The Scales Fall from our Eyes

Distinguished Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested for shouldering his way into his own home and then being mad when the police treated him like a criminal.

Jimi Izrael has a fantastic editorial on how race still trumps class in America. Go read it here and then come back. Go ahead, take a look.

What makes me so sad isn't Izrael's particular lament (although it does make me sad, grand racial disparities never surprised me after I turned about 5 on the Navajo/Hopi joint reservation). Instead, the fact that this man is not even recognized by his own neighbors and his public police force. This man is a mainstay in the field of English studies (I used his scholarship to buttress my case for a particular interpretation of Pilate in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon--an interpretation that ultimately got me undergraduate honors in English); moreover, this man is a tremendously influential public intellectual figure. Heck, he's even a giant at Harvard. Still, he is just another threat (a.k.a. black) in his hometown. When the officers responded to the call (as well they should have), they should have had some idea of who this pillar of the community is. Perhaps they did--which would make this even worse--but even if they did not, they SHOULD have recognized him. As a kid who grew up on a dusty Reservation over 2,500 miles away I eventually grew to recognize him just by paying attention to the culture.

Officers who are responding to calls should know that people who spent a lifetime building up a place in community don't enjoy being treated like thieves in their own home. Yes, it stings when you get called on your own ignorance of context. Sure, the police shouldn't have to memorize every individual in town, but if you can't recognize a townie/gownie who has been called one the top-25 most influential people in America, then you probably should expect a little tumult. Call him a jerk when you get back to your car, but leave the cuffs in their holder and save our country the embarrassment.

1 comment:

Chelsea said...


The Smoking Gun posted the police report today, and I posted it on Facebook. Unbelievable! Or, worse yet, totally and sadly believable.