Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Gates vs. Crowley

In July, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. returned home to find the door of his house jammed. He and his driver forced it open, making a neighbor suspect a break-in. The police arrived, and Gates was eventually arrested for disorderly conduct. The hitch: Gates was black, and the arresting officer, Sergeant James Crowley, was white. Gates threatened to sue, telling CNN, "What this made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are to capricious forces like a rogue policeman." Crowley went on-air to defend himself, saying Gates was combative from the start, even insulting Crowley's mother, and was warned repeatedly to calm down or risk arrest. President Obama commented that police had "acted stupidly" — a statement that rallied as many people as it infuriated. Eventually, the three men met at the White House for a beer. Crowley characterized the exchange as "cordial and productive," and Gates pledged to work with Crowley to "foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand."