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Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Harvard professor and one of the top black scholars in America, was arrested in front of his own house for disorderly conduct on July 16th 2009. The charge was dropped on July 21st, soon after the arrest made the news.

On the 16th a neighbour, a white woman, called the police and told them that she saw two black men trying to break into his house. As it turns out it was Gates himself and a driver. Gates had just returned from China and was having trouble opening the front door.

Gates got in at last and the driver left. Then the police arrived. The officer saw a black man (Gates)  inside the house and asked him to come outside. He refused. He asked him to show ID and prove that he lived there. He did. Gates in turn asked him for his name and badge number.

That should have been the end of the story. It was not. Now it gets strange. And neither side makes sense:

As Gates tells it, he keeps asking the officer to identify himself but the officer says nothing. When Gates comes outside he is surprised to see other policemen there. They put handcuffs on him and take him away.

As the police tell it, Gates started yelling, saying stuff like “This is what happens to black men in America!” Gates tells the police that they do not know who they are messing with. Onlookers gather. Gates is creating a scene. The officer warns him to calm down or he will arrest him. Gates does not calm down, so they put handcuffs on him and take him away.

Can you be arrested for just yelling at the police? Would they do it to a white professor?

Gates’s story does not make sense: why are they arresting him?

But the police’s story makes even less sense: it has Gates yelling. Gates is a 58-year-old black man. He would have way more sense than that. I can see Gates being angry, but I cannot see him yelling at the police. Even at the end of a long trip. The police have a bad history of shooting black men “by mistake”.

I have been stopped by the police several times and had to show my ID based on some weak excuse. I have even been asked to prove that I am not robbing my own house. My heart pounds a mile a minute but above all I try to stay calm through the whole thing because I know that if they want to throw the book at me they will think of some excuse. Then what?

The Root said:

If Skip Gates can be arrested on his front porch and end up in handcuffs in a police cruiser then, sadly, there, but for the grace of God, goes every other black man in America. That is one sad statement, and it should also be enough to end all this post-racial hogwash.

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missingRomona Moore (c. 1982-2003) was a student at Hunter College who lived on Remsen Avenue in Canarsie in Brooklyn, New York. One night she left to go to Burger King  and never came back.

On her way there, a few blocks from her house,  a man pulled her off the street and took her down to his basement where he and his friend beat her up and raped her.  Repeatedly. They took off her clothes and put her in chains. They sodomized her and tried to saw off her hands and feet. They beat her face with a hammer, they cut the webbing between her fingers. This went on for four days.

They checked the news: no word of her missing. They were upset.

They kept her under a big piece of plastic. One day when a friend dropped by they said, “Say hi, bitch,” and pulled back the plastic to show her. Their friend talked to her. Afterwards he went to a baby shower and then drove back home to Maryland. He never told the police.

She became too “feisty” so they beat her to death and put her in a crate. They found another woman and started on her.

When she did not return from Burger King her mother worried. The next morning she called the police. They said, “She’s 21. We’re not supposed to take the report.” But they did anyway and told her to call that night.

She did, but they said, “”Lady, why are you calling here? Your daughter is 21. These officers should not have taken the report in the first place.” They closed the case the next morning.

aronovJust two months before Svetlana Aronov, age 44, a rich white woman on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the wife of a doctor, took her dog for a walk and never came back. The next day the police called a press conference and put 24 detectives on it full-time. They went door to door and passed out flyers. They looked through her telephone and bank records, they looked at surveillance tapes of nearby buildings. And so on. They even hired a psychic and a bloodhound. They later found Aronov’s body in the East River.

Moore’s mother, getting no help from the police, called the press. They were not interested either. She made flyers and passed them out. The police would not help her till the fourth day, the day her daughter died: she had called a politician to get on their case.

The detective assigned to the case sometimes would not return calls for days. After spending less time on it than the police had spent looking for that rich white woman’s dog, he gave up.

The next day, the day before Mother’s Day, her body was found – not by the police – under an old ice cream truck just a few blocks from her house.

Her mother is suing the New York police for racism. They say it is a hard thing to prove in court.

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