The Right to Outrage: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The international press is carrying the story of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., but they usually fail to give his full title: Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

According to the AFP report: “Gates was seen by a passing woman to be attempting entry to the front door of his house — which was damaged — along with another black man, according to the police report from July 16.”

When police questioned Gates at his own home, he reportedly told them “this is what happens to black men in America.” He was arrested at his own home for allegedly being “loud and tumultuous” in his denunciations.

Has a person no right to protest?

The story of Gates’ arrest follows news about one imprisoned immigrant in South Texas who was indicted after being roughed up by authorities (see Nick Braune’s story below.)

We draw a comparison between what was done to Gates and Rama Carty. In both cases free expression was countered by official misuse of power. These two cases become the latest symptoms of a systemic disease.

As we watch for developments in both cases we also keep our watchwords close at hand. Today we take our watchwords from “Living Morally: A Psychology of Moral Character,” by Laurence Thomas.

“the desire not to be wronged by others is the most minimal attitude of positive regard that a self-respecting individual can have toward herself or himself.”

These two cases of official retaliation against Gates and Carty are obstructions to the right to be a self-respecting individual in America today. –gm

Here is an excerpt from Gates’ attorney as posted at The Root:

When Professor Gates opened the door, the officer immediately asked him to step outside. Professor Gates remained inside his home and asked the officer why he was there. The officer indicated that he was responding to a 911 call about a breaking and entering in progress at this address. Professor Gates informed the officer that he lived there and was a faculty member at Harvard University. The officer then asked Professor Gates whether he could prove that he lived there and taught at Harvard. Professor Gates said that he could, and turned to walk into his kitchen, where he had left his wallet. The officer followed him. Professor Gates handed both his Harvard University identification and his valid Massachusetts driver’s license to the officer. Both include Professor Gates’ photograph, and the license includes his address.

Professor Gates then asked the police officer if he would give him his name and his badge number. He made this request several times. The officer did not produce any identification nor did he respond to Professor Gates’ request for this information. After an additional request by Professor Gates for the officer’s name and badge number, the officer then turned and left the kitchen of Professor Gates’ home without ever acknowledging who he was or if there were charges against Professor Gates. As Professor Gates followed the officer to his own front door, he was astonished to see several police officers gathered on his front porch. Professor Gates asked the officer’s colleagues for his name and badge number. As Professor Gates stepped onto his front porch, the officer who had been inside and who had examined his identification, said to him, “Thank you for accommodating my earlier request,” and then placed Professor Gates under arrest. He was handcuffed on his own front porch.

See Also: Statement from Gates’ Attorney and link to police report at The Root.

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