates’ race influenced the police officers’ actions. Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton said he plans to attend Gates’ arraignment next month.
“This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen,” Sharpton told The Associated Press. “I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs.”
Gawker compares the episode to something out of the film “Crash” and sums it up this way:
So in case you were wondering: No, not even the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, in the sanctuary of his own home, which is itself practically in the middle of the most prestigious university in the world, which is Gates’ employer and playground, is immune from getting hassled because he is black.
(Photo: Harvard News Office)