I’ve been following the blogosphere’s reaction to Henry Louis Gates’s was-it-racial-profiling? arrest with increasing dismay over people’s ability to jump to all sorts of conclusions. There’s an interesting new analysis by AP writer Jesse Washington that attempts to reconstruct both Gates’s and arresting officer Crowley’s points of view, as the incident unfolded. One of the most fascinating things about it is the writer’s clear belief that a narrative approach will help readers to better sympathize with both parties: as someone who responds well to stories, I’m on board with that, though I also wonder if the “re-creation” of the event will also lead readers to assume a certainty about “what actually happened,” a certainty we’ll probably never really have.

So far, my favorite commentary on the event has been from Edward Gilbreath:

Those who say Professor Gates was completely wrongheaded and unreasonable aren’t willing to take seriously the history (both distant and recent) that has defined the relationship between African American men and law enforcement. And those who say Officer James Crowley was just a racist, rogue cop are not willing to take seriously this man’s totality of experiences as both a public servant and a human being.

And, as Gilbreath says in the comments on his post, “God help us all.”


  1. And I will respond here the same way I responded there:

    What amazes me is the thought that people must “understand pain and indignity felt by African American men in these types of encounters.”

    Why should we bother to continue to tolerate misbehavior based on people bitterly clinging to their racism and greivances? How long does being Black get to continue being an excuse for such things?

    Blacks commit more crimes, especially violent crimes and drug-related crimes, per capita than any other demographic in America. They may, in fact, commit more crimes period, as opposed to per capita, than anyone else in America. Why is it “Wrong” for the anyone, especially the Police, to take those facts into account during an encounter?

    Oh yeah…They’re Black and they got screwed over for a long time. We can’t treat them like normal people; that’ be racist.

    That a person has the belief that they have a grievance against a segment of society does not – or at least should not – be an excuse for misbehavior.

    Reverse the situation, if you like. Blacks commit a LOT of violent crimes; is it Ok for a cop to think he has reason for grievance against a Black suspect? No.

    The sword has to cut both ways or it’s broken.

  2. I find the discussion surrounding this incident to be bringing the best and the worst out in people. I think there is such a thing as a healthy disucssion about race, assumptions, and the reality of profiling (which we, let alone law enforcement, all done whether we want to admit it or not).

    Having a legal background I struggle a little with whether there was ground for the charge of Disorderly conduct given that Dr Gates was in his own home at the time completely independent of any extraneous concerns. Have these charges been dropped? if not, i am actually interested in what the court finds.

  3. The charges were dropped the next day as is usual in Disorderly Conduct charges resulting from getting belligerent or obstructive with a police officer.

    As for profiling – what about Gates’ – and theoretically the “Black Community’s” – profiling of White police officers?

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