Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was busted last week in the comfort of his own home. As far as anyone can tell, the reason was because he wasn’t happy at being confronted by police after a neighbor reported a break-in.
The break-in was Skip Gates trying to enter his own home.
Even more interesting, Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space”.
Okay. This happened in Cambridge, which last I checked was in the Boston area. If cops arrested every college kid who got “loud and tumultuous in a public space”, how many kids would be in jail?
Skip Gates was mad because he felt he was being profiled.
At issue here, beyond whether he identified himself to police (there are reports he did, and reports he didn’t), is the maddening sense that no matter how far you get in life, to some people you’re just another black m an. That, and whether expressing that emotion to a cop who at some point must have known he made a mistake constitutes a crime. There will be people, both black and white, who will argue that this incident is being blown out of proportion. Some will even bring up Barack Obama as proof Skip Gates is simply a malcontent with no beef here.
To all those who think there is no consequence to being black in America, I give you the case of Shem Walker.
This Brooklyn Army veteran was shot and killed by an undercover cop on July 11th. His crime? He confronted the cop, who was posing as a drug dealer, on the stoop of his mother’s house.
Shem Walker had experienced problems before with people dealing on his mother’s stoop. He paid for his concern with his life. No one is alleging overt racism. The cop who killed him was also black. Yet for all the news about Skip Gates, Shem Walker generates no national headlines.
Some may make the case there’s no link between the two. Those of us who are black and have made it to a certain age know better. Law enforcement makes certain assumptions about black men. Not all do, but enough do that it’s a problem for those who live their lives within the law. It may not be as pronounced as the days when Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Les Payne was stopped by cops a black from his Long Island home and told there’s no way he could actually live there.
But then, to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, it’s as if very little has changed. To the family of Shem Walker, you can change very little to nothing.
So you tell me. Was Henry Louis Gates racially profiled?