Skip Gates Busted- At Home While Black?

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was busted last week in the comfort of his own home. As far as anyone can tell, the reason was because he wasn’t happy at being confronted by police after a neighbor reported a break-in.

skip gates mugshot

The break-in was Skip Gates trying to enter his own home.


Even more interesting, Gates was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space”.

Okay. This happened in Cambridge, which last I checked was in the Boston area. If cops arrested every college kid who got “loud and tumultuous in a public space”, how many kids would be in jail?

Skip Gates was mad because he felt he was being profiled.

At issue here, beyond whether he identified himself to police (there are reports he did, and reports he didn’t), is the maddening sense that no matter how far you get in life, to some people you’re just another black m an. That, and whether expressing that emotion to a cop who at some point must have known he made a mistake constitutes a crime. There will be people, both black and white, who will argue that this incident is being blown out of proportion. Some will even bring up Barack Obama as proof Skip Gates is simply a malcontent with no beef here.

To all those who think there is no consequence to being black in America, I give you the case of Shem Walker.

This Brooklyn Army veteran was shot and killed by an undercover cop on July 11th. His crime? He confronted the cop, who was posing as a drug dealer, on the stoop of his mother’s house.

shem walker

Shem Walker had experienced problems before with people dealing on his mother’s stoop. He paid for his concern with his life. No one is alleging overt racism. The cop who killed him was also black. Yet for all the news about Skip Gates, Shem Walker generates no national headlines.

Some may make the case there’s no link between the two. Those of us who are black and have made it to a certain age know better. Law enforcement makes certain assumptions about black men. Not all do, but enough do that it’s a problem for those who live their lives within the law.  It may not be as pronounced as the days when Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Les Payne was stopped by cops a black from his Long Island home and told there’s no way he could actually live there.

But then, to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, it’s as if very little has changed. To the family of Shem Walker, you can change very little to nothing.

So you tell me. Was Henry Louis Gates racially profiled?


6 Comments Add yours

  1. site admin says:

    skip gates arrested?!!!
    say it ain’t so aunt louise
    this is one of the cleanest ‘negroes’ in town

  2. sanda says:

    I was thinking along similar lines (and posted comment elsewhere twice) before I got here.
    I did not know about Shem Walker. Before I go to the links, I want to comment on where I was going with the racial profiling, after I heard about Prof. Gates on DemocracyNow headlines this morning.

    Your article is wonderful. (Since I am critical at times, I’ll be positive as I really mean it.)

    I had been thinking that racial profiling is “news” when it’s a well known person. Les Payne has a blog entry about his being profiled while driving by NYPD, not long ago on his website:

    Many are killed by police authority in racial profiling. The color of the police officer does not diminish from it’s being racial profiling if the officer is African-American or Latino. As officers from 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care have said, (I think), it’s the police culture. That’s how undercover police officers get shot in
    “friendly fire” (and no white officer has been shot by a NYPD officer of color.)

    NYPD stop and frisk statistics have increased dramatically (& illegal) under Mayor Bloomberg. It’s another example of racial profiling. The NYPD is secretive and not always telling the truth when someone is killed by NYPD (formula spin: blame the victim, etc. then publicize/show photos of the officer who did the shooting in
    civilian clothing and “how nice he is” from neighbors, relatives, etc. delaying as long as possible the tidbits of info. – source: same officers’ group cited above, one of
    on radio). It is so difficult to get information about those killed by NYPD in corporate media because the police withhold information, such as name and then “spin”.

    An excellent source for material on police brutality and killings is the October 22 Coalition, which I know about for years. Excellent work. I gave up keeping my own list for art of people killed by NYPD since Amadou Diallo (art titled “Amadou Diallo and Since”*) because of volume and difficulty of getting the data and rely on the list of the October 22 Coalition, Stolen Lives Since Amadou Diallo.

    Their longrunning project, Stolen Lives, is a national project. *I began my art/list
    on the day of the acquittal of the NYPD officers who killed Amadou Diallo, as I listened on WBAI.

  3. Robert says:

    The good proffesor and I am not knocking him,I am only going to stae fact.Many of us Black Men who have had such confrontations with the police kind of know the drill.

    Its the brothers who think because of their status and the company that they keep,shield them from this type of situation.

    Its a real ,and I mean real “RUDE”awakekining when they go through something like this and realize that they are no different than the average street thug because of the “COLOR” of their skin,when it comes to something like this.

    I know he was shocked beyond belief,as this was going down.

    1. keepingitreal says:

      This is sad and unbelievable….well, that just goes to show, that no matter how hard you work, pull yourself up by your bookstraps, strive for excellence, go the best schools, stay out of jail, abide by THEIR LAWS,…. it will never be good enough for the white folks….They are haters….and will continue to be….the higher, more intelligent we become to meet their standards of a “good old law abiding negro, …..the worse it will get. Black people “wake up” .

  4. sekanblogger says:

    The past experience of the black man in America caused the Prof to get a little nasty, no doubt.
    Being that he has spent his life fighting this kind of thing, it is no wonder he was wound tight when this happened.

  5. Robert says:

    Keep your eye on the Ben Rothlesburger rape case acusation.Can anyone say”Mike Tyson”,and how the media ran with that case?

    On the heels of Professor Gates case here,this will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

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