Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.
---Henry Steele Commager
There are two things all police officers hate: 1) having to chase anyone, and 2) having their authority questioned by a black person.
The length and energy exerted by the police when chasing a suspect is directly proportionate to the severity of the beat down the suspect will suffer upon being apprehended. Everyone knows this. Just do a google search of police chases and thousands of examples are sure to come up where you will see an overweight, out-of-breath officer with a mustache beat the living hell out of an unconcious suspect who was thrown from his car at the end of the chase. What is rarely seen on a google search are the instances when a police officer has his authority (almost always a male officer) questioned by a black person. In these instances, the black man (almost always involves a black male) is described by any of the following adjectives: angry, combative, violent, belligerent, unruly, threatening, out of control, suspicious, insulting, disrespectful, dishonest, arrogant, condascending, and everyone's favorite excuse for police brutality, resisting arrest.
As Richard Pryor once said during one of his performances, "White people always say, 'what is this thing about police brutality, those black people are just resisting arrest', that's cuz the cops live in your neighborhood...and you know him as Officer Timson."
In the case of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. we have what is commonly known as, "The Irreverent Negro Who Forgot How Lucky He Is". Harvard University Professor Gates was returning home after a long trip to China. While attempting to enter his own home through the back door, a home which he has paid for with real money, he was forced to literally "break-in" because his front door tends to stick in the summer humidity. A neighbor spotted him doing this and most likely came to the logical conclusion that Professor Gates had reverted back to his old negro habits of home invasion and grand theft auto. The neighbor called the police quickly because in these instances black people tend to multiply rapidly.
When the police arrived with the information "multiple black males attempting to break into a home" the mindset is pretty clear. They are now searching for ANY black male and when they spot him he will be questioned more rigorously than if they were searching for a white male. Because, you see, when a black male is reported to be involved in a crime, the police search for ANY black male. When it involves a white male the description tends to be as precise as an E-Harmony.com single's profile and therefore, the need to stop every white male tends to be an unnecessary hassle for the common hard-working taxpayer.
During the arrest, as if there were going to be any other conclusion to this story but an arrest, the police discovered that Gates, despite being very black, did in fact own the home he was standing in. Despite several attempts to disprove that ridiculous achievement the police were set to leave Professor Gates' residence feeling rather dejected and disappointed. Gates added quite a bit of salt to their deeply wounded ego by voicing his frustration about how common this type of reaction is by the police. The evidence was overwhelmingly in his favor. There is not enough space on the internet to list all the cases of racial profiling, police brutality and false imprisonments of black people. So let's move past that, quickly.
What appears to have been the straw that broke the Man's back was that Gates continued his verbal frustration outside on his front porch, saying, "I'll talk to ya mama outside". At that point, there were several people gathered outside to observe the exchange. The police report reads, "These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed." I'm sure there were more than "several" people who were surprised and alarmed to find a black man in THAT kind of house and that he was a Harvard University professor. The officer was apparently concerned for the safety and serenity of the neighborhood and thereby justifying the arrest of Professor Gates with the charge of being "loud and tumultuous in a public place". Watch this video clip of a white male stopped by a state trooper. Notice the officer's tempered reaction to a white person being "loud and tumultuous."
Black people are often referred to as being "loud and tumultuous". It appears to be a necessary characteristic. Because history clearly indicates that if similar individuals tend to be unnecessarily arrested, unnecessarily beaten and sometimes tend to unnecessarily disappear then one can conclude that being loud and tumultuous may be a lifesaver.
Gates was not arrested entirely because of his blackness. I'm sure there have been black men questioned somewhere in America during the last 24 hours and were not arrested as a result. The REAL reason Professor Gates was arrested was simple. It's the same reason white conservative men dislike Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor: when minorities question authority they are ungrateful and unpatriotic. (When white people do it we call it "rebellion" or "revolution" because there must be a reason for it) Ungrateful because they appear to not know how lucky they are to have the opportunity to vote, to own property and to rule over or teach white people. In short, minorities fail to realize how lucky they are to have basic human rights. Unpatriotic because "only in America can a black man become professor or a Puerto Rican woman can become Supreme Court Justice. See how generous America is ?
Those who support the actions of the Cambridge Police cry out, "But this black man...why did he have to say anything to the police? Couldn't he just have kept his mouth shut and not be so...black?"
I suppose those same people, mainly right-wing conservatives, were saying 220 years ago to their fellow liberal, "Why did you have to talk back to that British soldier? Couldn't you just let him question you, steal your dignity and punch you a couple of times? Why are you so sensitive and feel the need to be so loud and tumultuous?"
Questioning authority is a founding principle of this country. It is a keystone for any free society. Loud and tumultuous are synonymous with freedom. Until everyone is free no one is.