Update: Charges against Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. have been dropped following his arrest last week that had some wondering if he was the victim of racial profiling.
Updated 7/21/09 4:25 p.m.
Charges against Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. have been dropped following his arrest last week that had some wondering if he was the victim of racial profiling.
CNN.com reports that Cambridge, Massachusetts, police released a statement advising that the Middlesex District Attorney’s office not pursue the matter.
Henry was arrested in his home last week for disorderly conduct stemming from an incident with police. According The Boston Globe, authorities were called to Henry’s Cambridge home early Thursday afternoon after he had trouble opening his front door.
As police questioned the professor, he reportedly called one officer racist and said the cop had “no idea who he was messing with. The police report states that Henry believed he was being targeted because he’s “a Black man in America.” He was then arrested for disorderly conduct.
Although Henry himself has declined to talk about the incident, his friends told The Globe that he was in his house by the time police got there. And despite having shown authorities his driver’s license and Harvard ID, he was still held in custody for hours.
Now his colleagues are wondering if the arrest had anything to do with the color of his skin.
“He and I both raised the question of if he had been a white professor, whether this kind of thing would have happened to him, that they arrested him without any corroborating evidence,” said Harvard Medical School professor S. Allen Counter. “I am deeply concerned about the way he was treated, and called him to express my deepest sadness and sympathy.”
Allen had a similar run-in with the police where has was stopped because they thought he may have been the suspect in a robbery. They threatened to book him after he couldn’t show them any identification. This is just one of many incidents that have Black people in the Harvard community leveling harsh criticisms at the school.
“This is very disturbing that this could happen to anyone, and not just to a person of such distinction,” Allen told The Globe. “He was just shocked that this had happened, at 12:44 in the afternoon, in broad daylight. It brings up the question of whether black males are being targeted by Cambridge police for harassment.”
Police are keeping mum about the arrest, but they have said they’re investigating it.
– Sonya Eskridge