Henry Louis Gates

Racism is the biggest problem faced in America and my friend Paul Beatty has said that the only advantage of the Civil Rights Act is that Black people aren’t as afraid of dogs as they used to be.

I worked with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a black professor from Harvard, a while back, for an IBM commercial.  Gates was fun and I touched him up for a recommendation for my daughters to get into Harvard (if they had an inclination).

Gates’ accomplishments are monumental as an historian, teacher, filmmaker, what have you. He grew up in West Virginia where his father worked two jobs to support his family and his mother worked as well. Gates went from that to graduating summa cum laude at Yale, and eventually getting his Harvard professorship.  He is one of the very few African Americans that can trace his specific family roots to Africa and has drawn the ire of some in the black community for assessing some of the blame for some black Africans profiting from the slave trade. Gates’ accomplishments are beyond measure.

He still got busted.

Gates couldn’t get into his house because the door was jammed. A neighbor saw this and called the police. The police came and Gates had gotten into the house. They questioned him, then arrested him ‘for disorderly conduct.’ If you look at the facts, the whole thing is absurd and a great case for the abuse of the term ‘disorderly conduct,’ which has been called a catchall for ‘contempt of cop’ situations.

The facts of the arrest are controversial, but the simple fact is that Gates was in his own home when police knocked at the door. Gates identified himself as the resident, and then things escalated. The arresting officer claims that Gates referred to the officer’s mother as ‘yo Momma,’ something that Gates denied.  Common sense says that Gates, a well educated Harvard professor, would have responded reasonably to proper behavior by an officer. Who knows?

In emails in the police department another officer, familiar with the case, referred to Gates as a ‘jungle monkey’ repeatedly. The officer was eventually dismissed.  The arresting officer insists, as does his partner, that he acted properly. 

I doubt it.