The Henry Louis Gates Affair: When Race Matters

For blacks, the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a reminder that accolades get you only so far

BCarter / Demotix

The director of Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, is accusing the Cambridge police of racism after he was arrested while trying to force open the front door of his home last week.

One of the most telling, and overlooked, aspects of the brouhaha over the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the particular cast of Gates' defenders. There was Deval Patrick, the fresh-faced black governor of Massachusetts, who called the arrest "every black man's nightmare." There was Vernon Jordan, noting that the event "tells us that the election of Barack Obama did not automatically erase racism." There was former Congressman Harold Ford, moderate to a fault, passionately insisting that once Sergeant James Crowley realized Gates had not broken into his own home, the officer should have said, "I'm sorry you're...

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