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July 24, 2009 / VC

“I didn’t vote for him”

Harvard Scholar Disorderly

Professor and director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts last Thursday, July 16, and charged with disorderly conduct. (Charges were dropped on Tuesday). Despite having presented the police with two forms of identification to prove that the house he was allegedly breaking into was actually his, Gates was handcuffed on his own front steps and taken to prison where he was fingerprinted and held in police custody for several hours.

The Obama snippet that’s getting folks’ undies in a twist:
The Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was proof that they were already in their own home.

Why is this a problematic statement for people? The fact of the matter is Gates was in his own house, and he provided proof of that. What more was he supposed to do? Shame on the white lady who, contrary to most articles, didn’t even live in the neighborhood but works there, for equating black man + house with attempted burglary. (via tapped via coates). (I’m not sure I’m ready to excuse her quite yet–her choice of action still seems comfortably overzealous at least.) And shame on the Cambridge Police for not realizing upon arrival that the crime they had initially been called upon to investigate did not in fact exist. Had they acknowledged this and apologized for the mix-up off the bat, they could have prevented themselves from making the egregious mistake of arresting a black man for no reason. which is essentially what they ended up doing. (Sure, Gates may have been running his mouth, but after all that is not means for arrest).

President Obama responded to pouts at his use of the word “stupidly” with his usual tact and common sense: “I am suprised by the controversy,” he said. “I think it was [a] pretty straightforward comment that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home.”

When asked his feelings about Barack Obama’s comments on the matter, arresting officer James Crowley says, “I didn’t vote for him” (video on the right). Hmm, not helping your case, sir. If we weren’t sure that you made stupid decisions before, you just swayed us.

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