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Who Made Gates the Nation’s “Leading Black Intellectual”?


Post-Race Scholar Yells Racism

By ISHMAEL REED in Counterpunch

Now that Henry Louis Gates’ Jr. has gotten a tiny taste of what “the underclass” undergo each day, do you think that he will go easier on them? Lighten up on the tough love lectures? Even during his encounter with the police, he was given some slack. If a black man in an inner city neighborhood had hesitated to identify himself, or given the police some lip, the police would have called SWAT. When Oscar Grant, an apprentice butcher, talked back to a BART policeman in Oakland, he was shot!

Given the position that Gates has pronounced since the late eighties, if I had been the arresting officer and post-race spokesperson Gates accused me of racism, I would have given him a sample of his own medicine. I would have replied that “race is a social construct”–the line that he and his friends have been pushing over the last couple of decades.

After this experience, will Gates stop attributing the problems of those inner city dwellers to the behavior of “thirty five-year-old grandmothers living in the projects?” (Gates says that when he became a tough lover he was following the example of his mentor Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka as though his and Soyinka’s situations were the same. As a result of Soyinka’s criticisms of a Nigerian dictator, he was jailed and his life constantly threatened.)

Prior to the late eighties, Gates’ tough love exhortations were aimed at racism in the halls of academe, but then he signed on to downtown feminist reasoning that racism was a black male problem. Karen Durbin, who hired him to write for The Village Voice, takes credit for inventing him as a “public intellectual.” He was then assigned by Rebecca Penny Sinkler, former editor of The New York Times Book Review, to do a snuff job on black male writers. In an extraordinary review, he seemed to conclude that black women writers were good, not because of their merit, but because black male writers were bad. This was a response to an article by Mel Watkins, a former book review editor, who on his way out warned of a growing trend that was exciting the publisher’s cash registers. Books that I would describe as high Harlequin romances, melodramas in which saintly women were besieged by cruel black male oppressors, the kind of image of the brothers promoted by confederate novelists Thomas Nelson Page and Thomas Dixon.

Gates dismissed a number of black writers as misogynists, including me, whom he smeared throughout the United States and Europe, but when Bill Clinton was caught exploiting a young woman, sexually, he told the Times that he would “go to the wall for this president.” Feminists like Gloria Steinem defended the president as well, even though for years they’d been writing about women as victims of male chauvinists with power, the kind of guys who used to bankroll Ms. magazine.

Not to say that portraits of black men should be uniformly positive–I’ve certainly introduced some creeps in my own work–but most of the white screenwriters, directors and producers who film this material–and the professors and critics who promote it– are silent about the abuses against women belonging to their own ethnic groups. Moreover, Alice Walker, Tina Turner and bell hooks have complained that in the hands of white script writers, directors and producers, the black males become more sinister straw men than they appear in the original texts.

There are big bucks to be made in promoting this culture. Two studios are currently fighting over the rights to a movie called “Push” about a black father who impregnates his illiterate Harlem daughter. A representative of one, according to the Times, said that the movie would provide both with “a gold mine of opportunity.”

As an example of the double standard by which blacks and whites are treated in American society, at about the same time that the Gate’s article on black misogyny was printed, there appeared a piece about Jewish American writers. Very few women were mentioned.

Gates was also under pressure for making himself the head black feminist in the words of feminist Michele Wallace as a result of his profiting from black feminist studies sales because, as she put it in the Voice, he had unresolved issues with his late mother, who was, according to Gates, a black nationalist. The black feminists wanted in. As a result, Gates invited them to join his Norton anthology project. The result was the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. One of the editors was the late feminist scholar Dr. Barbara Christian. She complained to me almost to the day that she died that she and the late Nellie Y. McKay, another editor, did all of the work while Gates took the credit. This seems to be Gates’ pattern. Getting others to do his work. Mother Jones magazine accused him of exploiting those writers who helped to assemble his Encarta Africana, of running an academic sweat shop and even avoiding affirmative action goals by not hiring blacks. Julian Brookes of Mother Jones wrote:

“Henry Louis Gates Jr. has never been shy about speaking up for affirmative action. Indeed, the prominent Harvard professor insists that he wouldn’t be where he is today without it. Odd, then, that when it came to assembling a staff to compile an encyclopedia of black history, Gates hired a group that was almost exclusively white. Of the up to 40 full-time writers and editors who worked to produce Encarta Africana only three were black. What’s more, Gates and co-editor K. Anthony Appiah rejected several requests from white staffers to hire more black writers. Mother Jones turned to Gates for an explanation of this apparent inconsistency.

“Did the staff members who expressed concern that the Africana team was too white have a point?”

Gates responded:

“It’s a disgusting notion that white people can’t write on black history–some of the best scholars of Africa are white. People should feel free to criticize the quality of the encyclopedia, but I will not yield one millimeter[to people who criticize the makeup of the staff]. It’s wrongheaded. Would I have liked there to be more African Americans in the pool? Sure. But we did the best we could given the time limits and budget.”

While his alliance with feminists gave Gates’ career a powerful boost, it was his Op ed for the Times blaming continued anti-Semitism on African Americans that brought the public intellectual uptown. It was then that Gates was ordained as the pre-eminent African American scholar when, if one polled African-American scholars throughout the nation, Gates would not have ranked among the top twenty five. It would have to be done by secret ballot given the power that Gates’ sponsors have given him to make or break academic careers. As Quincy Troupe, editor of Black Renaissance Noire would say, Gates is among those leaders who were “given to us,” not only by the white mainstream but also by white progressives. Amy Goodman carries on about Gates and Cornel West like the old Bobby Soxers used to swoon over Sinatra. Last week Rachel Maddow called Gates “the nation’s leading black intellectual.” Who pray tell is the nation’s leading white intellectual, Rachel? How come we can only have one? Some would argue that Gates hasn’t written a first rate scholarly work since 1989.

CNN gave Gates’ accusation against blacks as anti-Semites a worldwide audience and so when I traveled to Israel for the first time in the year, 2000, Israeli intellectuals asked me why American blacks hated Jews so. In print, I challenged Gate’s libeling of blacks as a group in my book, Another Day at the Front, because at the time of his Op-ed, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report that showed the decline of anti-Semitism among black Americans. I cited this report to Gates. He said that the Times promised that there would be a follow up Op-ed about racism among American Jews. It never appeared. Barry Glassner was correct when he wrote in his “The Culture of Fear” that the whole Gates-generated black Jewish feud was hyped.

Under Tina Brown’s editorship at The New Yorker, Gates was hired to do hatchet jobs on Minister Louis Farrakhan and the late playwright August Wilson.

The piece on Wilson appeared after a debate between Robert Brustein and Wilson about Wilson’s proposal for a black nationalist theater. Gates took Brustein’s side of the argument. Shortly afterward, Brustein and Gates were awarded a million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation for the purpose of holding theatrical Talented Tenth dinner parties at Harvard at a time when regional black theater was heading toward extinction. Tina Brown, a one-time Gates sponsor, is a post-racer like Gates. Like Andrew Sullivan, a Charles Murray supporter, she gets away with the most fatuous comments as a result of Americans being enthralled by a London accent. On the Bill Maher show, she said that issues of race were passé because the country has elected a black president. This woman lives in a city from which blacks and Latinos have been ethnically cleansed as a result the policies of Mayor Giuliani, a man who gets his talking points from The Manhattan Institute. Thousands of black and Hispanic New Yorkers have been stopped and frisked without a peep from Gates and his Harvard circle of post-racers such as Orlando Patterson.

Even the Bush administration admitted to the existence of racial profiling, yet Gates says that only after his arrest did he understand the extent of racial profiling, a problem for over two hundred years. Why wasn’t “the nation’s leading black intellectual” aware of the problem? His exact words following his arrest were “What it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable are all poor people to capricious forces like a rogue policemen.” Amazing! Shouldn’t “the nation’s leading black intellectual” be aware of writer Charles Chesnutt who wrote about racial profiling in 1905!

The Village Voice recently exposed the brutality meted out to black and Hispanic prisoners at New York’s Riker’s Island and medical experiments that have damaged black children living in the city. Yet Maureen Dowd agrees with Tina Brown, her fellow New Yorker, that because the president and his attorney general are black–in terms of racism–it’s mission accomplished. Makes you understand how the German citizens of Munich could go about their business while people were being gassed a few miles away. You can almost forgive Marie Antoinette. She was a young woman in her thirties with not a single face lift operation.

What is it with this post-race Harvard elite? I got to see Dick Gregory and Mort Sahl perform in San Francisco the other night, the last of the great sixties comedians. During his routine, Gregory said that he’s sending his grand kids to black historical colleges because even though he lives near Harvard and can afford to send them there, he wouldn’t “send his dog to Harvard.” Maybe he is on to something.

When Queer Power became the vogue, Gates latched on to that movement, too. In an introduction to an anthology of Gay writings, Gates argued that Gays face more discrimination than blacks, which is disputed even by Charles Blow, Times statistician, who like Harvard’s Patterson and Gates, makes tough love to blacks exclusively. Recently, he reported that the typical target of a hate crime is black, but failed to identify the typical perpetrator of a hate crime as a young white male.

Moreover, what’s the percentage of Gays on death row? The percentage of blacks? Which group is more likely to be redlined by banks, a practice that has cost blacks billions of dollars in equity? Would Cambridge police have given two white Gays the problems that they gave Gates? Why no discussion of charges of Gay racism made by Marlon Riggs, Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde? How many unarmed white Gays have been murdered by the police? How many blacks? Undoubtedly, there are pockets of homophobia among blacks but not as much as that among other ethnic communities that I could cite. The best thing for blacks would be for Gays to get married and blacks should help in this effort, otherwise all of the oxygen on the left will continue to be soaked up by this issue.

For white Gays and Lesbians to compare their struggle to that of the Civil Rights movement is like Gates comparing his situation with that of Wole Soyinka’s. Moreover, Barbara Smith says that when she tried to join the Gay Millennial March on Washington, the leaders told her to get lost. They said they were intent upon convincing white Heterosexual America that “We’re just like you.”

Will the pre-late-80s Gates be resurrected as a result of what MSNBC and CNN commentator Touré calls Gates’ wake up call? (This is the same Toure, a brilliant fiction writer, who just about wrote a post-race manifesto for The New York Times Book Review, during which he dismissed an older generation of black activists as a bunch of “Jesses”.)

Will Gates let up on what Kofi Natambu the young editor of the Panopticon Review calls his “opportunism.” Will he re-think remarks like the one he made after the election of his friend, the tough love president Barack Obama? Gates said that he doubted that the election would end black substance abuse and unmarried motherhood?

Is it possible that things are more complicated than tough love sound bites which are designed to solicit more patronage? Will he reconsider the post-race neocon line of his blog, TheRoot.com, bankrolled by The Washington Post? Will he invite writers Carl Dix and Askia Toure, who represent other African American constituencies, as much as he prints the views of far right Manhattan Institute spokesperson and racial profiling denier, John McWhorter.

Will he continue to advertise shoddy blame-the-victim and black pathology sideshows like CNN’s “Black In America,” and “The Wire?” (Predictably CNN’s Anderson Cooper turned Gates’ controversy into a carnival act. The story was followed by one about Michael Jackson’s doctors. CNN is making so much money and raising its ratings so rapidly from black pathology stories that it’s beginning to give Black Entertainment Network a run for its money, so to speak.)

Predictably, the segregated media–the spare all white jury dominating the conversation about race as usual–gave the Cambridge cop the benefit of the doubt and the police unions backed him up. The police unions always back up their fellow officers even when they shoot unarmed black suspects in the back or, in the case of Papa Charlie James, an elderly San Francisco black man, while he was laying in bed. They back each other up and “testilie” all of the time.

Will Gates listen to his critics from whom he has been protected by powerful moneyed forces, which have given him the ability to make or break academic careers, preside over the decision-making of patronage and grant-awarding institutions. Houston A. Baker Jr.’s Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned The Ideals Of The Civil Rights Era offers mild criticisms of Gates, West and other black public intellectuals, who, according to him, are “embraced by virtue of their race transcendent ideology.” His book went from the warehouse to the remainder shelves. The Village Voice promised two installments of courageous muckraking pieces about Gates written by novelist, playwright and poet Thulani Davis; part two never appeared. Letters challenging Gates by one of Gates’ main critics at Harvard, Dr. Martin Kilson, have been censored. Kilson refers to Gates as “the master of the intellectual dodge.” And even when Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell at The Nation‘s blog defied the 24-hour news cycle that has depicted Gates, a black nationalist critic, as an overnight black nationalist– she calls him “apolitical”–she had to pull her punches. As an intellectual, she has more depth than all of the white mainstream and white progressive media’s selected “leaders of black intellection,” among whom are post-modernist preachers who can spew rhetoric faster than the speed of light.

It remains to be seen whether Gates, who calls himself an intellectual entrepreneur, will now use his “wake up call” to lead a movement that will challenge racial disparities in the criminal justice system. A system that is rotten to the core, where whites commit the overwhelming majority of the crimes, while blacks and Hispanics do the time. A prison system where torture and rape are regular occurrences and where in some states the conditions are worse than at Gitmo. California prisons hospitals are so bad that they have been declared unconstitutional and a form of torture, over the objections of Attorney General Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who leased his face to the rich and was on television the other day talking about how rough they have it. A man who is channeling his hero the late Kurt Waldheim’s attitudes toward the poor and disabled.

Gates can help lead the fight so that there will be mutual respect between law enforcement and minorities instead of their calling us niggers all the time and being Marvin Gaye’s “trigger happy” policemen. Not all of them but quite a few. Or Gates can coast along. Continue to maintain that black personal behavior, like not turning off the TV at night, is at the root of the barriers facing millions of black Americans. Will return to the intellectual rigor espoused by his hero W.E.B Dubois or will he continue to act as a sort of black intellectual Charles Van Doren? An entertainer. (An insider at PBS told me that the network is demanding that Gates back up his claims about the ancestry of celebrities with more solid proofs.)

Gates has discussed doing a documentary about racial profiling. I invite him to cover a meeting residents of my Oakland ghetto neighborhood have with the police each month. (Most of our problems incidentally are caused by the off-springs of two family households. Suburban gun dealers who arm gang leaders. The gang leader on our block isn’t black! An absentee landlord who owns a house where crack operations take place.) He can bring Bill Cosby with him. He’ll find that the problems of inner citizens are more complex than “thirty five year-old grandmothers living in the projects” and rappers not pulling up their pants and that racism remains in the words of the great novelist John A. Williams, “an inexorable force.”

Finally, in his 2002 Jefferson lecture, delivered at the Library of Congress, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., during remarks about the 18th-Century poet Phillis Wheatley in which he excoriated the attitudes of her critics in the Black Arts movement, one more time, ended his lecture with: “We can finally say: Welcome home, Phillis; welcome home.”

If Gate’s ceases his role as just another tough lover and an “intellectual entrepreneur,” and takes a role in ending racial traffic and retail profiling, and police home invasions, issues that have lingered since even more Chesnutt’s time, we can say, “Welcome home, Skip; welcome home.”

Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch. His new book, “Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies” was published by De Capo.

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USA Today Spotlights Race in America


ARLINGTON — USA Today, one of the nation’s leading newspapers , brings to the fore the issue and relevance of race in America in the age of Obama.

In today’s article, the paper delves into the complex issue of race and class in New England, which has been in the headlines lately with the New Haven fire fighters who accused the city of reverse racism when the city decided to throw out a test that had mostly whites and a few Hispanics passing, but no blacks.

But a recent incident in which a white police officer arrested a black Harvard professor in his home has captured the nation’s attention even more.

See article below:

Gates arrest reignites debate on race.

 Sgt. James Crowley, an 11-year department veteran, arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. after a woman passing by called police about a possible burglary.
By Steve Senne, AP
Sgt. James Crowley, an 11-year department veteran, arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. after a woman passing by called police about a possible burglary.
PRESIDENT’S EXPERIENCE
“Although, largely through luck and circumstance, I now occupy a position that insulates me from most of the bumps and bruises that the average black man must endure I can recite the usual litany of petty slights that during my 45 years have been directed my way: security guards tailing me as I shop in department stores, white couples who toss me their car keys as I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet, police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason. I know what it’s like to have people tell me I can’t do something because of my color, and I know the bitter swill of swallowed-back anger. I know as well that [my wife] Michelle and I must be continually vigilant against some of the debilitating story lines that our daughters may absorbfrom TV and music and friends and the streets about who the world thinks they are, and what the world imagines they should be.” Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

A photo taken by a neighbor shows Hentry Louis Gates in handcuffs. The charge, disorderly conduct, was dropped.
EnlargeBy B. Carter, AP
A photo taken by a neighbor shows Hentry Louis Gates in handcuffs. The charge, disorderly conduct, was dropped.

It began with a routine tip about a suspected burglary, with a white cop squaring off against a black suspect. Now the president and the rest of the nation are weighing in.

More than a week after prominent Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, the highly charged police action has drawn the country into a national debate about police tactics, race relations and President Obama‘s commentary.

Obama on Friday stood by his assertion that police did not need to arrest Gates. The president said during an interview with ABC that he has “extraordinary respect” for the challenges and hardships that law enforcement officers face every day in their line of work. But at the same time he said he didn’t think the arrest was necessary. Obama said “cooler heads should have prevailed” in the incident.

Friday’s comments from Obama came after he backed off a statement he made the day before that Cambridge police “acted stupidly” during the July 16 incident. He said he never intended to call the officer “stupid” for arresting Gates on a disorderly conduct charge, which was dropped. Crowley, a police academy instructor on the dangers of racial profiling, said earlier in the day that he did nothing wrong and will not apologize to Gates. The professor didn’t speak publicly Thursday.

The Gates story has captured the nation because it has a “perfect storm” of ingredients, says Katheryn Russell-Brown, a law professor and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida.

The ongoing question of whether the U.S. has moved past racism combined with the fact that Gates actually studies African-American issues — all taking place on the hallowed confines of Harvard — provided for this explosion of interest, Russell-Brown said.

“Many people want to believe that now that we have an African American in the White House, that now we can get past all this race stuff,” said Russell-Brown, who wrote The Color of Crime, a book about race, crime and justice.

Even police appear to be split along racial lines about whether the officer acted appropriately when he responded to a call for a possible burglary at Gates’ home and later determined that the professor merely had trouble getting into his own house.

The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, called Obama’s remarks “premature.” Jim Pasco, the union’s executive director, said the president “should have waited for all of the facts to unfold.” On the eve of its national convention, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, sided with Obama, saying the police had acted “irrationally.”

“Once Gates was identified as the lawful resident of the house, the (police contact) should have ended,” said Joseph McMillan, the organization’s president. “The department should seek Gates out and offer an apology.”

Gates, 58, has numerous honorary degrees and is considered one of the nation’s foremost authorities on black culture.

“I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I’m astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race,” Gates was quoted Tuesday on The Root website. “I want to do what I can so that every police officer will think twice before engaging in this kind of behavior.”

Races react differently

Edwin Dorn, a former dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and author of Rules and Racial Equality, said the magnitude of the Gates arrest can be understood through the reactions from blacks and whites.

“If one conducts a survey, one will find that overwhelmingly blacks feel that this was an example of something that is part of their DNA — police discrimination, oppression, racial profiling. It’s likely that you’ll find a much larger percentage of whites believing, just instantly, that it was Gates who behaved intemperately,” Dorn said. “It’s an example of how the races still view things very differently.”

He said whites are far more likely than blacks to believe that police officers arriving at their doorstep are likely to do the right thing. Far from the case, Dorn said, for blacks.

“From an African-American perspective, what it says is, ‘If it happens to a guy like … Gates, just imagine what happens on darkened streets with people who are not prominent,” Dorn said.

Crowley has shown no sign of backing down. He has gotten a flood of support and emotional posts on law enforcement websites, including PoliceLink. The officer is himself an icon of sorts in the Boston area: 16 years ago, he tried to save dying Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the basketball player crumbled on a practice court with heart problems.

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Crowley, then a Brandeis University police officer, told the Boston Herald at the time.

This week the 42-year-old father of three told the Herald, “I just have nothing to apologize for” in the Gates incident. “It will never happen.”

There was no hint of the controversy that would follow when the sergeant responded to a routine call to investigate a possible noon-hour burglary in Cambridge.

A female caller said two black men with backpacks were on the porch of a home on Ware Street. One of them, she said, was wedging his shoulder into the door as if “he was trying to force entry,” according to a police report.

Gates had just returned from an extended trip out of the country. The other man, the professor’s driver, was apparently assisting Gates, who was having trouble entering the house.

According to the police report, Gates already was in the house when Crowley arrived. Crowley then asked Gates to step outside because the officer was investigating a possible burglary.

The remark, according to the report, set off a volatile exchange that led to Gates’ arrest. Crowley said Gates repeatedly referred to him as a “racist” police officer. At one point, according to the report, Crowley said an enraged Gates told him that he “had no idea who I was messing with and that I had not heard the last of it.”

Crowley said Gates eventually provided him with a Harvard University identification card and that the officer was “led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence.” But the tense verbal exchange continued, with Gates following Crowley to the front porch where, according to the report, the professor “continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias.”

Crowley said Gates was arrested after ignoring the officer’s warning that he was “becoming disorderly.”

In a televised news conference Thursday, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas stood by the sergeant’s actions and his department.

Haas, who is white, described Crowley as a “stellar” member of the department.

“I don’t believe Sgt. Crowley acted with any racial motivation at all,” Haas said, adding that Obama’s remarks “really stunned” the department.

Nevertheless, Haas said a special panel would be assembled to investigate the incident.

Obama, who gave the controversy new prominence during a prime-time news conference Wednesday, described Gates as a personal friend. The president is no stranger himself to issues of racial profiling. In his book The Audacity of Hope, he described several such instances from his own past.

“I know what it’s like to have people tell me I can’t do something because of my color, and I know the bitter swill of swallowed-back anger,” Obama wrote.

Clarifying Obama’s remarks

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the president’s remarks the night before were misinterpreted.

“Let me be clear, he was not calling the officer stupid,” Gibbs said. He said Obama felt that “at a certain point, the situation got far out of hand” at Gates’ home.

Analysts say the dispute has riveted much of America because it touches some of the deepest differences in race relations.

Whites “don’t live with the daily knowledge that their children may be arbitrarily subjected to police brutality or profiling,” said Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University sociology professor and author of more than a dozen books about African Americans, race and culture.

“Black and Latino people tell their children if they dream of insulting a police officer, they’d better wake up,” Dyson says. “The consequences can be death.”

David Harris, law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the book Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work, said the Gates case resonates because it shows that minorities, regardless of education, status or age, can be made to feel vulnerable.

“It’s a universal part of the black American experience and nothing protects you from it,” he says. “You can achieve the American dream in every facet of your life, and it can still happen to you.”

Crowley is not a likely candidate for such abuse, however. He has taught a class on racial profiling for five years at the Lowell Police Academy.

Academy Director Thomas Fleming says Crowley is a “good role model” who was hand-picked for the job by former police commissioner Ronny Watson, who is black.

In the class, Crowley teaches officers not to single people out based on their ethnicity.

The Boston-Cambridge area has a history of racial tension, dating to the 1970s, when court-mandated busing led to violence as whites threw rocks and bricks at buses carrying black students.

Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, says race relations have calmed since then, but that issues, such as racial profiling and black representation in city government, still persist.

Cambridge, despite being known as a progressive enclave, is not immune. Cofield says there have been several instances on Harvard University‘s campus in which black students and professors have been stopped or questioned by police unfairly.

Debate over Gates’ treatment by police was raging well before Obama’s comments. By Thursday morning, the issue was dominating television news programs.

In some quarters, the discussion saw criminal justice analysts taking a hard line against the police, while others said the incident underscored the need for a new national discussion of race relations in America.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, who is black, said racial disputes involving police always generate intense reaction because they tear at old social wounds that have never healed.

“It’s always a sore spot,” he said.

Contributing: Mimi Hall; the Associated Press

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