Author: has written 5288 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

31 Responses

  1. Renee
    Renee July 21, 2009 at 11:00 am |

    Of course they are deferring to the police we have spent a lot of time constructing the Black man as a criminal the fact that he is a Harvard professor is probably just some sort of aberration

  2. Danny
    Danny July 21, 2009 at 11:14 am |

    You didn’t think the criminal image of the black man could be so easily dispelled did you?

    I’d like to know what justification they had to come into the house in the first place. And I also find it odd that they arrested him after he was yelling at them. Since when is yelling at someone, even the cops, grounds for arrest (well I can think of a few but they are off topic so nevermind).

  3. Pega
    Pega July 21, 2009 at 11:31 am |

    I read several articles about this last night. Initially, the Globe had .pdfs of the police reports by both the arresting officer and a second officer who was present at the scene; both have been removed and no longer appear to be available anywhere.

    The police reports were, well fishy is the only word I can come up with. They both make mention of Gates saying “you don’t know who you’re messin’ with”, but they reference his remarks as occurring at different times. They do the same with Mr. Gates saying “Because I’m a black man in America”. It is possible that he made these same comments more than once and they are referring to separate occurrences, but it just struck me as odd. It reads almost like they decided on the particulars of what they were going to report he said, but forgot to agree on when it was said. And the arresting officer claims that when he asked Mr. Gates to step outside (after Mr. Gates had provided him with ID proving that he was the legal resident of the home) Mr. Gates responded with something along the lines of ‘Ya, we’ll talk about your mamma’. I can’t remember the exact phrasing now, but the ‘ya’ stuck with me. I’ve heard Gates speak, and it just didn’t sound right when I read it. There is also the fact that the arresting officer saw fit to contact Harvard Police and request their presence – again AFTER Mr. Gates had provided identification proving he was in his own home, someplace he had every right to be.

    I see a very clear case of a police officer having extreme problems with the idea that a black man belonged in that affluent neighborhood, and who probably also had issues with the idea of a liberal Black Harvard Professor daring to be offended by the officer’s treatment.

    I also saw a lot of people using the word “uppity” in the comments. Am I the only one who saw an invisible “n*****” following it?

  4. norbizness
    norbizness July 21, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1186258&pos=breaking

    And the next person I see (not here, but on numerous other comment boards) that treats police reports like something infallible and divinely inspired needs a trip to one of those Obama reeducation camps Michelle Bachmann is always ranting about.

  5. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery July 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm |

    Thanks for posting this, Jill. The cops in this country are just out-of-control.

  6. laura
    laura July 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm |

    Just wanted to say I really appreciate that feministe recognizes the importance of these issues on a feminist site – same goes for your coverage of Troy Davis and many other issues.

  7. Marcy Webb
    Marcy Webb July 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  8. Soma
    Soma July 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm |

    Charges have been dropped. Another shining moment from the good folks who brought you the Victoria Snelgrove shooting and the Great Boston Mooninite Massacre.

  9. Lady Oh
    Lady Oh July 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm |

    RACISM, once again, rears its ugly head. This is just a reminder to all that, in spite of the fact that a black man is in the White House, a black man is often not safe, not protected nor served by the police in HIS OWN HOME!

  10. victoria
    victoria July 21, 2009 at 1:48 pm |

    Charges were dropped today:

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/07/21/us/AP-US-Harvard-Scholar-Disorderly.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    (I think this is a good example of the intersection of race and class. How many times this happens on a daily basis all over the U.S., but the person of color arrested does not have access to a prominent lawyer, or the means to tell the story to a larger audience, or the social capital that comes with having an advanced degree and prominent job.)

  11. CartoonCoyote
    CartoonCoyote July 21, 2009 at 2:29 pm |

    After reading the first 20 comments, I got disgusted and gave up.

    Does anyone else notice, or is it just my imagination, that racism and blind deference to authority correlate really strongly? I’ve undertaken no rigourous studies, but I base that on the comment threads of stories like this.

  12. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm |

    Does anyone else notice, or is it just my imagination, that racism and blind deference to authority correlate really strongly? I’ve undertaken no rigourous studies, but I base that on the comment threads of stories like this.

    That may well be true, but the blind deference to authority baloney appears in threads about:

    – cops attacking a white male bicyclist
    – cops tasering a white man with mental illness who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a roof, thus leading to said man falling off the roof
    – cops tasering a man holding a baby because the man’s wife wanted to check out of the hospital AMA
    – cops raping a stripper
    – cops stripping a white woman at a traffic stop because she “fit the profile” of a drug courier
    – cops assaulting disabled people in wheelchairs

    So it’s not *limited* to racism. It appears to be pure authoritarianism, the police are always right.

  13. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler July 21, 2009 at 3:32 pm |

    CC, that’s because authority is so often racist. I suspect these people who are so respectful of the authority of cops arresting a black man because he’s black and so must have done something aren’t nearly so deferential when the president does something they don’t like.

  14. fdklfkdlfj
    fdklfkdlfj July 21, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    The officer should apologize when they make a mistake. They do not take responsibility when errors are made and persist to arrest out of ego and arrogance. The academy should mandate police officers to have minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Personality and mental evaluations by psychologist every year to stay on the job.

    Dr. Gates has every right to be angry and upset. That’s his home, he can break into it if he likes, the man just got off a 13-hour flight and that’s was how he was greeted when he got home- I would be just as irate and pissed off. The PD needs to make a public and personal apology to him and work on their people skills. Police are only human, THEY MAKE MISTAKES ALL THE TIME like everyone else.

  15. StealthCereal | “Cambridge police arrest Henry Louis Gates” and related posts

    […] Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrested – Feministe […]

  16. William
    William July 21, 2009 at 6:22 pm |

    Stories like this make me wish the Panthers hadn’t been so easily mainstreamed. This county could use some roof-top voters right about now.

  17. Aviva
    Aviva July 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm |

    Thank goodness the comments here aren’t as crazy as the comments I’ve read elsewhere (even on NPR’s blog!!!). I completely agree that one of the freakiest things about the whole incident is the blind deference to that ludicrous police report. It sounded completely trumped up and fishy (as you say, Jill) to me, too. Oh yeah, but the police never lie about anything do they? Especially not to save their own skin.

  18. twostatesystem
    twostatesystem July 21, 2009 at 8:12 pm |

    The mayor of Cambridge (Denise Simmons, a black woman) has also issued a statement: http://www.wickedlocal.com/cambridge/homepage/x135762832/Cambridge-mayor-We-will-never-have-a-perfect-society

  19. Holly
    Holly July 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm |

    Both rampant racism (“post-racial” society, my ass) and the growing violent authoritarianism of police forces are huge problems here. If not for racism, they probably would have left Gates alone. If not for bullshit authoritarianism, they probably wouldn’t have tried to throw the book at him for getting upset — understandably upset, being accosted and challenged in your own HOME even after showing identification.

  20. Moremony
    Moremony July 22, 2009 at 2:43 am |

    hi friends ,Thank goodness the comments here aren’t as crazy as the comments I’ve read elsewhere (even on NPR’s blog!!!). I completely agree that one of the freakiest things about the whole incident is the blind deference to that ludicrous police report.

  21. Replica louboutin
    Replica louboutin July 22, 2009 at 4:18 am |

    CC, that’s because authority is so often racist. I suspect these people who are so respectful of the authority of cops arresting a black man because he’s black and so must have done something aren’t nearly so deferential when the president does something they don’t like.

  22. prairielily
    prairielily July 22, 2009 at 9:12 am |

    Can you guys imagine? You get off a long and exhausting flight, you’re jet-lagged, probably pissed off at all the annoyances that go along with airline travel, you can’t get into your own house, and then the cops show up to arrest you? Of course he wasn’t in the best mood. The police would have found me sobbing on the steps, and I don’t cry easily.

    The blind deference to authority seems to be more a lack of empathy than anything else. They can’t imagine a situation in which this could happen to them, or how upsetting it would be to be in the same situation as the person in the story. Since they already lack empathy, they make comments about “playing the race card” because they can’t envision what life is like for a person of colour.

  23. mzbitca
    mzbitca July 22, 2009 at 10:14 pm |

    I’ve been to training sessions at different police departments as ways to get them to deal with people who are showing symptoms of mental illness. The attitude they gave off was basically that we couldn’t possibly understand what they deal with so we can tell them all the ways to deal with it that we want but that they know what it’s like in the “real world.”

    it is true that I can understand how their job has a high burnout and that they do deal with their fair amount of crap. But it seems the major way to cope with this is to assume everyone has the worst intentions and that if you do not act exactly the way they think you should act they have every right to do what they want.

  24. prettyamiable
    prettyamiable July 23, 2009 at 7:50 am |

    So, Officer James Crowley refuses to issue an apology.

    I don’t know if it’s me, but if my name so closely resembled another famous historical racist, God knows I would make some effort. Dr. Gates is apparently also looking to take some legal action (not excluding a lawsuit according to CNN).

    Good.

  25. exholt
    exholt July 23, 2009 at 9:22 am |

    Dr. Gates has every right to be angry and upset. That’s his home, he can break into it if he likes, the man just got off a 13-hour flight and that’s was how he was greeted when he got home- I would be just as irate and pissed off.

    13 hours is an optimistic timetable IME. If there are delays or layovers like the ones I’ve experienced, that could easily be 20 hours further adding to Gates’ understandable irritability at being questioned by the cops in his own home after showing his ID and then being arrested for said irritability.

  26. Hershele Ostropoler
    Hershele Ostropoler July 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm |

    That’s a very interesting and original sentiment, “Replica.”

    (I’d like to assure the good people of Feministe that I am not selling watches)

  27. Radfem
    Radfem July 23, 2009 at 5:23 pm |

    An incident happened in my city of a Black man talking with a Black woman who sold bibles while sitting on the front wall of his house in a affluent neighborhood. He was threatened with a taser and on the ground at gunpoint for trespassing on his own property. He was actually a police sergeant from the LAPD. The only reason he didn’t go to jail (even though he didn’t break any laws) was his badge. The officers just couldn’t believe that an African-American man could own a house that cost over $1 million.

    Residing while Black

    Maybe that’s one major difference between Black and White individuals and profiling is that profiling crosses class boundaries more readily for Black individuals than Whites because of racism. There’s other forms of profiling as well and they intersect.

    In many LE agencies, there’s also intersections of institutional racism and ableism like in my city’s department when Black officers in management were referred to as “Jerry’s kids” and also homophobia and sexism when female officers are labeled as lesbians regardless of sexual orientation.

    And sexual orientation and/or masculinity/machoism being attached to both male and female officers who are quick to use force in encounters with the public.

  28. Radfem
    Radfem July 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm |

    Oh dear, guess who the department’s expert on racial profiling is for that department?

    Well I guess he is, in a manner of speaking.

  29. dollyb
    dollyb July 23, 2009 at 6:46 pm |

    For an intense take on gender perspective over this incident I highly recommend Femisex today.

    http://www.femisex.com/content/henry-louis-gates-jr-cries-racism-amanda-just-cried

    This site is new to me, but I was really moved by some of their recent posts.

  30. Patrick Emerson
    Patrick Emerson July 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm |

    Well, it is so easy to say what you’re saying right now…why a so-called neighbor has to call the police…did he not recognize his OWN NEIGHBOR…People are living in a very world where even your own neighbor does not even recognize you!!!…Good Lord, people really need to reach out and talk to each other instead of jumping right away and infuse their own fears onto others…I do not understand how in such a great neighborhood, people don’t even know each other…and again sorry to say that but Police should exert self-control and enough maturity to simply walk away…Gates was tired, just got back from travel and only wanted to enter his OWN HOME that he pays for…It is my recollection that he showed his ID but yeah he was screaming…and what?…give us a break…everybody will do the same…’cause people have a history of being profiling minorities…this need to be addressed in a bold and daring way so people (White folks) need to face their OWN demons instead of infusing fear among “the least among us”. Learn to talk to each other, engage in neighboring activities to know each other better and stop judging people who look different. Please, do not forget to remember your children that God has made ALL of us equal …there is NO such a thing called black race, yellow race, white race, red race…there is ONLY TWO WORDS: HUMAN RACE…So its time, its the moment to stand up and reach to EVERY HUMAN WITHOUT PREJUDICE…

  31. Annie
    Annie July 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm |

    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: http://www.pandalous.com/topic/how_to_deal_with

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.