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July 25, 2009

More Henry Louis Gates: Porch Choice Of Evidence

photo of Henry Louis Gates being arrested on his porch. But what does it say?

And then, isn’t this photo the quintessential racial projective — to one eye, shouting harassment, entrapment, racial profiling of the Harvard professor; to another, the picture of “uppity”?

(If you think the presence of the black cop throws things off, perhaps, but he can also fit both scenarios. On the one hand, he could be seen as in denial or co-opted by “the man” (considering “he has his back to it” or he’s in daylight.) To someone else, however, the visual presence of an African-American cop would automatically argue against the claim of a racial thing.

Also wondering, does anybody know the neighbor’s (real) story in (a.) taking the picture, and especially (b.) letting it loose?

(photo: Demotix Images/B. Carter via AP. caption: In this photo taken by a neighbor Thursday July 16, 2009 Henry Louis Gates Jr. center, the director of Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, is arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass. Police say they were called to the home of Gates after a woman reported seeing a man try to pry open the front door.)

  • Steve

    Through all the talk about this unfortunate incident, I have had in my mind the idea that this all took place at night. I never heard otherwise. And isn’t it interesting perhaps, that one thinks about these types of occurrences happening not in broad daylight, but under the cover of night. All the more shocking when seeing this picture of Professor Gates in handcuffs on his front porch, juxtaposed with a calm, uniformed black officer bathed in bright sunshine. I also find maddening the idea that the officer on his porch seems to be trying to calm the Professor down. The man is on his OWN porch. In handcuffs. I get a shot of adrenalin just thinking about that situation.

  • wagonjak

    Yeah, the black cop was on cable this morning stating…”he supports Crowley in his decision…” Of course he knows saying anything remotely critical of a fellow cop would effectively end his career and make him a pariah amongst his fellow officers…
    It was a very calculated response that made me think he didn’t really believe that Gates should have been arrested, but he knew he couldn’t tell the truth about the matter.
    So much for our post racial culture in America.

  • Amy Baskin

    Which neighbor initially called 911? Which neighbor took this photograph? The same person? There’s a back story here that needs clarification.

  • DennisQ

    Sergeant Crowley was able to get Prof. Gates angry enough so that he could charge him with creating a disturbance. Too bad Gates didn’t see it coming – a streetwise Black man would have known right away what Crowley was up to.
    This is what Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham were attempting to do to Sonia Sotomayor. Even though she was expecting it, is probably still took some effort not to lash back at being patronized. Sgt. Crowley knows how to look so innocent, too. He reminds me of Sgt. Mark Fuhrman, who was shocked, shocked that anyone might think he’d ever used the N-word.
    I really wondered what a guy like Crowley is doing on the Cambridge Police Department. But then I realized, cops with a chip on their shoulder are everywhere. I’m sticking with Obama’s original description – once Gates had shown his ID, the cops behaved stupidly for making an arrest.

  • yg

    i thought i heard crowley say gates followed him out of the house and into the yard. the photo shows gates arrested on the porch.
    the house is another character in the story:
    can you get any more middle class respectability than this? perceptions are formed on first glances. this is hardly the house of a dangerous criminal or radical.
    the spotlight should focus on the woman who called in the report. who is she? what does she look like? she’s a neighbor who also works at harvard magazine and yet doesn’t know who gates is? why aren’t we hearing from her? usually by this cycle, the audio of the 911 call gets aired and played ad nauseam. where is it?

  • DennisQ

    The readers posting their support for the police sound like they’ve never run into a snotty cop. Prof. Gates’ trip to China might have sensitized him to the thinly veiled contempt that many cops incorporate into their official persona. The Chinese academics who hosted Prof. Gates probably showed him a great deal of respect. When Gates returned home, a snotty cop followed him into his own home.
    Why are the Cambridge Police lining up behind Crowley? It might be that they don’t run into snotty cops either. They have no idea how many there are.

  • Progressive Mom

    It looks to me that Gates’ eyes, and his imploring hands, are focused on the black officer, not the two white officers, as if to say, “How could YOU do this?”

  • Books Alive

    Among the comments is a reference to a “passerby” making the 911 call, in addition to “neighbor,” which I read from the beginning. The surname is redacted in the police report. Why is she not charged with making a false report? That’s a no-no with our fire departments, why not the police?
    If her wording was that “two black men” were breaking in, at the FRONT door, in broad daylight, why did Sergeant Crowley describe it to Gates and the booking officer as “a crime in progress”?

  • Heron

    Since he had just flown in from China, odds are he was severely jetlagged and had likely not slept in approximately umpteen hours. I don’t know about others, but when I am sleep-deprived, I am prone to emotional outbursts.

  • jtfromBC

    a good example of -
    The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it

  • dada

    In defense of the woman who reported “breakin”: she wasn’t a neighbor, but her office is in the neighborhood. There have been daytime burglaries in the neighborhood, including her office. She saw the back of two men forcing the front door. Professor Gates said he’s glad she called & would like to send her flowers.
    However, not defense of the cop here. For whatever reason, he made a rookie mistake by taking offense.

  • dada

    Two separate people.
    The guy who took the photo is a student who lives in the area. He’s said that when he saw all the cop cars, he decided to take his camera with him. After the story broke, he realized what he had and sold the photo to an agency he found on the internet. He seems to have had a financial rather than political interest in this.

  •,8599,1912778,00.html yg

    lawrence o’donnel had a scathing piece:,8599,1912778,00.html
    no wonder charges were dropped.

  • Victoria Trostle

    Bag, I’m wondering what you’ve made of the images of Crowley. The three I have seen all capture his face in the mask of a pouty, aggrieved…childlike…party. Am wondering if I’ve missed photos that would show me something else, because after these three, I’m beginning to develop a theory, and I see from today’s Times that Judith Warner seems headed in the same direction. I think the white “resentment” has to do with some primal sense of the white guy power structure tumbling down. Those Irish boys who become cops may often be hoping – unconsciously – that the uniform and its authority will buy them a safe “up” place in that hierarchy. It doesn’t really, of course. But now that the ground really is shifting beneath their feet, it’s f***ing with their “wah” (as my husband calls the psyche), and behaviors sometimes go out of whack (or reveal themselves/same thing really) under the stress of primal shift. -
    Then again, maybe there are other images that would argue me out of this.

  • Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    It’s a fascinating point. I really haven’t looked that closely at Crowley at all. Really says something.

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