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July 24, 2009


David Hamstra

Obama has apologized for saying the officer acted stupidly. Now it's time for the officer to apologize for a needless arrest.

Rich DuBose

Excellent piece. This has nothing to do with what Obama said and everything to do with what took place at the house. You've unpacked it well.

Daniel S.

Thank you so much for the informative article. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am sharing the link with my friends so that they can read it, too. I truly appreciate it!


@ David.. policeman cannot apologize because if there is a civil rights lawsuit it would be admission of guilt.

He taught a class in "racial profiling" not necessarily race relations. Plus it is probably the shortest class they take in training and not much time is given to it. I am totally speculating but just going on experience.

But Monte you bring out the biggest point and probably the biggest point. SUBCONSCIOUS! Racism is so deep seated in the psyche of white america we don't even know when we do it. We are left standing saying, "what? what did i say? what did i do."

I am constantly fighting it in my own life and you know how much i study race and live a multicultural lifestyle.


My young friend came into the office and inquired if I had seen the firestorm
In the blogosphere. I thought he meant the reaction to the president’s new conference on health Care.
He said no, and as I opened the browser to New York Times, I immediately knew what he meant.
Let me share a little about my young friend. He is African American whose dad is a Muslim, and whose girlfriend is white. He also is a graduate of Duke University a year prior.
The concern he shared gave me additional motivation to fully understand this case. I started with a read of Gates interview in his on-line publication Root regarding the incidence, and I also read the police report. I also checked out student from Cambridge reaction . My initial rush of anger was de-fanged as the details got filled in like a picture going through full development.
Understanding the town of Cambridge also adds context. Cambridge is a town of ~100k with Harvard on one end, MIT on the other, and a mixed ghetto/commercial district sandwiched in between, a lot of low income housing, with a few cloistered upscale residential neighborhoods guarded by lots of burglar alarms.

Now a 911 report introduces a reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress. An explanation from the homeowner should dispel such suspicion.
Once the officer was satisfied that there was no crime, he should have worked to defuse and de-escalate. The arrest is a failure on the part of the officer.
However, there is also nothing racist about expecting cooperation during the investigation of a potential crime.
Call me Goober, but I do not see this as an open and shut case of racial profiling. Class differentiation was a major component in this encounter.
I can certainly appreciate the esteemed professor being indignant as not being recognized as one of the most influential persons in the country. His smartness was trumped by his tiredness/indignation, and so he also did not apply any tool to defuse the situation also. Why not be polite to the cop, and then show up at the police station and make some heads roll?
The president got it right in his summary of the case at his Friday conference. Both parties were being like alpha males colliding ( my words & interpretation).
My true prayer is that when both men meet with the president, the possibility of a joint documentary could be hatched. This step would certainly advance race relationship, instead of us going back to our separate corners awaiting the next incidence. My daughter and her husband, my young friend, and his girlfriend can thus feel more comfortable in a society that has matured to embrace the full richness of our humanity, beyond mere skin color.

Monte Sahlin

Hopefully that is precisely the kind of solution the president is seeking. Obviously, it will take some private conversation to talk both men out of their public positioning into a true collaboration.

I once was a pastor in Cambridge and your profile of the town is right on. But the backdrop of national reality here cannot be wished away. The statistical imbalance in arrests of men of color is even more compelling than the crime statistics in the high-end neighborhoods in Cambridge. The reality inevitably comes into the thinking/feelings of any one involved in a cross-ethnic police incident. If the police in America want to change the attitudes of ethnic minorities toward them and gain the respect of citizens of all colors, they have to work to change that imbalance.

Michael Peabody

Thanks for laying it out so clearly. The main issue is the right to privacy in one's home once it is recognized as one's home. The theory for needing to arrest Gates was thin at best. Even if he was rude, your own home is one place where you have freedom of speech. This would apply regardless of race.

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