Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. owes the police an apology! UPDATED!

gates072009Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Harvard scholar and director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.  He was arrested at his home on Thursday, July 16th, after a report of a break-in at his house.

Published news articles say that Gates was returning from an oversees trip and found his front door jammed as he tried to get in.  He had wedged his shoulder against the door to try to pry it open, and it was that scene that caused a neighbor to call and report two black men (his driver was with him) with backpacks trying to enter into the house.

According to reports the following then happened:

“Police said the 58-year-old Gates was arrested after he yelled at an officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after the officer demanded Gates show him identification to prove he lived in the home.

Ogletree said Gates showed his driver’s license and Harvard ID — both with his photos — and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was arrested.

Now it’s quite understandable to be upset because you’re being questioned at your own residence for burglary, but I don’t know about Professor Gates, I would have been honored that someone was investigating because it surely had the appearance that someone was trying to break into the house!  And how easy it would have been for Mr. Gates just to present his identification without giving the police so much “attitude!”

The following statement was issued regarding Professor Gate’s arrest:

JOINT PRESS RELEASE from Prince Lobel of Prince Lobel, Glovsky, & Tye LLP:

The City of Cambridge and the Gambridge Police Department have recommended to the Middlesex County District Attorney that the criminal charge aga¡nst Professor Gates not proceed. Therefore, in the interests of justice, the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office has agreed to enter a nolle prosequi in this matter. The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate. Th¡s incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. All part¡es agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.

Walter B.

It said again: “the incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department.” I sincerely believe that Professor Gates’ character WAS demeaned – by his very own actions! I’m quite sure that if he had complied, kept his cool and prevented himself from getting indignant for merely having his home checked upon by the police, then he would have never been arrested in the first place!

I truly don’t believe this was a case of racial profiling, but someone believing their neighbor’s house was in the process of being robbed.  Still, there was no excuse for the professor’s own ruly behavior.  Overall, I’m glad the charges were dropped but Professor Gates owes the police an apology instead of uncontrollable anger!

“Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.” Ecclesiastes 5:6a

See also:
Washington Post:  “Scholar Says Arrest Will Lead Him To Explore Race in Criminal Justice” – The ‘unfathomable’ arrest of a black scholar


President Obama says the police acted ‘stupidly’ and no apology from Police Sgt. Crowley

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President Obama spoke about the incident before admittedly knowing all the facts about it.  He even admits a bias for knowing Professor Gates. But both he and the professor picked the wrong police officer to cry foul on racial profiling.

Sgt. James Crowley was hand picked by a former police commissioner who happens to be black, who selected Crowley to lead a class on racial profiling at the police academy.  If anyone was going to be sensitive to racial issues it would have been this police officer!

Both the president and the professor owe this police officer an apology instead of the other way around.  Kudos to Sgt. Crowley for not giving in to the demands that he make the apology for basically doing his job and shame on both the president and the professor for turning this into a racial circus!




Its a date

This Thursday, July 30, President Obama will meet with Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley over beer.  Hopefully an end to the controversial arrest.  I will hold the rest of my comments until this meeting is publicized.

© 2009, Carlotta Morrow. All rights reserved.


  1. I am sure Professor Gates researched and wrote about racism in a variety of contexul platforms. I believe, with his insightfulness, he embraced the opportunity to prove to the world that racial profiling is alive and well in America. However, he underestimated this officer who obviously does not fit the “racist cop” profile. Professor shame on you.

  2. It makes me angry to see this as national news at all. Just that distinctions of race are in the headlines at all adds significance to racial barriers. Whether or not it is intentional, by covering news like this rather than say the violence on the streets of Tehran, journalists are only continuing age old stereotypes. I found a good discussion of the matter here:

  3. I have to say I agree with Sam. President Obama should have his friends back though. Sometimes it’s hard though and our friends but us in a tough spot.

  4. Hi Carlotta,
    Me again. I’m sorry, I’ve repeated in my former post some information which you had already posted! My goodness, I think I really am beginning to suffer short-term memory loss (mayber the start of Alzheimer’s like what my Dad has!?)

    My apologies for stating that information as if it was ‘new’!!. I had better brush up on reading comprehension skills before ever posting again.

  5. Hi Carlotta,
    This unfortunate incident has been the subject of every local radio talk show here in New England non-stop since it occured – and I don’t think the discussion will end any time soon, nor do I think it should (personally speaking).

    I believe that God has a purpose for everything (I’m sure others agree).

    Realizing that everyone here has the same capacity to do an internet search for background information, I’ll offer the following only as my relatively speaking “local” observations – having gleaned them from listening to reports presented (at least so far).

    My first reaction is based from my own experiences of having two(!) attempted breaking and enterings in two(!) different locations – one in a neighboring city of Cambridge, MA where the Gates/Crowley incident took place; the other here in Maine. That for me put things into a different perspective. It should have for Prof. Gates as well, because his Harvard residence had already ‘experienced’ a previous attempted breaking and entering!

    I would WELCOME any officer which was responding to such a call – given the fact that I had just arrived home, which is KEY to this incident – to search EVERY inch of my house, EVERY inch of my premise, inside and out. No one – not Crowley, the other police officers [including the Harvard officers who also responded] – not all of them white – or Mr. Gates and his limo driver knew if anyone could have been hiding in a closet, or in a back room – a very real possibility.

    Secondly, Sgt. Crowley – for what it’s worth – has taught a racial profiling class at the Lowell [MA] Police Academy for five years. He was appointed by the previous Police Commissioner, ‘Ronny Watson, who is black':
    He has received ‘stellar’ reviews from others in the department and from those who have worked with him and taken the class. That includes people of all colors.

    Another point which is not receiving much air time over national radio talk shows is just how ‘progressive’ (it ‘pains’ me to use that word) in race relations the Cambridge Police Department is, and that is an assessment that comes from liberals as well as conservatives; African Americans as well as Latinos, Caucasians and others. (And I must admit I hate having to parse out the human race in this manner as we are all one blood!).
    This does NOT mean that the CPD is perfect or not subject to making mistakes or being flat out wrong.

    Here is and interview with Prof. Gates – in his own words, from July 21, of what happened:,0
    From all reports, Prof. Gates is well-respected and well known in the community – also by people of all colors – and I would have absolutely no reason to doubt that.

    Another fairly unknown fact about Sgt. Crowley is the following:
    “Crowley was a campus police officer at Brandeis University in July 1993 when he administered [mouth-to-mouth] CPR trying to save the life of former Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis. Lewis, who was black, collapsed and died during an off-season workout.”

    I remember this incident well (although we were not living in MA, but AZ, at the time). It should make NO DIFFERENCE – and doesn’t to me – what the color of a person is who needs rescusitation. It obviously didn’t for Crowley when Reggie collapsed. This is as it should be, in God’s eyes.

    Given this past attempt to save Lewis’ life, can it rightly be said that Crowley is a racist? Certainly one isolated incident doesn’t ‘define a man’, however this leads me to the following ‘pondering’….

    My question for Prof. Gates (or ANY of us) would be – if trained in CPR – would we have done the same to a person in need, regardless of color?
    More specifically for those of us who claim Christ as our Lord and Savior, what would we have done?

    This country (its citizens) still grieves God in its inability to come fully to repentance for its racial divides. I believe we can all agree with this. I don’t know any other solution than the saving grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

    I believe (just my opinion) President Obama should not have commented in the manner he did and believe this has exacerbated the issue, particulary over here on the ‘right coast’. President Obama did not know the specifics of this ‘local’ police issue and probably would have served ALL of America by stating that until he had more information he would withhold comment.

  6. As a former policeman and African American who has been profiled several times my reaction to the arrest of professor Gates is mixed. As an otherwise mild and laidback guy my emotions have been inflamed in each instance I’ve been stopped for no apparent reason by police and I’ve felt the powerlessness any person feels when wrongly suspected of something. I also believe the officer in question is not a racist and race probably had nothing to do with his decision to arrest and that it isn’t always about race from the police side, but it’s always about race from the black man’s point of view. It’s hard to be objective when you drive in fear of being stopped daily, of being shot, of being arrested for no apparent reason except you fit the “profile.”
    Perhaps both were wrong in their lack of sensitivity to the other’s position but it appears that something inflamed professor Gates, even if it was something from his past experience or in his own mind, or from the presence of an officer at his home viewing him as a burglar. I’m not saying he was right to be inflamed but I am saying it is to be expected in your own home if the officer didn’t treat him respectfully, but the officer thought he may be a burglar so why would he? The situation dictated the officer’s and Professor Gate’s actions and both acted as I expect they would.
    I don’t see anything that the officer did as legally wrong but I do believe he could have chosen to simply walk away once he determined professor Gates was the homeowner. There was a lack of sensitivity from both parties… from the professor in the beginning (assuming racial profiling and allowing this to inflame his passions) and from the police in the end, because they didn’t have to arrest a man in his own home just because he’s upset. Sometimes otherwise rational people act irrationally when pushed too far, and maybe that’s what happened to both parties.

  7. I don’t know about this I would have to be there to judge the situation and who knows maybe something has happen in Gates past to make him biased against the police. I don’t care for police and they have actually came to my assistance when I was really in need only a couple of times, for those part I personally do not believe they are interested in justice.

  8. Shouting out “racial bias” may scare off insecure cops from doing the “right thing”-following procedures. I am glad that police followed through the identity verification process. I would suggest Professor Gate, suing his neighbors who made 911 calls to police – because Professor’s neighbors’ reporting was ““racial bias””, even though two black men were “breaking and entering” of their own house.

  9. Joe, I’m afraid you’re right that many police may be scared away from doing what’s right for fear of being called racists.

    This whole Gates incident is really bothersome because he is so blinded to his own foolishness. I have three sons and they are taught when confronted by the police – whether they are guilty or not – to be respectful, watch their mouths and keep cool and calm at all times.

    Unfortunately, Professor Gates couldn’t even be a role model for my boys to emulate. He did none of the above! He was ruly, mouthy and refused to comply. Everything opposite that I’ve taught my own children!

    On top of that, he wasn’t even grateful that in our day and time when people could care less about crime being committed, his neighbors cared enough to call the police!

    It’s truly sad that this has been blown way out of proportion!

  10. Sam, I don’t see any irrational behavior on the part of the police officer. Here in San Diego, even disagreeing and arguing with a police officer will get you cuffed. A reality my 19 year old son found out. He wasn’t put in jail, but he does have on his record “argumentive and uncooperative.” I don’t care if the police may be zoned in more on the black young men than the whites. My only concern is whether he respected the police to begin with! He didn’t so at that point I side with the police and not with my misbehaving child.

    My son is not a trouble maker, but just forgot that particular day what his mother taught him about respecting the police. Sounds like Gates forgot what his mother taught him too!

  11. Lois, excellent comments regarding this Gates/Crowley/Obama mess and I surely don’t mind you repeating the things that I wrote. I just shows that we’re on the same page! :) I love the fact that you stated the only way to solve these issues is through the saving grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. AMEN!!!

  12. I read somewhere that Sgt. Crowely was understandable that Obama would stick up for his friend like that. He said he probably would have done the same. I think I would have done the same as well. But I know I would apologize if my emotional reaction caused anyone distress!

  13. Annie, I went to the site you posted and it was full of untrue statements. That post was about stereotyping when this particular incident wasn’t about stereotyping anyone. In fact, the officer in charge was a noted white officer quite sensitive to racial issues. In the past he gave mouth to mouth resuscitation to a dying black football player and was hand picked by the former police commissioner who is black to head the racial profiling class at the police academy. He is loved and respected by everyone of all ethnicities.

    If there was going to be any stereotyping, it would have been towards the white officer. Professor Gates immediately thought he was being arrested by a white racist cop and couldn’t been farther from the truth. He cried racism toward a white cop who apparently doesn’t have a drop of racism in his bones!

    Maybe that was a good post after all about stereotyping. The subject of the post was just the wrong individual!

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