Skip Gates’ Arrest Was His Own Fault

By now we all know that distinguished Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates broke into his own house earlier this month. Someone thought he was a burglar and called the cops. Cops came, he showed them his ID with his address on it, still got arrested for disorderly conduct, and the charges were quickly dropped.

We also know that if he were a 58 year old white professor, his neighbors and the police would not have profiled him in the same way. He had a right to get angry and a little indignant.

So I’m on his side here. I’ve been pulled over for no reason other than Driving While Black, and I’ve seen countless brothers harassed and worse. It’s not fair, and in a perfect world, the police should know better.

Still, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that his arrest was his own fault.

I admire Professor Gates. His collection of slave narratives is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. He’s obviously bright, which tells me that if nothing else, he knows the way the game is played, especially when living life behind this dark veil.

Growing up, my parents were always cool, but one thing they never did was stick up for me in the face of another authority figure. If I wasn’t getting along with a teacher, they would listen to me, but ultimately, they always agreed with the teacher. If the teacher let Sally eat in class but not me, I better not eat in class, end of story. My mom always promised that if I went to jail, she wouldn’t bail me out–even if it was just for Driving While Black! I was the one who needed to learn the natural order of things.

Gates knows the order of things. He knows when he’s dressed down, he looks more like an electrician than an eminent historian. He knows police sometimes “act stupidly” as Obama put it. To avoid getting arrested, sometimes you have to make accommodations for their stupidity. Gates knows getting angry in front of the police is never a good idea. Even if it’s justified outrage, the cops are just waiting for a reason to label you ‘uncooperative’ so they can haul you away.

The racism is not his fault. But, if you don’t want to get arrested, why not cooperate 100% with the stupid acting police, then close your door and laugh at how little has changed in America.

Maybe it’s good that he ended up being arrested–kind of makes us all think. 

I wasn’t there, I don’t know what was said, I don’t know Gates or the cops’ motives in that moment. I’m just putting my opinion out there. You can read a recap in his own words here, an interview with his daughter– http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-22/my-daddy-the-jailbird/full/

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7 responses to “Skip Gates’ Arrest Was His Own Fault

  1. i’m not going to lie; when i first read the title of this post, i was a little perturbed. after reading the post; i totally agree! (lol)

    a friend of mine (who just passed the CA Bar Exam and “knows the law”) was pulled over and the cops wanted her to take a breathalyzer test b/c her eyes were red (from exhaustion), but she said she was offended and refused and was arrested and placed in a holding cell. the kicker is that she wasn’t intoxicated at all! so why not just cooperate at take the test?!

    sounds like pride got the best of both Prof. Gates and my friend.

  2. I can understand your point Pastor, but I don’t agree. Yes, this situation maybe was blown out or proportion and reading the background on the Police officer in the incident, I may not come to conclusion that this man is a racist or was even racial profiling.
    A neighbor saw something strange and called the police, now if a neighbor of mine saw something out of the ordinary I certainly would want someone to respond. I agree with you that Gate could have showed a different temperament towards the situation, BUT, the officer is the trained professional in this incident, and once all clarification was made that Gate indeed was the occupancy of the home, an apology should have been given, and restrain from the officer as well should have been displayed.
    Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space” this wasn’t a public place this was his home, and like the governor of Massechutes said “a man has the right to raise his voice in his home”, this was Gates home. I do think there are a time and a place to challenge a situation, and there are things that is going to remain the same regardless of how much I huff and puff about the situation. But I also have to think what if on Dec. 15, 1955 Rosa Park would have just follow what those in authority told her to do, and got up from the seat on the bus. What if Malcolm X, Dr. King, and many more would have just follow what those who were in an “authority” position and went with the program. Now I am not saying this might be the same, but I also would not want to belittle the embrassement, shame, that Professor Gate experience.
    It was stupid, and unnecessary, but this is a man who has paid his dues, and has every right as an American to be pissed off if he feels he isn’t being shown the proper respect while in his home. There is a time in everyone life, when no you just can’t accept things for what they are, and you get “Mad as hell, and you’re not going to take it anymore”.

  3. It is a fine line between right and wrong, Pride verses no pride and it’s only “human nature” as Michael say’s to react when one has been wronged.

    So sure, there is most def 2 sides of this story here. But, as most of us no, and should try to remember and teach others, it’s better to think first and react 2nd, even in a “hot” situation.

  4. i think what professor gates was expressing with his “indignation” was the feeling among black folk that we live in a different world and that nowadays even in the face of police authority we’re allowed to have righteous anger without breaking the law and they have to take it. A feeling that a turning point has occurred in race relations and the game has changed. We know that it hasn’t totally but if the trailblazers and luminaries among us can’t take that stance, who can?

  5. Gates probably is one of the best people to take this sort of stand. But when his anger and machismo take over (we weren’t there, but the situation clearly escalated), he’s going to end up getting treated like any other angry, macho brother.

  6. I agree totally! Was racism involved? We may never know. Did gates bring the arrest on himself-yes! Two things that Gates and Vick have in common: They both made DUMB decision and suffered the consequences there of.

  7. I think we as people often goes on “power trip” due to the positions we play in our lives and that can often lead to a lot of unecessary reactions, I say Gates was at fault. God has bless us all the gift of words and tranquility its up to us to make great use of it. Gates had to know that, he’s an intellectual, and Pastor I agreed with your mom all the way I myself have the same aproach with my daughter. The lesson is if u don’t want to go down walk the right path… Kudos!

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