Was race really underlying factor?

July 22, 2009

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THE GLOBE’S report on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct, after Cambridge police responded to a call of a break-in at his home, does everything possible to suggest that racism was the underlying factor driving the incident (“Racial talk swirls with Gates arrest,’’ Page A1, July 21).

It sets a provocative scene of “two black men on the porch of a stately home on a tree-lined Cambridge street.’’ It then relates how Gates’s outraged Harvard colleagues assert that racism flourishes “even in a liberal enclave like Harvard Square.’’ It relates perceived racism at the hands of police around Harvard, mentions one professor having been stopped on the street following a robbery, along with his question of whether “black males are being targeted by Cambridge police for harassment.’’

Only three-quarters of the way through the article is there a somewhat accurate description of what led to the police call: that two men were repeatedly trying to force their way through the front door. No, they weren’t just standing on the porch being black.

Given Gates’s strong reaction to the police entering his house under the misapprehension that he might have broken in, the Globe’s reporters might as well have dispensed with the racial angle, instead suggesting that even in neighborhoods surrounding the Harvard campus, outraged self-importance is prevalent.

Michael Sierra

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