Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Studies, was recently arrested at his own home in
Cambridge, Mass. when a neighbor called the cops, presuming him and the also-not-white man he was with to be burglars. Gates described the incident as part of a "racial narrative" playing out in a biased
criminal justice system.
In this Washington Post article, he explains what happened. Gates was arriving home after a trip to China where he is working on a documentary film, and found the lock to his house had been tampered with. The Moroccan driver who had driven him home from the airport helped him push the door in.
Gates's home is owned by Harvard so he picked up the phone to call the
university's real estate maintenance office. Before he could finish the
conversation, a police officer was standing on his porch and asking him to
come out of the house.
"Instinctively, I knew I was not to step outside," Gates said, describing
the officer's tone as threatening. Gates said the policeman, who was in his
30s and several inches taller than him, followed him into his kitchen where
Gates retrieved his identification.
"I was thinking, this is ridiculous, but I'm going to show him my ID, and
this guy is going to get out of my house," Gates said. "This guy had this
whole narrative in his head. Black guy breaking and entering."
After handing the officer both his Harvard and Massachusetts state
identification, which included his address, Gates said he began to ask the
officer this question, repeatedly. "I said 'Who are you? I want your name
and badge number.' I got angry."
According to Gates's account, the officer refused to give it. The police
report says, however, that the officer identified himself.
"I weigh 150 lbs and I'm 5' 7''. I'm going to give flack to a big white guy
with a gun. I might wolf later, but I won't wolf then."
But Gates did keep asking for the officer's name and said he began to feel
humiliated when his question was ignored. He then said: "This is what
happens to black men in America."
Gates is also founder of the Root.com, which is owned by
The Washington Post. (via Ned Sublette)