Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Arrested

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Skip Gates), one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.

Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.

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.” [To read a copy of the police report, click here]

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, 58, declined to comment today when reached by phone.

The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.

“He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence,” said S. Allen Counter, a Harvard Medical School professor who spoke with Gates about the incident Friday. “I am deeply concerned about the way he was treated, and called him to express my deepest sadness and sympathy.”

Counter, who had called Gates from the Nobel Institute in Sweden, where Counter is on sabbatical, said that Gates was “shaken” and “horrified” by his arrest.

Counter has faced a similar situation himself. The well-known neuroscience professor, who is also black, was stopped by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect as he crossed Harvard Yard. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

That incident was among several that ignited criticism from black students and faculty, highlighted the prejudices that many black students say they continue to face at Harvard.

4 Replies to “Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Arrested”

  1. Counsel

    Unless you are Obama or Bush, what are the chances any police officer will recognize you upon them showing up at your residence while you are breaking into your house?

    I do not imagine that any police officer would kick down my front door so that I could prove to them, once inside, that I owned the home…

    However, I don’t know what happened at the residence owned by Mr. Gates. If he was treated differently than anyone else due to his skin color, shame on the police.

    I wonder whether our reaction (justified or not) may create a situation where none existed. I saw Paycheck, the movie, recently, and I wonder how we all act when faced with some situation. I wonder if our actions may lead to a situation that was not there prior to our actions–actions that we took so sure that the situation already existed.

    I still think there should be a single law requiring fair treatment for all. It seems to me that everyone is entitled to fairness. If you think the world is not fair, I ask you to ask yourself why you think that way… Is it because “others” don’t act fairly (getting, perhaps, benefits for acting unfairly)? Do “you” then act unfairly so that “they” don’t get all the benefits?

    If so, does two wrongs make a right?

    Fairness requires a hard decision to do the right thing, even against your own self-interest. This is the hardest thing a person can do. Even though using reason and logic may seem to indicate we should be unfair, it is the realization that acting for the community is almost always better than acting for the self. Perhaps defense of one’s own life and rights that are enjoyed by others are exceptions.


    You pass that “crazy person” on the corner every day who shouts, “The world is ending! You are all going to Hell!” Yet we pity that person and wish we could help (unless we laugh).

    Yet, when someone else says “You are stupid,” we get upset. I ask you why someone calling you (insert your insult here) affects you differently than you hearing the crazy person on the corner… For all you know, the person talking to you or referring to you in some derogatory manner is ignorant or otherwise “nuts.”

    All I know is that when someone calls me “stupid,” I am not, suddenly, struck “stupid.” It seems to me that a person speaking says more about themselves than the person they are speaking about. Giving the speaker the power to control your emotional state (or the words you use) seems to be giving them power over you and our language. Perhaps we can simply laugh at people who do not know how to resolve disagreements or conflict in a socially-acceptable manner and, I might add, give them a role-model to follow if they so desire.

    Prejudice and ignorance are terrible things. Education and mixing are an answer… Neither is as easy to accomplish as you may be thinking… When was the last time you hung out with someone from (insert “that” group here)?

    Remember, the Founding Fathers (“FF”) of the USA understood that people are individuals who will have opinions, feelings, and ideas. The FF understood that “we” would never think as one or hold the same values, beliefs, or thoughts. the FF knew that differences of opinion always occur and provide strengths such that to preserve “our” interests we might be willing to preserve the interests of “others” who think differently. Thus, the FF gave us a Republic rather than a Democracy so that a simple majority could not remove the rights of any of those in the minority (whatever group is IN the minority).

    Go read Federalist Paper #10…

    As to the alleged prejudice, I hope it is all a misunderstanding. If not, I hope those who are prejudiced are educated and enlightened. My hope is renewed when my kids fail to understand how someone’s color could, in and of itself, say anything except what color they were…

    Sort of like asking, “What car is better? The red one or the blue one?” when both cars are the exact same model. There is one race–Human. It isn’t as if we are cats and dogs that can’t breed…

    Just because someone says we are “separate” or have “distinguishing features” does not mean we need to segregate ourselves into different groups. Does it? If not, why does anyone think color makes any difference?

    That it once did is a dead dog we need to let die for good.

  2. chris

    Here is reality, this was not a racially motivated situation. The issues raised are silly. The oficers responded for a two men breaking into a house. When the police responded, they observe Dr. Gates forcing his way into the house. The officers asked for ID only to confirm that Dr. Gates was the person who was supposed to be at that residence. If Gates became irate because the officer asked for ID that is Gates problem. How is that officer supposed to know who he is. The officer doesn’t.

    Furthermore, when Gates became irate at the officer that shows a lack of understanding on the part of Gates. The lack of knowledge indicates the officer is only doing his job. Now, after that had been accomplished, the exchange between Gates and the Sgt. Allegedly, the Sgt. had been called a racist inside of the house and told the officer something about,” I’ll take it outside with your mama.” Those remmarks from Gates were totally inapropriate. The issue that got Gates arrested was his behavior outside of the residence. Yelling, causing a scene.

    That’s why Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct .This had nothing to do with black or white or the fact that Gates lived at the residence. It was Gates behavior outside of the house.
    If Gates had been a white male, the officer would have done the same thing.

    What people fail to understand is this. If Gates had not been the owner of property and the officer just took his word for it and the house was burglarized, then that officer is facing criminal and administrative charges. That officer is also looking at the loss of a job.

    This is something that you citizens don’t understand. Not every incident by a white officer is racially motivated and this case is not racial profiling not even in the closest. This was just an officer doing his job.

  3. Preston

    This professor, from what I have seen, has always had a chip on his shoulder towards white people. He would love to make the slavery issue TOTALLY the white peoples’ burden; and ignor the historical fact, that it was, and is, the black African culture that initially and PRIMARILY cultivated the racially organized slavery era. The blacks basically did it to themselves (just look at how they’re into ‘personality’ and ‘idol’ worship). But “the good professor” could never admit to that; otherwise how could he continue his ‘upperly mobile’ lifestyle… The proud ancestor of a house bleep-er.

  4. reese

    The football coach at Hawaii had to say he was sorry for a pc slip up. He is suspended for 30 days and must take a cut in pay.

    Gates should suffer the same for being so racist towards the police and behaving in such a childish fashion.

    Black racism is the main reason blacks are not “equal”. Attitude is everything in America. Looking to be a victim is no road to success.

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