In the News
The Professor Gates Incident
A white mom of a biracial family reacts to the Professor Gates incident
My husband and I, my friends tease, talk about everything. Incessantly. Interestingly, even when we agree on a topic, we will talk it to death. Such has been the case with the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. We have spent hours discussing it.
Truth be told, cases involving race generally spark our interest more than others. Since my husband is black and I am white, we bring different backgrounds and experiences to the table, so it is still interesting for us to hear each other’s “take” on the issue.
In the case of Professor Gates’ arrest, we were in almost total agreement. Our strongest feeling is that it is impossible to know what really happened inside that house, because it’s all he said / he said. The truth, I am sure, is somewhere in the middle. But we talked about it for hours anyway. And our “takes” might surprise you.
In our humble opinions …
Was race an issue? Yes, no and yes. Yes, I think the woman who began the whole drama by calling to report that two black men were trying to force their way into a house (leaving out the details that one was a middle-aged man dressed in a polo and walking with a cane and the other was his driver – presumably with the car he had used to transport the professor from the airport still in front of the house) was probably influenced by race. I do believe if they had been two white men she would not have been so quick to call it in, especially since it was 1:00 in the afternoon. No, I don’t think that race played a part in the police responding to the call. I think they would have responded to any call of a potential break-in. Yes, I think race may have played a part in the officer continuing to question Gates after Gates had proved he did in fact live there. Why? Just a gut feeling.
Was Gates partially to blame? Eh, I say, shrugging my shoulders. Probably. He was probably pissed and embarrassed and indignant. It is possible that he thought he was “above all that.” It’s also possible that he was thinking, or maybe even saying, “How dare you treat me like this! Don’t you know who I am?” If I were Henry Louis Gates, I would be thinking that! And that police officer probably felt indignant about Gates’ indignation, and set out to prove that Gates actually isn’t above all that. So, my best guess is that, as one columnist stated so eloquently, this may have been less about race than it was about the battle of two egos.